high school publications adviser, mid-Michigan schools
When the Jackson Citizen Patriot printed an editorial against student press freedom in 1987, Larry Mack had one reaction.
And he let his hometown newspaper know it.
“I was offended by your smug editorial references to (student journalists) being ‘pretenders’ and ‘out to lunch,’” the former Jackson High School newspaper adviser wrote in an op-ed column. “These students represent a positive force who need your support, not your derision.”
For 36 years as an English teacher and publications adviser, Mack gave his students that support. Whether he was teaching at Charlotte High School, East Jackson High School, East Junior High School in Jackson or Jackson High School, Mack did his best to impart young journalists with the basics of reporting, editing, design and photography.
All the while, he kept prior review away from the publications he advised.
“For the most part, Larry Mack turned us loose with notebooks and pencils, cameras and film. He let us decide what stories we would write, which ones would run on the front page and what the headlines would say,” recalls former Jackson High Reflector News staff member Gail Gibson, now a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. “His role was to teach the lessons that mattered most: Get it right. Make it fair. Make it interesting. Make it matter.”
Mack made his time as a journalism educator matter, too. Under his watchful eye, Reflector News was a two-time recipient of the National Scholastic Press Association’s Pacemaker — the organization’s highest honor for high school newspapers, multiple winner of the top newspaper in its class from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and consistent recipient of high honors from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
In 1977, MIPA honored Mack with the Golden Pen Award, the highest recognition it gives to an adviser. He also was given the John V. Field Award in 1995 for his contributions to state scholastic journalism.
He was key in planning 1980’s Journalism Education Association national convention — the first to be held in Michigan.
Mack was honored with the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Key Award in 1983 and given the Journalism Education Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. He retired from Jackson High in 1994, after 13 years of advising the student paper there.
Now practicing the journalism he taught them, Mack’s students now understand the personal costs he must have made for them.
“We wrote the truth, even when it made people mad,” writes former student Sue Nichols, a former reporter for the Lansing State Journal and USA Today. “I realize now he ate lunch at his desk in part because the teacher’s lounge couldn’t have been a very welcoming place.”
“Doing what’s right usually means doing that which is hard. Mr. Mack taught us that and he lived it.”