Journalism professor Jim McPherson accepted a temporary, one-year position upon coming to Whitworth 17 years ago. For the next two-and-a-half weeks before retirement, he will continue to occupy the basement of Lindaman, enter battle on Twitter, teach all aspects of media, using neckwear to illustrate his points, and, most relevant to us on the editorial board, advise The Whitworthian. We on the editorial board could not ask for a better adviser.
Jim has a story for everything: teaching at an all-women’s college, misadventures from his small logging hometown in Idaho, living in a renovated school bus for a year and being a migrant farmer, among others. His stories provide a wide range of life experiences that teach and assist in any situation.
As one letter to the editor in this week’s issue said, Whitworth professors are notoriously kind and generous to their students. Jim extends that sentiment to providing a space for students in his office, complete with candy, to discuss academic difficulties, personal problems or the seemingly never ending hurdles that come with an undergraduate degree. Aside from the time spent hiding from colleagues and students in his truck, trying to catch up on the day’s paper and eat his lunch, Jim never turns away a student who has a small question or a large crisis.
Jim teaches and exemplifies what it is to be a caring and loving spouse. Everyone who has taken a class from him probably feels like they know Jim’s wife Joanna. He exudes his love for her by praising her ability to raise and support her children alone. His feminist streak comes out as he proudly describes Joanna’s journey from a high school dropout to working in a male dominated technology field to earning a college degree.
Those lucky enough to be in his classes know that Jim is, one might say, not an easy grader. He is the first to admit this, proudly. His classes are challenging in the best way. He gives the grades students deserve, with a genuine desire to help students improve and to find out what they want to be.
Jim has been a committed, supportive and thoughtful adviser to The Whitworthian for the past 17 years, minus a sabbatical or two. He understands the value of learning throughout the process of creating a newspaper. This year’s Editorial Board, and editors throughout the years, faced many controversies and tough decisions. With cliffs and obstacles lurking ahead, Jim would often point out the missteps in judgment that led to problems, but let editors and the paper as whole fall and experience failure. He encourages us to take on tough issues and challenges rather than play it safe. And when we do fall, he is there to pick us up and steer us in the right direction.
Jim allows The Whitworthian to function as a true student newspaper, offering assistance when the paper needs it, but emphasizing student ownership. He exemplifies how the position of “adviser” should look.
The editors may have made mistakes, but with Jim’s hands-off style, editors and writers were allowed to understand the ramifications of their mistakes and learn how to manage the aftermath. No matter the gravity of the situation or amount of faculty or administrators upset, Jim remains a calm and steadfast advocate for the paper and supports the staff’s ability to produce the paper each week. His support means everything to us.
In the days before Jim retires from Whitworth, we wanted to use this page space and opportunity to thank him. For the time spent in his office crying or laughing or listening to his stories. For passionate and fascinating lectures on media history and feminism. For the innumerable AP style corrections he has provided. For a story to go with every tie. For the hours and hours he spent with us and 17 years of previous editors in the media office reading and editing copy, and eating candy. Most of all, for teaching us how to be better writers, editors, media critics, ethical journalists and people.