The Advisor with the Infamous Red Pen

Allison Hurst, Junior Reporter

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School newspapers should be a place where aspiring journalists can learn from professionals while still being able to make decisions for themselves. This balance will likely be as a result of the advisor at the head.  

A fantastic example of an advisor who teaches and challenges his students is the one set by Dave Wohlfarth. Wohlfarth served as the advisor for the Prairie from 1991 to 2003. In addition to serving as the Prairie advisor, Wohlfarth also taught various courses in mass communication, all while still pursuing his love for newspaper. 

Wohlfarth stated that being the advisor for the Prairie, “allowed me to keep my hand in newspaper.” 

Wohlfarth came to WTAMU with 27 years of experience in the newsroom. This experience set him apart from other faculty and truly made an impression on his students at the Prairie and in the classroom.  

“Dave had an old school newsman wisdom that I really appreciated,” Meghan Mackey, who served as a reporter and opinions editor under Wohlfarth, said

Wohlfarth carried this wisdom with him as a staple, but this was not the only thing that made him unique. One thing that students often associated with Wohlfarth was the iconic red pen that he used to grade their work.  

Molly Painter, another one of Wohlfarth’s students and who served as the entertainment editor for the Prairie from 1998 to 2003 said of Dave and his red pen, “he was an intimidating force, sitting there bleeding all over our work as we walked past him into the building.” 

Wohlfarth was well aware of his reputation and with the red ink. 

“I was somewhat famous or infamous,” Wohlfarth said, “if you talk to my former students about the amount of red ink I used to use.” 

But even more than impactful that the splash of red on their papers was the way that Wohlfarth chose to critique his students.  

 “Dave’s edits not only critiqued our AP style, but he challenged our thinking and the way we told compelling stories.” Painter said. “He was never cruel in his critiques, but was always constructive and encouraging.” 

Since leaving WTAMU in 2008, Wohfarth has continued to pursue his love of journalism through freelance writing and recently co-authored a book as well. In the face of his success and time beyond WTAMU, Wohlfarth looks back at his time as an educator with joy. While he truly left an impact on his students, the students left an impact on him as well. 

“The most rewarding part was working with young people,” he said, “and assisting them wherever I could, while still letting them make the decisions.”