The North Wind Celebrates 50 Years of student voices, independent journalism


From right to left, Sarah O’Neill and Alex Belz (Assistant News Editor).

Madoline Plattenberg

Sarah O’Neill, former assistant news and opinion editor at the North Wind (2007-2009) shared a nostalgic memory of weekly Wednesday production nights during the semesters when the paper was still printing. The staff, including copy editors, all section editors and writers would pile in the office immediately after classes.

The North Wind was the organization of the year in 2010. In the middle front is Claire Casper, the editor at the time.
From right, Scott Viau (Features Editor), Sarah O’Neill, Jackie Start (News Editor) and Gordon Beedle (Sports Editor) on a Wednesday night.
From right, Sarah O’Neill and Cate Terwilliger.

“We would always order Rice Paddy and would be there until one or two in the morning. Just slaving away trying to get out the paper. It’s just such a good atmosphere to be a part of,” O’Neill said. “It was like being in a newsroom, and then once you hit send it was such an accomplished feeling,” 

The faculty advisor for the North Wind at that time was Cate Terwilliger. She taught journalism and English courses and had previously worked for the Associated Press, O’Neill said.

“[Terwilliger] is definitely someone who encouraged and inspired me to pursue writing and journalism because before I had decided on writing, I think I had changed my major three or four times,” O’Neill said. “She was just really awesome.”

O’Neill is the current director of marketing for NMU.

“I’ve only been here [at NMU] for two years since December 2020 when I started. It’s definitely been great to be back,” O’Neill said. “I care a lot about the university as an alumna, and as someone from the community of Marquette in general it means a lot to me to be here and to represent the university at the level I do.”

Graduating with a Bachelors of Science in English writing, and a minor/concentration in journalism, O’Neill said directly post graduation she started working as a copywriter at an ad agency.

“My study of journalism and my early career led me into marketing. It wasn’t exactly traditional journalism of working at a newspaper or publication, but it did guide me in that direction,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill’s roles at the Northwind helped shape her writing style, the way she approaches writing and her job in marketing and she says it has given her an edge over others in the field.

“Being able to use the techniques that I learned from being a journalist at the Northwind and also while in school and studying journalism have kind of framed how I look at strategy and telling stories. It’s just helped me to market from an authentic point of view and wanting to get people’s stories out there, which I think is the most important part —  being able to share our stories,” O’Neill said.

As a staff member of the student paper, O’Neill said meeting deadline’s was instilled in her work ethic.

“There was a sign hanging up in the office that said, ‘DEADLINE means just that — if your piece is not over the line before time is up, it is dead and so are you,’ that puts some sense of fear in me. So if I’m ever getting close with a deadline there’s this ingrained drive in me to be like, ‘We’ve got to meet it, even if it’s up to the last minute and you’re putting your finishing touches on,’” O’Neill said.

Deadline poster hanging up in the North Wind office. (Katarina Rothhorn)

She would also get in quite a few arguments with her uncle, O’Neill said, who was on a different political side of the political spectrum than she was.

“He would argue with me about my opinion articles all the time. I got a lot of mail, honestly, like actual letters from the community, so like the broader community was picking it up and reading it. as well,” O’Neill said. “It’s honestly very impressive and exciting [the North Wind] is turning 50.”

It’s really important for the student body to be able to have a voice, O’Neill said. The fact that that has carried on from like 1972 through now is really amazing. 

“What I’ve read from the North Wind today is really impressive, and it’s really great to see,” O’Neill said. “I chose to study journalism because I really wanted to use my voice to make a difference in some way and I think the North Wind is just that for the students of NMU. It’s just a really important platform and a really awesome way for students to get their voice out there and have their opinions heard and it’s amazing that students have had the opportunity to have a voice for 50 years.”

James Royer, former sports editor (1994-1996) at the North Wind said his career solidified after joining the staff at the paper. 

“It led to my career in professional sports and digital marketing. I spent many hours in the University Center offices honing the journalism craft,” Royer said.

During his time at NMU, Royer said his initial major was in biology, eventually switching to public relations with minors in marketing and biology. As the current director of integrated marketing and social media at Capital Tacos, Royer said his work encompasses many elements of journalism, public relations and marketing.

“I have a love affair with Northern Michigan and Marquette … I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Northern because I was able to do a lot and get my hands dirty,” Royer said. “It comes back to my writing background, and having the ability to write for the North Wind fueled everything for me.”

Royer’s involvement at the independent student newspaper launched his career in sports — spanning 12 years working for the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Whether I was writing articles and coverage of teams, I was running a lot on social media and writing the posts and doing live coverage and really engaging their fan base,” Royer said.

After taking over the sports editor position at the paper, Royer said he got exposed to the sports world, and received many new opportunities and skills.

“That’s one of the things I loved was working on how to layout the newspaper and building it from the ground up and that led into understanding HTML very easily,” Royer said. “When I learned HTML, it opened a lot of doors for me to go down that path and when I took my first job, my first job was sports with the Lions.”

The North Wind was a blessing to be a part of, Royer said. He learned a lot from the experience to get paid while learning.

“I loved working with the staff and you know, we butted heads, but for the most part, we got along and we had a lot of fun, it’s part of the process.” 

Royer said it’s hard to believe it’s only been 50 years that the paper has been a part of the campus community. 

“It just felt like [the North Wind] should have been there for longer than that. You know, it’s been 25 years since I graduated so it’s hard to believe from that perspective. I feel like it’s such an ingrained part of the student experience,” Royer said. “People would ask me sometimes if I was gonna write about certain things in class, so students looked forward to certain aspects of the paper.”

He also was able to develop positive relationships with administration and the athletic department as the sports editor for the North Wind.

“The athletic department was very accommodating and always went out of the way to support me, which I’m thankful for because you can think about it from the perspective of that was my training ground to help prepare me for the next opportunity,” Royer said. “Some of them realized that and gave me a chance to ask tough questions or to do things the right way.”

For David Haynes, alumni and former professor and president of NMU, the North Wind as we know it today was a university affiliated student paper called Northern News. During the early 70s, Haynes was a managing editor of that student newspaper and witnessed its transition from Northern News to today’s independent student newspaper, the North Wind.

Throughout his time as managing editor, Haynes witnessed and covered a lot of historical turning points for NMU.

“I was editor during a time of great turmoil at no other,” Haynes said. “Anti Vietnam War struck and the explosion of feminism, nationally and on campus, arrived in addition to Black power issues.”

The student staff was tasked with creating and editing a paper in the middle of all that controversy, all of that sort of opposition, Haynes said.

“I think it shaped my mind to be analytical. There was a saying a friend of mine used to always say that, ‘If you’re going to throw a punch, you’ve got to be able to take a punch’ so we were throwing a lot of punches during those days, and got shut down quite a few times by the administration,” Haynes said. “It shaped my mind to do critical thinking and to be willing to stand up for what I believe in, to speak about it and act on it.”

NMU’s administration at the time did not always approve of the content Northern News was publishing, and would let them know, Haynes said. Some students on staff were even pulled aside by administrators and given advice on how to approach certain topics.

“There was a movement at that time to take student newspapers, which was sort of part of the university, and make them student funded and independent newspapers which then hit Northern’s campus,” Haynes said. “This followed a national trend, taking it from the Northern News – a university newspaper – to a paper written by students for students, which is why it was looked at to become a student newspaper that was much more independent of the university.”

This movement led to the creation of the North Wind 50 years ago and allowed for more mobility within what was able to be published, Haynes said.

“Administration at the university would have to tell those offended by the written content, ‘Students run that. Call them. Nothing we can do about it,’” Haynes said. “As opposed to when I was doing it, people didn’t like it and they could call the university and say, ‘Hey, you know, this is your newspaper. You got a bunch of students running it.’” 

For Haynes and others on this staff, the desire to separate from NMU’s administration and their opinions is one of the main things that led to the independence of the paper.

“We really weren’t concerned what the administration or what the faculty said during that time in our country’s history. It was just a great time of questioning authority,” Haynes said. “I mean, across the country campuses were on fire – literally on fire over this issue of ‘can faculty tell us  what to do.’” 

The staff at the time was all different ages and backgrounds, including Haynes himself who was a veteran coming back to Northern to finish school after his service. After being separated for 50 years, Haynes talked about getting the old staff back together for a reunion for the editors and staff writers who contributed to the legacy of the North Wind and student journalism at NMU.

“The North Wind does a great job. I love the work that they’re doing online with the digital format,” Haynes said. “I just hope that we keep student journalism on campuses going, I think it’s an important voice. I thought that as a student and as a faculty member and I hope it stays and thrives for years to come.”