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Alumni mentor current Redlands Bulldog staffers in a shared passion for news

Sitting around a table at the Gannett Center, a group of Redlands alumni thumb through yellowed print editions of The Redlands Bulldog. Seated with them are current students who flip open their laptops to the home page of the publication’s current online version. Separated by a half-century, these Bulldogs share the experience of writing for the University’s student news publications.

For months, alumni who served on the Bulldog’s editorial board from 1963 to 1967 have been emailing with current staffers, including Willow Higgins ’19, Talullah Plummer-Blanco ’19, and Emilia Rivera ’20. This spring, Plummer-Blanco and Rivera invited their predecessors back to campus, where the alumni gave feedback on the students’ writing, shared current journalism trends and networking opportunities, and served, Higgins says, “as a tremendous support system.”

Decades may separate the two sets of journalists, but they have led parallel lives. Both shared the responsibility of reviving their periodicals. After the Bulldog temporarily ceased publication in spring 1962 due to students’ censorship concerns, Bill Bruns ’64 and Bob Johnson ’64 committed to restarting the paper that fall. “We challenged the administration and wrote some tough editorials,” recalls Bruns, who was the longtime editor of the Palisadian-Post, where his Bulldog experience served him well.

Johnson, a faculty advisor for the student paper who went into a law career, also brought the experience forward: “I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Bulldog. The ability to write persuasively was invaluable to practicing law, so we often imported ‘Bulldog-style’ writing.”

The Bulldog ended its print version and was restarted online right before Higgins, a Hunsaker Scholar and public policy major with an emphasis in political journalism, became “obsessed” with it as a freshman. She eventually served as editor-in-chief, followed by Plummer-Blanco and Rivera, both of whom have integrated journalism into their Johnston emphases.

Although the news content is created and delivered in different formats, another former editor-in-chief of the Bulldog, Jim Schoning ’65, notes many similarities between the two generations. “We both produced a quality product and worked long hours with a diverse group of people,” says Schoning, who went on to work for the Coro Foundation. “We depended on others to do their job well, and we were evaluated carefully by a sophisticated audience.”

“It’s cool to see history repeat itself; like us, they were making sure their voices were heard,” agrees Rivera.

However, one difference that took today’s students by surprise was how the role of female leaders in the newsroom has changed. Former Bulldog staff member Beverly Lynn ’65, now a tech writer, rose to front page editor as a junior, but “that was as far as I could go since female students had to return to the dorms by a certain hour.”

Most alumni credit the guidance of faculty advisor Howard Hurlbut, who taught English and Russian studies at the University from 1959 to 2001, as pivotal to their success; through mentoring, they are channeling his legacy. “These students are so willing to learn and listen, and it is a pleasure to help them in any way we can,” Lynn says.

The effort of the alumni is an inspiration for today’s students. “It has been neat to hear fond recollections of their time with the Bulldog and how it has shaped them professionally and personally,” shares Higgins. “I certainly hope one day to say the same.”

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