When Bill Plaschke stepped into the office of Mass Communications Department Chair Bill Ward in 1977, Plaschke was living out of a Roxana church basement and did not have much money. What he did have, Plaschke said, was "luster." "I'll be the best writer you'll ever have," Plaschke said to Ward. Ward smiled and said "We'll see."
Plaschke would graduate in 1980, and after several stints at several newspapers, wound up as a sports columnist for the L.A. Times and as a guest on ESPN's "Around the Horn." Ward, Plaschke said, prepared him for the future and molded him into the reporter he is today. Although, Plaschke admits, the trial-by-fire wasn't easy. "[Ward] used to yell at us, make us work all night," Plaschke said of his experience at The Alestle. "I remember working all night for a story, then hopping into a car the first thing in the morning to take it to the printers." Plaschke was a sports editor for The Alestle during his education in the Mass Communications Department, and said his most rewarding work came from oddball assignments.
First as the sports writer and later as the sports editor, Plaschke said he would write stories on "everything and anything," even a story about a nearby little league field plagued by dangerous gasses. "When I was there, the only thing between you and your dreams was how hard you wanted to work and how much you cared," Plaschke said. "SIUE taught you that anything was possible." When his first internship ended, he applied to 50 more newspapers at the end of his senior year. Again, he got only one reply. This time, it was the St. Petersburg Times in St. Petersburg, Fla.
At this job, and also at a previous job at the now-defunct Metro-East Journal, Plaschke came into contact with fellow classmate Rick Pierce. "Bill was always a great writer," Pierce said, who is the Illinois editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He's always had that gift." Plaschke would later find himself working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and finally, at the L.A. Times. Plaschke said he works with people who come from more affluent schools and backgrounds, but there is one important thing about him that separates him from the rest of the pack. "I work harder," Plaschke said. "I work with a lot of people from the Ivy Leagues and people from very exclusive backgrounds. SIUE prepares you for the real world like none other." Plaschke suggests if people want to follow in his footsteps, they should begin by taking a chance. "I want someone who will take a chance and do the offbeat story," Plaschke said. "I want someone who will cover the little league story, the athlete with cancer. The human aspect."