Fourth Estate newspaper shines at Midwest press competition

UW-Green Bay’s weekly student newspaper, the Fourth Estate, won six awards, including second place for best four-year college tabloid newspaper, at the Associated Collegiate Press’ Best of the Midwest competition Feb. 12 in Minneapolis. Co-editors-in-chief Erika Bonnell and Jordan Tilkens accepted the second-place Best of Show award for the newspaper.

Tilkens, who is also the Fourth Estate’s web director, won fourth place for his work. Bonnell won second place for her investigative piece in the news story category. Other Fourth Estate staffers who won awards include Cheyenne Makinia, second place, news photo; Justin Grones and Matt Vanden Boomen, fourth place, single-page design; and Steve Paulus; fifth place, sports story.

Student journalists from 14 Midwestern states competed in this annual event. Thirteen 4E staffers and adviser Victoria Goff attended the conference.

4E staff members win honors in Collegiate Press competition

Three students from the Fourth Estate won awards at the annual Best of the Midwest competition sponsored by the Associated Collegiate Press. On Feb. 13, Kaitlin Phillips won fourth place for best feature story, Whitney Robertson won fourth place for best news photograph, and Tina Blahnik won second place for best news photograph. Fourteen Fourth Estate staffers attended the ACP conference, which draws participants from 14 Midwestern states. 

Alumni rising: Former 4-E editor still selling ‘stuff’ – now for bigger bucks

Chris NeratChris Nerat lives in a world surrounded by stuff: clothes, comic books, baseball cards, fine art, antiques, dinosaur bones, game-worn jerseys of professional athletes, rare coins and much more. It’s a fascinating world where something made simply of paper and ink, like a Batman comic, for instance, can sell for more than a million dollars.

The 2001 UW-Green Bay graduate, and former Fourth Estate sports editor, works as a cataloger and consignment director in the sports division at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas, ( the world’s largest collectible auction house. 

Infatuated with the hobby since he was 10 years old and with the fact that sports memorabilia and gum cards were worth money, Nerat (pictured above wearing World Series rings from the 1954 Giants, 1960 Pirates, 1998 Yankees and 2006 Cardinals with an estimated value of $75,000, and below holding a signed baseball by Babe Ruth valued at $60,000) put himself through college, and has made a career out of his childhood hobby — buying and selling vintage sports memorabilia.

Babe Ruth signed baseball

“Some people like the items to collect, but I was purely interested in their value,” Nerat says. “My dad was always a business man, owning a furniture store in Menominee, Mich., and my mother was always into antiques, and I was into sports, so I kind of combined all of those attributes into buying and selling vintage sports memorabilia.”

At Heritage, his job in cataloging involves researching and describing the memorabilia that comes in for publication on the company website and in catalogs. As a consignment director, he tracks down clients who want to sell their memorabilia. Throughout his career, he has dealt with an array of celebrities (Penny Marshall, Dominique Wilkins, Whitey Ford, Pete Rose and many others), pawn shops, investors and long-time collectors.

Nerat is having a blast.

“Holding that Batman first appearance comic book (which Heritage sold for a record $1,075,500) was amazing, but that same day I had the chance to hold three coins, none of which that were larger than a dime,” he said. “The coin division manager informed me that they were each worth about $2 million. That’s pretty overwhelming stuff.”

Despite the exciting environment at Heritage, Nerat said he is most proud of the investigative report he wrote regarding the sales of unauthentic Brett Favre jerseys, which were being sold as legitimate game-worn pieces. Nerat’s 2008 investigation included an eight-page, four-color spread in Sports Collector’s Digest (his previous employer), which included a summary of the bogus jerseys and other memorabilia, and the ways to identify fake Favre merchandise.

“For many years innocent collectors were being duped into spending thousands of dollars on these fake jerseys,” said Nerat. “As a journalist, I felt it was my duty to the hobby to bring to light what was actually going on. It wasn’t an easy story to write, but at the end, it was worth it.”

Currently, Nerat said he is enjoying the weather down south, but some day plans to move back to Green Bay to open up a business strictly focusing on high-end Green Bay Packers memorabilia. In fact, he currently runs a similar business on the side, see

“My website is more of a hobby, where I get to display some of my favorite pieces,” he said. “I love talking to fellow collectors, educating them, as well as buying and selling. I plan on dealing in sports memorabilia for the rest of my life.”

Submitted photos by Grant Smith.

Passing of Prof. Emeritus Dean O'Brien

Archived photo of Dean O'Brien
Dean O'Brien

Prof. Emeritus Dean O’Brien, who retired from UW-Green Bay two decades ago but left a rich community legacy with his contributions to Artstreet, Voyageur magazine and the education of numerous working journalists and engaged citizens, died Wednesday (June 16) in Buffalo, Minn. He was 78 years old.

Obituary in the Green Bay Press-Gazette

O’Brien joined the new UW-Green Bay as a founding faculty member in 1968. He retired in 1990 as professor emeritus of Communication and the Arts. His primary teaching responsibilities involved journalism courses, and he was the first and longest-serving faculty adviser to the weekly Fourth Estate student newspaper.

At the time of his retirement he shared reflections for an article by 4E editor Shelly Nemetz. He said his teaching strategy with student journalists tended toward hands-off, especially with the newspaper. “I’ve always tried to make myself unnecessary. I like to leave students on their own, for the most part,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll ask me, ‘What are we going to learn in this class?’ And I’ll say, ‘Let’s see when we get done.’”

O’Brien was an outspoken advocate for an activist press and free speech, making numerous presentations and contributing essays and letters to the editor on First Amendment issues during his time in Green Bay. He got his professional start as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Highland Park, Ill.; Madison, Wis.; and Jackson, Mich. He earned his bachelor’s in journalism, and master’s and doctorate in education, all from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Dean O'Brien standing beside a web press
Dean O'Brien standing beside a web press
A native of Waukesha, O’Brien served in the Marine Corps at the end of the Korean War before returning to pursue his studies. As a boy and young man, he assisted in his family’s well-known photography business. Among those he met and worked with were America’s first family of acting, the husband-wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who maintained a Wisconsin residence at their Ten Chimneys estate at Genesee Depot. A touring exhibit of O’Brien Photography’s publicity stills and Hollywood-at-home images of the Lunts was featured in a UW-Green Bay Lawton Gallery show in 1999.

Dean O’Brien’s academic interested extended to landscape design and public spaces. He made several trips to England and Wales, most notably in celebrating his 50th birthday with a months-long walking tour in spring 1982, and with some of the first UW-Green Bay January Interim trips overseas in the 1970s.

Shortly before his retirement from the faculty, O’Brien became editor of Voyageur, the periodical of the Brown County Historical Society published in cooperation with UW-Green Bay and St. Norbert College. He enlisted participation of UW-Green Bay’s graphic communications faculty and advanced students to enhance the magazine’s appearance and provide practical experience for students. He did the research, writing, editing and much of the photography for Voyageur’s 10-year anniversary book, Historic Northeast Wisconsin: a Voyageur Guidebook. He and his wife, Polly, spent two years researching the book, visiting almost all of the 650 historic sites in the 17-county region.

Dean and Polly O’Brien are generally credited as the originators of Artstreet in 1982 when Dean was an officer of the Northeast Wisconsin Arts Council.  Their idea for what would become the popular August festival came about to test some principles he had proposed having to do with news theory and public imagery, and to break the stereotype that “arts are an elitist thing.” A proponent of downtown development but also historic preservation, he saw it as a boost for Green Bay’s central city.  Polly was the first Artstreet director and Dean was the publicity officer.

The O’Briens were also early proponents of a botanical garden in Green Bay and organized the first Green Bay Botanical Garden Fair. They were honored with the garden’s Founders Award in 1987 for their leadership in establishing the fair.

To be nearer their two sons and their grandchildren, the O’Briens moved to Baraboo in 1995, where he was a columnist for the Baraboo News-Republic newspaper, and then to Minnesota in 2003.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday (June 22) at Park Terrace/Park View Ministry Center in Buffalo, Minn.

His most enjoyable experiences at UW-Green Bay?

“I think it’s the low-voltage stuff, like working with the people on the 4E, and the exchanges with students,” O’Brien told the newspaper (no doubt puffing his trademark pipe as he spoke). “Low voltage isn’t like being on center stage with people clapping. It’s thinking every day is pretty pleasant. Happiness lies in low voltage.”

Fourth Estate tackles history of child care facility at UW-Green Bay

The Fourth Estate tackled a complex issue with multiple sources and a review of the historical record in their recent story revisiting the issue of the closing of the former Children’s Center at UW-Green Bay nearly two decades ago. Opinionated reporting and an ambitious project for a student newspaper — read the story online.