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Barb Mantz Drake: The editorial crusader

Barb Mantz Drake posing with The Scout’s logo (2023)
Photo by Madalyn Mirallegro

At a time when women were hardly allowed to study journalism at the collegiate level, one young woman made her mark on Bradley’s campus.

Barb Mantz Drake began her college search by exploring universities where she could major in journalism. Fortunately, Drake discovered that Bradley, which was conveniently located in her hometown, allowed women to major in journalism.

Bradley offered her a full-ride scholarship to attend and major in journalism. With all of those factors, Drake knew that Bradley would be the best choice for her.

When Drake first started at Bradley in 1963, she was intrigued when the professors didn’t try to push female journalists to cover stereotypically female topics, such as cooking or fashion.

“They [the journalism professors] told me that I would be successful and that I would have a career in journalism,” Drake said.

The professors, especially Drake’s favorite, chairman of the journalism department Paul B. Snider taught his students equally, with the same goals in mind: accuracy, interest, timeliness and effectiveness.

Snider taught Drake and her colleagues that accuracy matters in journalism to the point where if students made one mistake in their articles, they would be dropped a letter grade and if they made two, he would flunk them.

Snider wanted all of his students to have an interesting voice when writing their articles, get their work turned in on strict deadlines and know the importance of their work.

The latter of Snider’s lessons stayed with Drake the most as she began her journey with The Scout and became an editorial crusader.

Time at The Scout

Drake began her time at The Scout shortly after committing to Bradley, working as a News Reporter her freshman year. She joined The Scout because she always knew that she wanted to be in the field.

“I loved getting the information,” Drake said. “I loved talking to people … and I loved seeing the results if an editorial campaign that we waged was successful and brought something about.”

After working as a news reporter, Drake began to make her climb up the ranks of the staff. She was promoted to Associate Editor before making her way to Editor-In-Chief.

While in different roles on staff, Drake’s articles ranged from covering large news events, such as a demonstration protesting Bradley basketball’s decision to turn down the invite to the National Invitational Tournament to Drake’s favorite: editorials.

Editorials had always drawn Drake in. She loved knowing that the words she wrote had an impact on the community.

“[Editorials were] a broader perspective and I saw it as a way to promote getting things done, to try and make for a better university,” Drake said.

Not only did Drake enjoy the writing aspect of working for The Scout, but she also appreciated the important lessons it taught her about her and her staff as an Editor.

“You don’t get by without a good staff,” Drake said. 

Though she left The Scout quite some time ago, Drake has one particular memory that she still laughs about today.

Singer Johnny Mathis was taking a trip to Peoria to perform at Bradley in 1967 and as the Editor-In-Chief at the time, Drake decided to assign herself a feature on her favorite performer.

“He was just as nice as could be,” Drake said. “And he welcomed me and wanted me to stay as long as I wanted to.”

While Drake had fun in the office, she was also very committed to the editorials produced. Drake wanted every editorial she wrote to have an impact on Bradley’s campus.

Drake referred to the process of writing editorials as “editorial crusades” and herself as an “editorial crusader.” Drake remembers pushing this motto and nickname through an editorial she wrote about The Scout.

“I wrote an editorial once that said, ‘The Scout was good to inform, to stimulate thoughts, to promote action, to enrich the educational experience and to entertain,’” Drake said. “And that editorials would bring to light problems and to promote action on them.”

One campaign that Drake remembers was fighting against the university’s rule that students could only miss three meetings of a course before they were dropped from the class. Drake and the rest of The Scout staff fought for the rule to be revoked. 

Another crusade Drake fondly remembers is an editorial requesting more lights in the quad after a female student was jumped and beaten in the middle of campus one evening. Drake led the editorial crusade and fought hard for more lighting fixtures to be installed around campus, which she said is glad to see remain all these years later.

“I get a kick out of seeing [the lights on the quad],” Drake said. “I’m really happy to see that.” 

After The Scout

Although Drake loved writing for The Scout, she had to make a difficult decision in her senior year. Drake was working 50 hours a week on top of being a full-time student, member of Chi Omega sorority and a part of the student board of activities.

“I was with The Scout as Editor for a year, but I left at the end of my first semester of my senior year – and I was ready to be done,” Drake said.

After graduation, Drake worked at the Peoria Journal Star. Here, Drake wrote multiple editorials urging the city to build The Peoria Riverfront Museum and to finish the Rock Island Trail. She credits The Scout for helping her find a purpose for her editorials.

“We [the Journal Star staff] campaigned to complete the trail and they did,” Drake said. “I thought about that a couple of days ago when I was walking on that part of the Rock Island Trail. That’s here and I had a role in it being here.”

As Drake continues her career and furthers her education through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Bradley, her one piece of advice for the current Scout staff and aspiring journalists is the same as that of her favorite professors.

To remember that your work is important and to enjoy your work.

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