125 years of Aggie journalism excellence at The Battalion

Had a memorable night howdying, whooping and reminiscing with these great friends and over 300 other Aggies on Saturday night as we celebrated 125 years of The Battalion, Texas A&M’s student newspaper. We shared wonderful memories of our time together gaining experience that helped us become real journalists. The folks in the group photo were all from my era, graduating between 1983 and ’85.

The other two photos feature a wonderful man to whom countless Aggie journalists owe an incredible debt of gratitude: Bob “Rog” Rogers, who was a professor and adviser to The Batt for many years. Rog, now 91, deserves so much more than the standing ovations he received last night as speaker after speaker paid tribute. When he arrived for the gala, I whipped out my phone and grabbed 2 shots — of Angelique Copeland Gammon ’82 (former Batt editor) hugging Rog, and of my great friend and Batt sports colleague John Wagner ’84 greeting him. It was clear, even to the “kids” in the audience, that Rog is as beloved as any faculty member who’s ever come through the TAMU journalism department.

Angelique Copeland Gammon ’82, former Battalion editor, hugs Bob “Rog” Rogers, the longtime professor and Batt adviser, before the gala at the Memorial Student Center. Kim Tyson Cook ’79 picked up Rog so he could join us.

As you know, these are extremely trying times for journalists, because of shrinking ad revenue, unrelenting rounds of layoffs, a reticence among most to pay for local news in digital form, and uncalled-for criticism coming from every direction. All of that extends to student journalists as well, and as we learned last night, the young journalists who are reporting, writing, editing, designing and shooting photos for The Battalion are feeling the crunch in a major way. The Batt’s print edition has gone from publishing 5 days a week to 3, and the students — who, like we did all those years ago, spend unbelievably long hours in the newsroom — are no longer getting paid for their work. This isn’t a class, and it’s not for credit hours. It’s for the love of journalism and what it stands for. At the moment, it’s untold hours of volunteer dedication to a pillar of our democracy, and to the cause of keeping the public informed and public officials accountable.

In her keynote address, Debby Krenek ’78, a legend of Aggie journalism, told all of us — the veteran journalists, the former journalists and the journalists-in-training — that what we do is too important to give up on because of the pressures on journalism in general and newspapers in particular. Debbie was a trailblazer as one of the first 2 female students to be editor of The Batt back in the day. She’s currently publisher of New York Newsday, and also was editor of Newsday and the NY Daily News. She’s seen it all, and if she’s standing with a mike in her hand telling all of us to keep pushing forward and not give up on our profession, that *really* means something.

So the call went out to help support The Battalion and Aggie student journalism, and Debby helped set the tone for a critical fundraising effort by committing to a stunning donation of $10,000. Even if you’re not a journalist, if you’re an Aggie, you read The Batt during your TAMU days and must realize what a vital training ground the newsroom is. If you believe in Aggies, journalism and want to see it survive at TAMU, please take time to make a donation to The Battalion Excellence Fund at TX.ag/BattFund. I know it sounds cliche, but every bit really does help. Thank you.

A sizable contingent of Aggies who worked at The Battalion as students in the early to mid-1980s attended the gala, and here are a few of them: Front, Rebeca Zimmerman Friedman and Stephanie Ross Avioli. Back, Frank Christlieb, Donn Friedman, John Wagner, Katherine Wiesepape Pownell and Tracy Taylor Woodard.

Before driving back to Arlington today, I visited the Batt newsroom and talked with the editor-in-chief, Megan Rodriguez ’19, who’ll be graduating in a couple of months, and two of her colleagues. It was a Sunday afternoon, when most students were probably outside enjoying the weather, or God forbid, even studying. Yet seven Aggie journalists were in the newsroom, having a budget meeting to discuss coverage plans for the week. Their enthusiasm about journalism and their commitment to helping ensure its survival and relevance deserve our support.

Gig ’em, Aggie journalists!!

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