Author Archives: Pat Louise

Getting the final word right

by Pat Louise

William F. Buckley, Jr. Edited by James Rosen, A Torch Kept Lit. Great Lives of the Twentieth Century, Crown Forum, New York, 2016, $22, 323 pages.

Over the course of 53 years — from when he founded the magazine National Review in 1955, hosted the television show Firing Line (1966-99), until his death in February 2008 — William F. Buckley Jr. spoke or wrote the definitive words on the conservative viewpoint.

He also, over this time, wrote the last words on 250 historical figures he had met during his lifetime. His obituaries, most of which ran in the National Review with the standard headline of the deceased’s name followed by RIP, give an intimate, honest – sometimes brutally honest – portrait of many influential people of the last century.

The best of these essays have been collected into the New York Times bestseller, A Torch Kept Lit, chosen and edited by Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen. Published in October 2016, the book delves into Buckley’s thoughts on the famous of the famous, mostly those who were leaders in government, journalism, music and entertainment. In one section he shares his thoughts after the deaths of his parents and his wife Pat, who predeceased him the year before.

Another section covers some of the movers and changers who become personal friends. The final section, to perhaps illustrate that WFB truly did have the last word at this, covers his nemeses.

Rosen refers to these works as eulogies, but Buckley’s thoughts made public would hardly be acceptable by any funeral forum standards. Three weeks after the death of John F. Kennedy, one of five presidents included in the book, Buckley criticizes the national outpouring of grief.

 

READOUT: Extinguishing the flames of Camelot

 

“The rhetoric has gone quite out of control. The symbol of our emotional, if not neurotic excess, is the Eternal Flame at Arlington.… The lovely and tormented Mrs. Kennedy needs a gentle hand lest in her understandable grief, she give the air of the Pharaoh, specifying his own magnitude.’’

His essay about author Truman Capote includes the story of when then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan joked about using Capote as bait to see if there were any homosexuals working for him.

Buckley opens his column about the death of Jerry Garcia with, “If I ever heard a song played by the Grateful Dead I wasn’t aware of it.’’ Buckley then goes on to criticize Garcia for not going public with his addictions to drugs and alcohol. “If he had done so, how many would have had better prospects for health, love and longer lives?’’ Buckley concludes.

And none of these even falls under the Nemeses category.

To show just how far Buckley could go in landing a death-blow punch to the dead, here is his opening for the essay about Ayn Rand, one of six nemeses in the book: ”Ayn Rand is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was, in fact, stillborn.”

He also shows no love for former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “She treated all the world as her own personal slum project; and all the papers, of course, remarked on that fabulous energy – surely she was the very first example of the peacetime use of atomic energy. But some publications went to far as to say she had a great mind. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of Euclid.”

Not everyone receives such call-it-as-he-sees-it treatment. Buckley’s four family members receive the sort of glowing obituary routinely found in newspapers that encourage such glowing praise as they bill by the word. Buckley treats Johnny Carson with a bashful tenderness, a comment about how many of Carson’s ex-wives would have attended his memorial service aside.

Receiving such gentle treatment is rare, though, and a good thing. That Buckley candor makes this book a delightful read, a combination of intimate glimpses of some of the century’s most well-known figures, before – bam — Buckley skewers them, not just bringing them down to ordinary levels, but making readers recalculate their own high opinions of the dearly departed.

It is difficult, though, to feel sorry for the subjects. To have one’s death come to the attention of WFB rivals today’s stage of being mocked on Saturday Night Live. Yes, it is mockery in front of millions, but to be mocked on SNL is a sign one has reached the upper ranks of People Who Matter.

Buckley honestly acknowledges that what he is offering comes strictly from his viewpoint. Many of the essays begin with “I first met” as Buckley spins an opening anecdote from his perspective; none of them contain the usual facts required in an obituary, such as birth and death dates, lifetime achievements or honors.

Buckley seems to assume with these essays that his familiarity with the deceased parallels that of his readers, since he jumps in with his thoughts without much introduction of the subject. For each one Rosen provides an opening note that helps frame Buckley’s connection to the subject and provide background not contained in the essay. That adds significantly to the depth of enjoyment of the stories.

These 52 essays provide not just a quick character sketch of the subjects, but a more complex review of Buckley’s life, one well lived and peppered with interesting people. The title suffices for both the subjects to find a short resurrection to their glory days in these pages, but also a reminder of the joys of a journalist’s clean and pointed writing style.

Buckley’s death might have caused relief in some who feared what his tribute would say about them. But they, after all, wouldn’t be around to read them anyway. For those still earth-bound, A Torch Kept Lit provides a pleasurable way to confront the demise of others.

Mike Mike: a mother’s view

Lezley McSpadden with Lyah Beth LeFlore, Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, Regan Arts, New York, 2016, $26.95, 254 pages.

By Pat Louise

Since Aug. 9, 2014, much has been written about Michael Brown, shot that day by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. In Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, Brown’s mother tells her son’s life story before his death became a national story.

Author Lezley McSpadden, with author Lyah Beth LeFlore, takes up much of the story talking about her own life, including pregnancy at age 16 and then raising son Mike Mike and her other children before her oldest was shot on Canfield Drive. For those looking for a mother’s rant against police and government amidst racism in her town, this book deals up a surprisingly little of that. Instead, readers get a better understanding of the people behind the national news event.

The book opens with a punch to the heart of a mother’s learning her son has been shot and is lying in the street a few blocks away. As she races to the scene, McSpadden leaves us there, going back to telling the story of her childhood and then Mike Mike’s 18 years, before circling back to the shooting and its aftermath.

McSpadden seems to be exploring the questions of how did we get here and what happened. While she thoroughly answers the first, she says at the end she has yet to learn exactly what happened that day, as two of the three witnesses refuse to talk to her and the third is dead.

With a candor that doesn’t always put her in the best light, McSpadden chronicles her childhood, including disappointments with her father and her struggles to keep going to school and work once she has her son at age 16.  Her choice of writing styles with slang and incorrect grammar can be jarring, especially as she writes in a prose as if talking to the reader over coffee at the kitchen table.

She and Mike Mike bounce around living with her mother, on their own and with the Browns, parents of her son’s father. Her son – nicknamed Mike Mike to distinguish between his father Mike — is raised by an assortment of family members, but always with plenty of love around him, McSpadden says again and again.

Who the world would come to know as Michael Brown from Aug. 9, 2014, on is described as a laid-back kid, always too big for his age and the target of bullying because of his size. He is not a good student, forcing his mother to try a number of tactics to keep him in school and obtain a high school degree, something she was unable to do. Brown does earn his diploma, becoming a high school graduate who turned 18 just weeks before his death.

That kid who, according to his mother, might have given her grief in the home but never outside of it, becomes the counter character to the Michael Brown police originally said had a weapon, tried to harm an officer and had just been involved in a robbery.

McSpadden does not attempt to fill in the gaps leading up to the shooting; instead she details her quest to talk to the man Brown was with at the Ferguson Market and who saw him get shot. An attempt to talk to him – a person McSpadden said she never heard mentioned by her son – resulted in nothing truthful being told, she writes.

Whatever one’s views of the shooting – justified or police brutality – the description of McSpadden and her family racing to the scene and forced to see Brown’s body lying on the street for hours, unable to even touch him, makes for painful reading. But this is where McSpadden’s story makes the most impact, as she strips away the controversy and questions and flashes back to standing for hours wanting to get to her dead son lying on the street.

McSpadden skims through her appearances at press conferences and talk shows in the days and weeks after the shooting and then the grand jury report. She touches briefly by name on those in law enforcement and government in Missouri who made promises, offering her view of whether they were sincere or not.

She spends more time on problems between her and Brown’s father regarding the funeral and meetings with Missouri leaders to update them on the case. While the question remains of what it felt like to get pushed into the national spotlight and see the devastation in the city of Ferguson over the shooting, McSpadden sets all that aside to focus on her grief over burying her son.

It works because what the reader gets is not a national spotlight view but something more intimate.

McSpadden wraps up her story by saying she shook out of her depression by starting the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons and Daughters Foundation. The Foundation brings together mothers of other males shot by police, a group known as the Rainbow Mothers. The Foundation offers a variety of ways to help them adjust to their new normal of life.

She says as her book went to press late last spring that she has yet to learn the solid truth of what happened in her son’s final moments. “This isn’t a black versus white issue. This is an issue about Right versus Wrong,’’ she states at the end.

Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil might roil those convinced Brown deserved his fate, as McSpadden’s view is most definitely that he did not. But her opinion comes strictly as that of his mother, and that is what mothers do. Readers are given fair warning on the cover with the description of The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son, Michael Brown. Anyone expecting a balanced outlook from Wilson’s perspective will not find it. Instead, what you get is a detailed look into one family’s life in the face of losing a loved one to a cop shooting.

1A strives to find its own voice

by Pat Louise

Sixteen days before President Donald Trump opened his administration with his Inauguration speech that declared ‘From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” NPR’s newest radio show and podcast focused on the topic.’

Since Jan. 2 host Joshua Johnson leads discussion on 1A that mostly centers on daily topics with a connection to the First Amendment, which inspired the name of the show.

Now airing 9 to 11 a.m. on the radio, Johnson and 1A replaced the 37-year running Diane Rehm Show. The show airs from WAMU on the American University campus in Washington, D.C.

For those listening to radio via podcasts on their own timetable, the 1A version provides a show between 35 and 50 minutes. Depending on the length of the show, 1A offers one or two podcasts a day culled from the radio show. This review looks at the podcast.

1A started strong. On the Jan. 4 podcast titled “Is the Era of American Humanitarian Intervention Over?” the 47-minute show featured five guests. Before the discussion, the show opened with a montage of quotes and music from such notables as Martin Luther King Jr., Bart Simpson, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Nixon and Jimi Hendrix.

Rather than a round-table discussion with panelists taking an extreme view one way or the other, the show allowed the first two guests to explore the topic solo for seven to nine minutes each.

Up first was Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a Democrat who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. Gabbard made a strong case that Trump’s directive of America First made sense economically by redirecting U.S. resources to solving problems at home instead.

Giving a different viewpoint was St. Louis, Mo. schoolteacher Elvir Ahmetovic, a Bosnian who came to the United States in 2002 as a refugee. He spoke about the need for the United States to act as rescuers for families such as his.

The other three panelists, including Boston Globe columnist Stephen Kinzer, rounded out the show with a thoughtful and balanced outline of how Trump’s new direction could both benefit and hurt on a national and global level. At the end, listener comments praised the show for its give-and-take of both sides of the issue.

1A’s rating on iTunes for that show puts it at the sixth most popular podcast for Jan. 4, a fast jump from two days before when it debuted at No. 25.

Two days later 1A reached No. 3 with the first of its weekly Friday News Roundups, broken into one podcast for domestic news of the week and the other for international.

But since then, 1A has steadily dropped in listeners to No. 77 on Feb. 5 and falling to 95th the following week, to bump back up to 92nd to start the week of Feb. 12. Rankings are based on the number of downloads requested of the top 200 podcasts available through iTunes.

On iTunes, 1A ranked behind Sleep With Me, (59th), a podcast of boring stories to help people fall asleep; Car Talk, (67th), which is all reruns at least 10 years old, and Guys We F****D, (87th), which bills itself at the Anti-slut Shaming podcast.

Which is all a shame in itself, as 1A has some good offerings. Its Friday roundup usually brings it up a few rungs on the daily iTunes chart with a great blend of news and behind-the-scenes looks from journalists and others involved on the topics.

In the Jan. 13 domestic roundup, done one week before Trump took office, CBS News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett made an astute observation about how journalists should cover the new president. He said journalists need to distinguish between what Trump says that is interesting and what he says that is important.

Since noon Friday, Jan. 20, that statement might well sum up the challenges facing the press corp these days.

Along with trying to drill down on important topics, 1A ventures into some topics of its own design. One show, the Politics of Laughing, looked at political-based humor with a trio of comedians. Another, Revisiting James Baldwin, examined why the author’s work is once again popular.

The show also tapped into the music industry with a couple of music-themed shows. In Do The Grammys Matter. Yes (asked and answered in the title as many listeners pointed out, eliminating the need to listen) the panelists of two NPR music journalists and Simon Vozick-Levinson from MTV, explain the relevance of the awards.

The Feb. 13 show Going Country: The Surprising Success Of Country Music, the podcast called itself a boot-scootin’ 1A. That show drew 67 comments on the 1A website around the question of what one country song would you choose to introduce someone to country music.

Whether venturing off the map of politics to boot scoot through the country music scene helps 1A keep and bring in listeners is unclear. With so much news hovering around the First Amendment and politics, these topics provide a respite – but a respite listener may well find too light to follow.

The single biggest factor for low ratings given by listeners on various review sites is that the 1A podcast does not provide the full two hours from the radio show.

Many listeners point out that Rehm’s full two hours was available as a podcast. Reviewers said they would prefer the full context of discussion rather than chunks of it.

Listeners give the second-most critical comments to Johnson’s style as a host. While some love his laid-back approach to let guests speak their minds, others say he lets too many statements go unchallenged. Other criticisms question whether the show can accept viewpoints not strictly in the liberal line of thinking and whether the choice of panelists shape a preordained thinking on a topic.

One of the biggest criticisms came from a Feb. 7 podcast, Sanford Now, taking an early five-year look back at Sanford, Fla., where Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighbor. Along with Matthew Peddie, assistant news director at WMFE in Orlando, the other panelist was Paul Butler, Georgetown University Law Center professor, former federal prosecutor and author of the forthcoming book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.”

Listeners said Butler’s well-known viewpoint (he has spoken out about a number of incidents when a young black man has been shot, including Ferguson) brought nothing new to the discussion. Instead, the suggestion was to have included someone in authority from the Sanford community to explain changes over the five years.

The other podcast from the Feb. 7 1A radio show was Rest In Power: How Trayvon Martin Transformed A Nation. His parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, co-authors of the book Rest In Power, were the only panelists and discussed their lives since their son was shot Feb. 26, 2012. They talked about their book, their son and a foundation set up in his name.

Most of that fell by the wayside. The 355 comments on the 1A website degenerated into name-calling and charges of racism among commenters.

It might be that in striving to give everyone an equal platform to exercise their First Amendment rights, 1A has overlooked finding its own voice in the discussion. While NPR certainly will not give Johnson the 37 years Rehm had to do so, the show’s hits outweigh its misses and should be granted time to grow and improve.

New-wave J-school curriculum

Pulling from some of the most interesting journalism classes offered in programs in the Midwest, these courses would make for a wonderful year for any college journalism student. These are actual course descriptions in the college catalogues.

Will Write for Food (and Wine): Focuses on food and wine writing in current U.S. culture. Come ready to create mouthwatering narrative and actively seek publishing your finished work. An emphasis will be placed on class participation and written critiques of peer-reviewed articles in class. University of Missouri

Digital Games, Sims and Apps: Storytelling, Play and Commerce: Introduction to academic study of video games, computer simulations/mobile game applications. Digital games as technology, mass communication industry, cultural form/set of design practices. University of Minnesota

            Sex in the Media: Explores the role and portrayal of sex and sexuality in media and examines in detail the potential social and psychological effects of exposure to sexual content in the media. Indiana University

The Googlization of America: Led by Google, technology companies are taking a more central role in the American media landscape every day. In this course, students learn how Google and its competitors are continuing to change journalism, the media business and U.S. culture. Northwestern University             

Sports and Electronic Media: Examines the practical, social, and economic relationships between two major areas of U.S. popular culture — the electronic media and sports. Combines aspects of announcing, production, sales and marketing, history, and policy. Ball State University

Arab Spring in Context: Media, Religion, and Geopolitics: Protest movements that started in Tunisia in 2011 and swept across North Africa and the Middle East transforming Arab and Islamic societies in radically different ways; function of social media, satellite television, communication technology; influence of religious leaders and groups on some protest outcomes; impact of wealth and geopolitics on social fabric of Islamic societies within and outside Arab countries. University of Iowa

Mass Communication and Political Behavior: Interrelationships of news media, political campaigning and the electorate. Considers the impact of media coverage and persuasive appeals on image and issue voting, political participation and socialization. University of Wisconsin

Outdoor/Nature Journalism: This course has a three-fold purpose: to acquaint new journalists and writers with the best works of those who have found inspiration for their prose from the outdoors; to familiarize student writers with journalism about nature sites in the Missouri and Midwest region; to encourage developing outdoor/nature writers to experiment with expository and advocacy journalism. Webster University

Critical Analysis of Media: Commercial mass media and alternative press in a global context; the ways media reinforce or challenge dominant or non-dominant paradigms. Class, gender, race, disability. Media investigation skills basic to democracy. St. Cloud University

Mass Media and the American Family: The impact of the mass media on family communication patterns, familial value structures, development of children, and orientation to news media. Examination of news, advertising, and entertainment content from educational, cultural and economic perspectives. Emphasis on empirical social science research which examines relationships between media and families. Marquette University

21st century j-schools: a personal look

If some high school student asked my advice about choosing a college journalism program, I of course would suggest the obvious criteria.

Classes offered. Majors available. Out-of-the-classroom opportunities to engage in journalism. Reputation. State of its technology.

After writing a story about the Class of 2020 for this issue of Gateway Journalism Review, I now would give them a question to ask their potential schools: What is your response when asked to discuss your school for a media magazine?

If the answers fall anywhere close to what I received in trying to do the story, my advice would be to move along and don’t look back.

We’re too busy. The semester just started. I can’t get anyone interested in talking to you. Not interested. We don’t have any information about the freshman class yet.

And the nominee for my favorite: No one in our department has 15 minutes to talk or answer questions on email about our program.

But maybe I am being too harsh. At least those people responded, however negative. Of the 23 inquiries made that turned me down, 10 did so by ignoring the request altogether. I hope these places do not preach what they practice. But instead, they are so busy and caught up in teaching today’s journalists that they cannot look up from their lecture lecterns to talk about themselves.

Actually, I don’t hope it, because I know it’s not true. What might be closer to the truth is that journalism schools have joined the ongoing parade of ignoring the media because they are afraid we won’t tell the story exactly the way they want. But keep doing that and here’s what the story might be in 20 years: Those schools will no longer exist.

40, 30, even 20 years ago, journalism students learned the same standards of the trade: writing, reporting, editing. Not much variation there; where you went to college served more as a door-opener after graduation than learning secrets not taught elsewhere. Students at Missouri and Northwestern and Columbia and Newhouse and Stanford learned the five W’s the same as did students at colleges with much smaller departments.

Now, as journalism continues to find new ways to tell a story, the five W’s and how have been reclassified. They’re now called the foundation upon which sexier and more cutting-edge journalism is taught.

Some schools are building impressive structures on those foundations. They have successfully blended the classic with what is trending. To be a student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism facing the dilemma of whether to write for the award-winning Columbia Missourian or join the convergence Global Journalist show to cover world news and challenges to freedom of the press.

Or to be taking classes at Indiana University’s Media School, in Franklin Hall, built in 1907. But thanks to its $21 million renovation over the past two years, the upgraded facility gives students tools that rank with those of any professional newsroom.

Journalism schools now serve as the farm team for the professional ranks. No longer will fresh-out-of-college journalists have the time, or an employer willing to spend that time, to train them over a few years. Hit the ground running or don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Successful journalism programs will teach students to jump right in, and also to have the skills and confidence to lead the way for the next four decades. The past 30 years already have shown that those who wouldn’t/couldn’t embrace the Internet and its ways to tell a story did not survive.

The same can be said about journalism schools. Because if you won’t tell your story, who will?

J-schools in transition

In her freshman year of high school in Lake Forest, Il., Sarah Verschoor signed up for a journalism class simply because it fit into her schedule.

She liked it enough to take all the journalism classes offered in the next four years and joined her high school newspaper, rising to editor-in-chief in her senior year. She led the paper’s move from a broadsheet to a news magazine.

Despite her initial love of journalism, after her junior year, her college choice and career path remained uncertain. That summer Verschoor attended the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University, run by IU for the past 70 years. “Everything came together,” said Verschoor, who began her freshman year at Indiana this fall as an honors student in the Media School. “I am so passionate about wanting to be a journalist.”

This fall the journalism Class of 2020 began the four-year college march to graduation. When those students graduate, they will join the generation of media professionals whose work-life span carries into the last half of this century. These freshmen, said people involved in educating them, demand that journalism schools prepare them for a career in a profession that redefines itself at a rapid, non-stop pace. Even top-tier journalism schools, such as IU and the University of Missouri, have had to evolve to better prepare students for the unknown future of the profession.

Lynda Kraxberger, associate dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri, said Missouri’s School of Journalism continues to teach the enduring values and principles of the profession. “What has been done here since 1908 when newspaper and advertising were offered for the first time remains,” Kraxberger said. “But what we also focus on now is teaching students how to learn all throughout their professional careers.’’

It’s a learning strategy that has been given a name — the Missouri Method. Students have a choice of six different newsrooms from traditional print with the award-winning Columbia Missourian to the Global Journalist, a convergence show that looks at worldwide issues and challenges to a free press.

Of Missouri’s approximately 25,000 undergraduate students, some 1,850 are in the School of Journalism. The freshman class numbers from 350 to 400 students.

Students at all levels work with professionals, many of whom are Missouri alumni. That mixture of hands-on with people in the profession helps students understand what will be expected of them, said Suzette Heiman, professor of strategic communication and director of planning and communications.

“Students develop critical thinking and writing skills, learn how to do research,” Heiman said. “These skills are needed in all careers. They are the floor of the foundation to do anything. The coaching the students receive from faculty and alumni mimics what they will get in the real world.”

To strengthen that connection from students to professional newsrooms, faculty chairs meet routinely with alumni to evaluate student portfolios. “It’s an ongoing conversation,” Kraxberger said, “on making sure students are as prepared as possible.”

Students also compete to pit their ideas against those from students at other colleges. One group created a computer application for journalists using the Apple Watch called Recordly. Students traveled to Apple’s headquarters and gave a presentation on how the app would allow journalists to record and then download the transcript to their computers. The university has provided seed money to help bring the app to market.

Working with the Hearst Company, another group developed software called Nearbuy, to help people identify real estate available in a community. And another group participated in a contest sponsored by Meredith in Des Moines to come up with a new, never done magazine.

Missouri students looked into online gaming, a growing hobby among people their age. According to Kraxberger, they realized all of the magazines on the topic were geared toward young men, missing the market for young women. “Fangirl” was pitched to Meredith’s top level people, who bought the prototype on the spot. “Some schools are known for one program,” Kraxberger stated. “We’re good at everything.”

Students this semester are working to create a policy on the use of drones in journalism. Missouri has six drones that students can use for various types of coverage.

“This is what we mean when we say they are taught to learn,” Kraxberger said. “They can put their hands on new technology and figure out the best use with the enduring themes of journalism.”

What is new at IU includes the concept of the Media School itself. In July 2014 IU merged its 100-year-old journalism program with other communication schools at the college and created the Media School. Of IU’s approximately 37,000 undergraduates, some 700 are in the Media School, with the freshman class comprising about 250 students.

Anne Kibbler, director of communications and media relations for the school, said the change puts everything under one roof so students have greater flexibility with their curriculum choices. “It’s a reflection of what’s happening in the industry,” she continued. “The media industry is merging platforms and technologies and so did we.”

IU changed more than the name on the outside of the building, changing what happens inside as well. “We can no longer train students to write for print only,” Kibbler said. “They need to do that as well as take video and photos.”

The Media School breaks down walls for students that had existed between the three former communication schools. “Before, students were limited to the number of classes they could take in another school,” Kibbler stated. “Now there is flexibility enough that each student is building their own degree.”

Regardless of what specialization a student chooses, everyone receives training in the fundamentals, Kibbler said. She continued, “Reporting, writing, editing, ethics and media law remain part of the training. That was one of the questions alumni had when we approached them with the Media School plan. They did not want those fundamentals watered down.”

All students are required to take a grammar test, something that was not done before, Kibbler said.

Alumni, and IU students who began their course work before the Media School’s first classes in 2015-16, say they regret they cannot take part in the new approach, Kibbler said. She contended, “For the Class of 2020, technology they are using today will be different in five years. We can’t teach them how to use that technology because we don’t know what will be out there. We can teach them to adapt to a continually changing environment and to rely on the fundamental skills as a constant. To bridge that need for old-school and new-school teaching, the Media School will hire more faculty members.”

As of mid-September IU advertised for six open positions. “We’re looking for more people who can broaden our current offerings,” Kibbler said. “A few years ago, for example, we would have advertised for a photojournalism professor. Now we’re looking for people who can go beyond that, someone who is a strong writer who can take photos and shoot video.”

Smaller universities also have switched their approaches. Associate Professor Gary Ford, chair of the Department of Communications and Journalism at Webster University in St. Louis, said the department has “evolved through the years to remain relevant in a world where delivery of news and information is rapidly changing.”

Webster admits some 3,000 students to its home campus, with about 475 students of all majors entering as the Class of 2020. Enrollment figures for those choosing the Department of Communications and Journalism were not available.

Webster also does what the programs at Missouri and Indiana are doing. “Our program emphasizes the underlying skill of basic storytelling using good writing and editing techniques,” Ford said. “We then provide training and experience on various delivery platforms.  In addition to traditional print and electronic media, we also emphasize multimedia and social media delivery platforms.”

Broadening the definition of storytelling, Ford said, is not an option for schools that want to continue to succeed. “Journalism programs today must adapt to changing needs of the industry to better prepare students for jobs in a new information age.”

Student journalism organizations outside of colleges and universities also adapt to what students want. College Media Association – formerly College Media Advisers – runs conventions in the spring and fall that attract hundreds of college student media members and advisers.

CMA President Kelley Callaway, director of student media at Rice University, said the options offered for students at the conventions include more digital and mobile media techniques. “We have them use their own phones to shoot video on site,” Callaway said. “It’s not the traditional print-only anymore. With convergence you do a little bit of everything. Gone are the days when you did the police beat and nothing else.”

Some new additions to conference topics include entertainment media and a film festival of student-made productions. Sessions about blogging also attract students.

Another topic student media want to discuss is diversity in newsrooms and television stations. “It’s a hot topic,” Callaway said.

At conventions, CMA has reduced, but not eliminated, the number of tracks offered for print-only topics. “Sessions on yearbook are now at 12, where 10 years ago we had 20,” she said. “We replace those with how to use your smartphone to edit video.” Keynote speakers who talk about their careers, dwindled in popularity in the last few years, Callaway said. “We’ve shifted to panel discussions of topical journalism,” she continued, describing how students reacted to a fall 2015 keynote talk in Houston that included a man wrongly incarcerated and the journalist whose work help free him.

“The line to meet them after was ridiculously long,” Callaway said. “The reviews from the students said we want more like this. The millennium generation wants to impact and change the world through journalism.” Heiman said that is what she hears repeatedly when she meets with prospective students and their parents. “By and large journalism today attracts students passionate about doing journalism. They have a sense of calling and want to serve people, however that story form takes.”

Heiman and Kraxberger told today’s journalism students come to college much like Verschoor, already with bylines earned and journalism classes taken. “They’ve already done well at this in high school and have high standards for themselves,” Heiman said.

Verschoor covers the IU Office of Multicultural Affairs as a campus beat reporter for the Indiana Daily Student. She said she loves what she is doing, despite the reaction received from people when she described her chosen college major.

“It frustrates me, that tone of voice when they would say, oh, really, you’re interested in that?” Verschoor asked. “There will always be a place to tell those stories in any form, even if not always in print. I want to tell those stories that matter and relay them back to people to make a difference.”

When you’re no longer a ‘new’ editor, you milk it for all it’s worth

In May I celebrated the 14th anniversary of becoming the 15th publisher of the Waterville Times in upstate New York.

In some ways my past lives at daily newspapers register on the memory meter only now and then, perhaps when breaking news falls between our weekly print cycles or, when for the 30th time in a day, people ask me about a hot topic in our community.

I have learned to hold off my laugher when someone starts to tell me about something they heard, and then stop in mid-sentence to say, Oh, wait, I read it in the Times.

For at least the first five years of owning the Times, people always called me the new editor. I wondered just how long someone had to do this job to no longer be new.

Slowly I learned names and titles, names of children and grandchildren, began to unravel the tangled family connections that come in a community where many families have their surnames on local roads and streets.

My mental Rolodex gained speed as I moved beyond names to people’s history when I saw them. Works at the hardware store. Daughter on the basketball team. Wrote the letter to the editor. Son was in our Baby edition.

Still, I would occasionally hear myself introduced as being new. But about five years ago I did something I now trot out as having firmly established my Waterville cred.

Three days of steady spring rains caused creeks to overflow. A bad storm knocked down trees and fences. I knew from listening to my scanner that morning the local fire department was out pumping flooded cellars. I soon left the house to take photos of the damage.

Driving along our local highway just north of the village, I spotted a flash of color that jumped out in the rain and gloom. It was the orange and white of a Guernsey cow, huddled knee deep in a flooded ditch on the shoulder of the highway. I looked at the cow and the tumblers fell into place. Guernsey. Baldwin farm. Denny. Fire chief. Pumping cellars. I knew the cow that had escaped the field and crossed the highway to stand in the flooding ditch belonged to our local fire chief.

I pulled over and called Village Hall, asking the clerk to radio the fire chief to say one of his cows was standing on the side of Route 12. After snapping the cow’s photo, I drove off to take more photos.

Two days later a note came in the mail. ‘Thanks,’ it read. ‘She is one of our best milkers.’

The next time someone started to call me new, I stopped him. “No,’’ I said. “I don’t just know people or their kids or their grandkids or even their dogs. I know their cows.’’

In my rural farming community, there can be no better way to show you belong.

And the view from the editor’s catbird seat…

Hollywood — and perhaps journalists daydreaming about a better life — create an image of the community publisher that may be overly romanticized.

Cheryl Wormley, publisher and co-owner of the Woodstock Independent, used to grocery-shop at 6 a.m. “It was the only way I would get out of there in less than an hour,’’ she said, recalling shopping later in the morning when she’d be sure to run into any number of local residents eager to discuss items that had run – or “should” run – in “their” newspaper.

On Tuesday evenings Bill Miller Jr., general manager of the Washington Missourian, gives tours to Boy Scouts needing their Media badge. Tuesdays is when the press operates. “I take them on the pressroom floor so they can look through the windows and see the press running,’’ Miller said. “It’s still a thrill to see their eyes light up.’’

For Tim Lyke, publisher of the Ripon Commonwealth Press, it can be a struggle not to say anything sarcastic when some people come in and request their news be published. “They say ‘Will you put this in the paper,’’’ Lyke said. “Then ask, ‘What does day does it come out? I don’t read it.’”

“I look at them, because here they just came in to ask for a favor and admitted they don’t buy the paper. Sometimes they get embarrassed and say, I guess I should subscribe. What I want to say is how can you live in a community and not read the local paper? You are taking democracy for granted.’’

Mike Dalton wears the title of editor of the Cannon Falls Beacon, the paper his family has owned since 1880. The job description differs greatly from that of an editor at a larger paper.

“I take care of financials, business decisions, updating our webpage, writing general news stories, writing all of our sports stories and just really whatever needs to be done.’’

At the Eldon Advertiser, Publisher Trevor Vernon operates the press most weeks. “The amount of physical labor it takes to print and insert a newspaper normally surprises people.’’

During college Vernon worked part-time in the press room. His father told him if he was thinking of coming back to work in Eldon, he had to know how to run the press.

“My dad never knew how to run the press. He said when the pressmen would tell him that something wouldn’t work, he never knew if they were afraid to try it or it was something mechanical that really was not possible,’’ Vernon said.

Mary Ungs-Sogaard, publisher of the Cascade Pioneer and Dyersville Commercial in eastern Iowa, had a brief appearance in the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, filmed in Dyersville. “Third extra in the last shot,’’ she said.

The first thing and the last thing she does each day is check emails. “You are a publisher 24/7,’’ she said. “People don’t want to wait till I am at the office.’’

Once when her reporter was on vacation, Ungs-Sogaard took the call about a church on fire. She grabbed her camera and drove to the fire.

“I started shooting as I got to the church,’’ she said. “One of my pictures won a state award. I got a lot of mileage out of that with my staff, letting them know I still could get down in the trenches.’’