Adventures Along the Way

Written by: 
Keith Shelton
Photography by: 
Leo Gonzalez; Stephanie Reinke
Keith Shelton

My name is Keith Shelton. I was on the journalism faculty for 23 years. I was the first faculty advisor to the North Texas Daily.

In the 1960s, I was editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle when C.E. Shuford asked me to help with a 4410 reporting lab. Students had to cover meetings of the Denton City Council, the Denton school board and the Denton County Commissioners Court.

Mr. Shuford hired me to grade the stories the students wrote. Two students missed meetings and I gave them a C. Mr. Shuford asked me to give them a B since the reason they missed the meetings was that they were working on the Daily. I did so, and one of the students later won a Pulitzer Prize.

Mr. Shuford talked the dean into hiring me without a master's degree on the basis of my many years of newspaper experience. The dean agreed because my bachelor's degree was in English. It was with the provision that I would get my master's while teaching.

When I joined the faculty, the student newspaper was called The Campus Chat, which I thought sounded like a high school paper. I wanted to name it the North Texas Eagle, like the Brooklyn Eagle and the Wichita Eagle. The students outvoted me and it became the North Texas Daily.

We added AP wire service and changed from twice a week to four times a week, which made it a daily.

There were many adventures along the way.

During the Vietnam war era, there was an organization that strongly supported the war. One of the Daily editors wrote an editorial saying the university should keep an eye on them because they were potentially violent. The group came to the newsroom and threatened to beat the crap out of him. That proved the editorial's point.

I got in trouble with the chancellor of the university. He said the newspaper was illegitimate because the editor was elected by the Publications Committee of which the dean was a member and the dean never attended. I wrote that because you don't understand something, it doesn't make it illegal. He was furious, but he found me at a basketball game and apologized.

My former students won three Pulitzer Prizes. Sarah Broom ('02) won the National Book Award for her memoir, The Yellow House. My other students have gone on to work for The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, WFAA and numerous public relations agencies, state agencies and other organizations. I recently had dinner with Charlie Fern ('90) (pictured), a former speechwriter for First Lady Barbara Bush who now runs her own PR firm.

The Daily won the highest honor of the national student newspaper organization, the Pacemaker Award.

James Keith Shelton ('72 M.J.) was on UNT's journalism faculty from 1969 to 1978, director of News and Information Services from 1978 to 1979 and journalist-in-residence at UNT from the 1990s to the early 2000s. He previously worked as a reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald, where he covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was managing editor and executive editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle through various times from the 1960s to the 1980s. His new book is Chance: My Life As a Series of Chances.