Not everyone who reads this will understand where I’m coming from but I’m sure those of you who know Jim will agree with me.
My time at NIU and the Northern Star was a drop in the bucket when you stack it up against its history and the history of those who have come and gone. I’m sure any and all work I have done will long be forgotten by the start of next semester.
I can say, with great confidence, this doesn’t bother me. Leaving my mark at the star was not something I really wanted to achieve. Rather, I wanted it to leave its mark on me. I didn't know it at the time but my wish came true the first day I walked through those doors at orientation and saw the tall thin man standing in front of the news room. He preached the importance of truth and going the extra mile to be the best journalist you possibly could be. He told us why we needed to push ourselves and question everything if we didn't want to end up becoming a spoon fed publication.
He didn’t discourage the employees of the Northern Star from asking tough questions, digging deeper into stories to find the truth behind them, even if that truth was not the popular view.
I’ve never worked for another school newspaper, so I’m not sure how it works anywhere else, but I know Jim would fight, tooth and nail, for what he believed in. I knew what he believed in was the Star and its employees.
I came to NIU with no direction. I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish or learn while I was there. I took a journalism class and thought to myself, this seems like fun. I could do this. From there I pursued a job working for the school paper. From that day forward I knew I had a new passion. I can say that this was due largely to the fact that I had someone better than a professor in the classroom. I had Jim Killam.
His inspiration, harsh yet understandable critiques, convictions and general sunny attitude taught me a number of things: Hold people in a position of power accountable for both the good and bad things they do. Don’t always take things at face value; look deeper to find the underlying truth or unseen angle. If you mess up people are not going to let you forget it: so you better be ready to step up, deal with it and not let it bring you down too much. News can be very depressing; don’t let it turn you bitter or destroy your faith and hope. We are nothing without faith and hope.
I could trade my time at the star for any number of journalism classes and I’d never learn as much as I did from Jim Killam about being a real journalist.
Jim, I don’t think I can repay the debt I owe you. Thank you for all of the wisdom and knowledge you’ve granted.