The Jake Effect

If you attended classes at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno any time from the ’80s to the spring of 2011 it’s likely you took a class from journalism professor Jake Highton. And once you took a class from Jake Highton, you became part of an unofficial club. The club was made up of stressed-out students comparing equally bad grades. The amount of his hastily-penned — perhaps even violentlyscratched — red-ink corrections caused almost everyone considerable anxiety. The harsh feedback I received remains etched in my memory, like the beautifully alliterative: “WOEFULLY WEAK.” But as time goes by, a sense of pride sneaks up on you as you say, “Yeah, I had Jake, too.”

I can still see him leaning over the lectern, saying: “I’ve seen misspellings in brass.”

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In honor of National Grammar Day I dug out my old journalism binders and flipped through my work from his legendary First Amendment and copy editing classes.

I don’t think I was a great student in Jake’s opinion during my time in his classes, but I know I’ve become one since. I’m still often hunched over The AP Stylebook, brow furrowed in confusion, but if nothing else I gained a great respect for the craft of writing and editing. And while most of my papers were covered in red and I made the same mistakes more than once, I did get a “perfect” from him one day. And with Jake, whether it was good or bad, you knew you deserved it. And a “perfect” made you grin all the way home.