Kaneland Hall of Fame inducts local journalism pioneers

By on May 9, 2013

As the Kaneland community’s hometown newspaper, we feel a special connection with any and all persons inducted into the district’s Hall of Fame. Chances are that we’ve covered or featured these inductees at some point during their time serving the Kaneland School District, and their achievements continue to inspire us to serve the Kaneland community the best we can.

While previous Hall of Fame classes have made us strive to become a better product, two members of this year’s class were responsible for contributions that completely changed the face of both the Elburn Herald and Kaneland community journalism: Don Watson and Laurie Erdmann

Watson is a man who needs no introduction around the Elburn Herald office—he’s the reason we have a newspaper section solely dedicated to Kaneland sports. In 1974, he approached our paper and pitched the idea of writing a column that covered local athletic teams, no doubt driven by his love for Kaneland sports, as well as the fact that his sons were active in AAU diving and swimming at the time.

His debut article, “Knights shucked in Korn Tournament,” appeared in the Dec. 5, 1974, issue of the Elburn Herald. During the next 28 years, he was a prominent fixture in Kaneland athletics, including an era that he believes “may never be duplicated,” featuring State Championships by two boys track teams, two girls track teams, back-to-back 14-0 football teams, a girls basketball team and a boys cross-country team.

Watson’s invaluable contributions to the Elburn Herald, Kaneland sports and local journalism are why we named him Sports Editor Emeritus in 2002 and created a $1,000 scholarship in his name. And those contributions are also why we couldn’t say yes fast enough when the idea of nominating him for the Kaneland Hall of Fame first came up. The Elburn Herald, as we know it today, simply would not exist without Watson, and we’re extremely proud to see him rightfully take his place among the most respected and revered members of the Kaneland community.

Like Watson, Erdmann began contributing to the Kaneland community in 1974, when she became a journalism teacher at the high school. At the time, KHS had just one semester-long journalism course. Thanks to Erdmann, that lone course evolved into a three-tiered, sequential program that included an intro to newswriting, advanced journalistic studies course, and an AP English and Composition class that placed an emphasis on journalistic writing.

Another early achievement for Erdmann was her students’ establishment of the Kaneland News Bureau in 1974 (which to this day continues to send stories and photos to area newspapers). Six years later, her advanced journalism students founded The Paragon magazine, for which she served as an advisor until 1985.

Erdmann also crafted a co-curricular publications program that required journalism students to participate in regular reporting, editing and executive duties aside from their normal journalism studies. In the meantime, the Kaneland Krier newsmagazine grew from a four-page publication to a 24-page monthly offering with five supplements.

In 1998, Erdmann participated in the planning and implementation of a “journalism suite” in the high school, complete with a classroom, publications office and multi-workstation publications lab. In 2002, she oversaw establishment of The Krier’s online publication.

Erdmann’s induction into the Kaneland Hall of Fame marks the second time she’s received a prestigious honor from the Kaneland community, as she was named KHS Educator of the Year in 2001.

Elburn Herald sports coverage and KHS’ entire journalism program exist because of Watson’s and Erdmann’s respective vision, presence and accomplishments, and we can’t think of two candidates more deserving of seats in the Kaneland Hall of Fame. Congratulations to both of them.