It’s always darkest before the deadline

The frightening, but true saga of the evolution of a scholastic journalism adviser.

By Darla Tresner

There once was a land of enchantment and joy for teenager Darla Jones. This was known as College High School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. During the early to mid 1970s, Col-Hi, as it was known, was the crown jewel of education on the Oklahoma Prairie.

During this time, Darla became involved in the journalism department at College High led by a phenomenal adviser by the name of Edith Hicks. Edith Hicks, or “Edith” as she was known to her students privately, was one of the top scholastic media advisers in the nation. Mrs. Hicks seemed the epitome of the wise, coffee-chugging, chain-smoking female reporter of the 1940s and 1950s.

Under her tenure, the College High Nautilus won national championship after national championship among high school student newspapers. It became a source of great pride throughout the community; the students who served on her staffs were forever proud of their paper and their department.

Bartlesville High School


During her senior year, Darla served as the assistant editor of the Nautilus. Here, she reviews the critique book prepared for the 1975 Nautilus with 1975 editors Steve Maple and Vincent Hennigan, also OU graduates. Not pictured is editor Daniel Hitzman.
By the time of graduation, Darla was headed to the University of Oklahoma to study journalism education.

While working for the Oklahoma Daily, Darla served as a reporter, copy editor, news editor, and then, in the spring of 1980, editor in chief of The Oklahoma Daily.

Darla claims it was the happiest time of her life. Under her, worked a staff of 45 students. The newspaper was a broadsheet which came out daily, Monday through Friday. Adviser to the Daily was Chuck House.






Today’s Daily office is quite different from that of 1980. Missing from today’s photo is the Associated Press ticker machine. A photo from 1980 would be almost clear of all computers. In the 1980s, only the rim had computers.

Accomplishments of the staff of 1980

  • Campaigned to repeal the boycott of the Olympics due to its detriment to career of OU student Bart Connor’s career.
  • Interviewed the Oklahoma Grand Wizard of the KKK. NAACP threatened to protest on campus.
  • Campaigned to acquire OU Trolley—first free on-campus transportation.
  • Daily editor makes national headlines by being pied in the face with a shaving cream pie ala Anita Bryant because editor would not publish list of alleged gay members of the public as purported by leader of recently formed GAA.

1980—Time to leave the safety of Copeland Hall




Time to return home to College High

When the passing of Edith Hicks, Darla Jones, now, urp, Tresner, returned home to take over her own school program. That was the fall of 1981, and she has never left. People often laugh about the seven-year itch in marriages. Seven years as an adviser brought the first computer in the classroom at Bartlesville High School. It also marked the year Darla was named the Lois A. Thomas Award winner and was granted her Masters of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications.







Thirty-eight years later, this is what I have learned:

The joy is in the relationships….

Former BHS journalist, now professional reporter Nathan Thompson, leads the editors of Media Prime on a day at the state capital.
Overwhelmed by the moment, Darla attends the wedding service of Tyler Bell and Katie McCarley Bell. Katie was editor of The Fourth Estate in 2012 and Tyler in 2013.
Passing the torch from EIC Lauren Szmutko to 2018 leaders Rachel Brown and Noah Estes.

Darla’s niece receives a new computer at Christmas from her parents and Auntie to encourage her to work toward medical school—not journalism.

    Despite Auntie’s warnings, Darla’s nephew Toryn, who graduated Valedictorian in high school, and highest honors from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Environmental Science: Soil and Land Management, began a Masters program there only to suddenly change and transfer to Wichita State University to become a Media Specialist with the school’s athletic program.

And the BEAT goes on…

…until 2022! 










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