“I’m giving you this position, I didn’t have to, so I can take it away whenever I want,” Feather adviser Greg Stobbe told her. With beginnings like that, how could brand new Editor-in-chief Mary Kneefel go wrong?
After Brianna Stobbe, ’06, led the Feather to their first National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) Online Pacemaker in 2006, adviser Stobbe felt ready to pass the role on to Kneefel. Her up-and-down experience in the class paid off.
When Kneefel, as a freshman, was encouraged by brother Alec, ’05 , to join publications, she had doubts about the class.
“My brother told him (Stobbe) I would join, which I thought was a mean joke, because I hated writing,” Kneefel, ’08, said. “I thought I was a terrible writer and did not know what to expect.”
From beginnings as a freshman reporter, Kneefel was forced to overcome her inhibitions to get the perfect quote, opening or transition.
“I hated talking to upperclassmen, because I was so shy,” Kneefel said. “My very first article was about varsity volleyball and had to interview several members of the team. It took a couple years, to be comfortable while approaching students for an interview.”
Out of the fear of braving Stobbe’s scrunity alone, Kneefel recruited friends Michelle and Jennifer Rose, ’08, other four-year journalism students.
“My first impression of journalism was that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Michelle said. “Mary was easily a better writer than I was and she encouraged me to stay with it.”
After finishing her freshman year still not sure about journalism, Kneefel made the decision to come back. Experience for college and a supportive class atmosphere motivated her to return. After finishing her sophomore year, Stobbe felt he was ready to pass the torch.
“After her first two years, I saw the same drive and passion that I saw in previous editors and the will to make the paper a big part of her life,” Stobbe said. “She was willing to take my criticism and was not satisfied to win (a Pacemaker) as a reporter. Mary overcame her personal shortcomings out of sheer determination by the end of her sophomore year. She was ready to become the Editor-in-chief.”
The transition from quiet staff writer to head of the paper gave Kneefel a new sense of responsibility, to the Feather and to Stobbe.
“I felt he saw something in me, no other teacher had,” Kneefel said. “He believed in me more than anyone else did. I really wanted to meet his expectations and prove I could do it.”
Junior Kneefel took on the Editor-in-chief role the year after winning a national award as a writer. After about a month and a half of school, she was joined by Jennifer Sherfield, ’08, to help sift through the dozens of articles and compile editorials, among other tasks.
“I joined journalism because I didn’t have an elective and I really wanted to go to New York,” Sherfield said. “Little did I know it would turn into a passion. I love all the close relationships I’ve formed with the staff.”
After winning a national Pacemaker in 2006, The Feather staff lost 18 seniors, and started almost from scratch with juniors Kneefel and Sherfield to head the class.
“Jenn’s zeal for excellence earned her a spot as senior editor,” Stobbe said. “She earned my respect a month into her first year in publications and she complimented Mary’s tenacity. They made a great team.”
Kneefel and Sherfield sacrificed lunches, after school and vacation time to keep the paper running.
“Mary and I became so became close through working so many hours together,” Sherfield said. “Last year we edited 10 articles the day before we left for New York, which took eight hours, so a new article could go up every day.”
While beginning Editor-in-chief duties, Kneefel appreciated having a partner to share the volume of work and responsibility.
“It helped to have someone to carry the load,” Kneefel said. “We were friends already because of tennis, but we became so much closer. Even though she was only in journalism for one year, before becoming an editor, I trusted her to share responsibilities; I don’t know what I would have done with Jenn.”
After being nominated for the national Pacemaker in 2007, Kneefel and Sherfield were joined by several new editors and they strived to reprise their 2006 success.
After years of practice and three months of constant writing and editing, Kneefel and Sherfield were rewarded by winning another NSPA Pacemaker, in Anaheim on April 19.
“Winning the 2nd Pacemaker meant so much more to me as an editor,” Kneefel said. “I never wanted anything more in my life.”
After only two years on The Feather, Sherfield still feels the repercussions of her efforts.
“I love knowing that I’ve been a part of something bigger than just our campus. It was so rewarding when we got national recognition for the Pacemaker. I know I’ll take what I’ve learned working on The Feather with me for the rest of my life.”
Sherfield will attend Fresno Pacific University next fall with a major in liberal studies.
Kneefel plans to study at La Sierra University in Riverside receiving a degree in clinical laboratory science and then Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, to specialize in radiology.
“Even though I’m not going to be a journalist, The Feather has helped me prepare in so many ways,” Kneefel said. “It helped in communicating with others and writing English papers. It has helped me reach my potential; I am a different person because of this class.”