Before transferring to Illinois State University in the fall of 2019, Fairbury native Jake Fogal knew he wanted to pursue a career in sports—he just did not know how. That is until he stepped into a little building on the corner of Locust and University.
That little brick building catty-corner to the Bone Student Center houses the University’s student-run newspaper The Vidette. A hometown friend and former Vidette sports editor Blaine Lewallen hinted at the idea of Fogal joining the staff in the fall of 2019.
“I basically joined The Vidette on a whim,” said Fogal. “I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into. However, looking back I realize that little building will hold a majority of my best college memories.”
The opportunity to work in sports drew Fogal in, but he has since expanded his interests to all-things media. He has found time in the news department, podcasting, and—his personal favorite—column writing.
“I primarily only wanted to work in sports when I joined staff, but since then I have gained more experience than I could have asked for,” he said.
Last fall, Fogal joined Lewallen and former Editor-in-Chief, Jon Barlas in a Missouri Valley Football podcast. In February, the trio received an honorable mention award at the Illinois Collegiate Press Association (ICPA) conference for the podcast series. Since then, Fogal went full-time with The Redbird Report which focuses on all sports at Illinois State University. He recently joined another podcast, The Roast Session, with photo editor Alex Gant and fellow sports editor Jake Sermersheim where they discuss weekly news featured in the paper over a different kind of coffee.
Fogal mentions he doesn’t even like coffee, but perhaps it will grow on him like his love for writing did. The series is a part of The Vidette’s plan to increase their online presence as news consumption is being viewed primarily through digital means.
The variety comes at an opportune time as quality sports content is hard to come by these days. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, athletics has been on hold which presented an unprecedented challenge for Fogal and his fellow sports journalists.
“Relying on game stories and current news at the University was a norm for each week’s edition of The Vidette prior to COVID-19,” said Fogal.
Since then, Fogal has seen growth in his creativity to plan out content. Because of that, he is thankful for the adversity.
“This tough time has pushed me to generate ideas that went past depending on game stories. I was tested to really dig deeper,” said Fogal. “The Vidette is still producing quality content week in and week out, which makes me think we’re doing a fantastic job given the circumstances.”
Fogal is not the only one who thinks The Vidette delivers top-notch stories. In February, the collegiate newspaper won General Excellence at the ICPA conference while taking home a total of 29 awards, which stands as a record in the newspaper’s history.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous staff at The Vidette. Without each and every one of them logging hard hours, this paper wouldn’t be what it is,” said Fogal.
As he prepares for graduation this May, the senior journalism major knows The Vidette has played a vital role in his professional development and wishes the same experience for communication students in the years to come.
“I wouldn’t be where I am at today if It wasn’t for The Vidette. I know I’m not the first and not the last to make that statement,” said Fogal.