On his first day back in Galesburg, Matt Koester ‘17 woke up feeling sick. He tried to get a haircut, but Glory Days was busy, he had no hot water and had only slept for three hours. Yet by his third day, he was glad to be back.
Koester is now a reporter at the Register-Mail. He had written for the paper before as a student and as a stringer after he graduated, but is now a full employee.
“I don’t remember exactly what happened on that (first) day anymore,” he told TKS in November. “But the next day I had a front-page with a story about lead remediation.”
He has already covered some exciting news, some of which has made a big impression on campus. He said his stories about a two year old being given apple juice mixed with Everclear by mistake at Cherry St. and a series of sudden, dramatic resignations in the East Galesburg city government were widely shared by students and alumni.
He has also covered more serious stories. One day he was surprised to get a call at seven in the morning asking if he had seen anything about a fire. He was just getting up for the day so he had not.
The fire was at Monmouth Airport and ended up destroying eight planes and the hangar. Koester had to learn how to cover these sorts of stories on the job.
He had a journalism minor and took feature writing with TKS advisor and Register-Mail editor Tom Martin when he was a student. This gave Koester a chance to get to know Martin some and work on larger pieces around Galesburg. Koester asked Martin about any chances for an internship or other work and ended up starting to write stories for the Register-Mail, continuing after graduation as a freelance writer.
As a stringer he especially liked writing stories about Galesburg’s music scene. He also wrote for other publications and tried his hand at blogging.
“I didn’t think of myself too much as a reporter,” he said.
Still, he found himself reading a lot of journalism, although generally long form, not newspapers.
In June, he moved to Oregon but ended up moving back home. He came back to Galesburg for a music show and felt a renewed sense of connection with the community.
“These are the people who I vibe with, this is a cool community. I really like this town,” he said.
He got a call from Martin shortly after his visit, after the Register-Mail’s last reporter left. With no reporters, the Register-Mail needed to hire someone quickly.
Some of his stories only happened by accident. The Register-Mail had been looking through legal documents and happened to find a reference to a two-year-old being served alcohol at Cherry Street Restaurant and Bar. Koester dug deeper through other documents to get the whole story.
In covering East Galesburg, they only covered the meeting because of a tip earlier that day. For stories like these, Koester had to learn on the job.
“I’m still learning things,” he said. “It’s a learn on the job kind of job. But so far it’s been pretty good, I’m enjoying it. I’m comfortable in this space, I like the editors. I’m just taking it day by day really.”