James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Whitworthian’

Pigs now fly: journalism at two levels

Posted by James McPherson on April 28, 2009

You may die. Today. Or, if you’re exposed to swine flu today, maybe next week. Especially if you’re in Mexico City, the 20-million-person “epicenter” of the potential pandemic, where swine flu is “suspected” in 152 deaths, which means the virus may have wiped out almost eight-one-thousandths of one percent of one third-world city’s population.

Gee, I haven’t been this frightened since the last bird flu pandemic, which I suspect killed your entire family. Bad enough that Lou Dobbs told me all the Mexicans wanted to give me leprosy while the druglords kill all my friends in Arizona. Now this.

And yes, I know that influenza can be deadly. All in all, though, you’re still more likely to die by choking on your sandwich today at lunch. But CNN’s top three stories right now (unless you count the White House plane that buzzed New York) are about swine flu.

The main reason for today’s special post, however, if to call your attention to a more responsible form of journalism than much of what we’ve been seeing in the national media. The Whitworthian has just won a number of regional Society of Professional Journalists awards, claiming the top prizes for online journalism, feature writing, general column writing, sports column writing, feature photography and editorial cartooning (for which it also won third prize). It placed second for “best all-around non-daily newspaper.”

The Whitworth student newspaper (which I happen to advise, but it is a totally student-run operation so they deserve all the credit) also recently was named one of 20 finalists for an American Collegiate Press Online Pacemaker Award. The Pacemakers are as good as it gets in college journalism.

The Whitworthian of today offers a lead story about an apparent hate crime near campus and is in the middle of an excellent series about pornography, and this week launches the most ambition project I’ve ever seen conducted by a student journalist–a multi-part multimedia package about gender issues produced by online editor Jasmine Linabary.

So now I’ll duck away from posting for yet another unknown period. But I’m proud to have recognition of some of my top students at the top of my blog. And if you want to read more from them, besides reading the Whitworthian, check out the blogs of this year’s editor-in-chief Joy Bacon, online editor (and last year’s editor-in-chief) Jasmine Linabary, photo editor Derek Casanovas (who blogs about sports), sports editor Danika Heatherly (who doesn’t blog about sports), prize-winning columnist Tim Takechi, and next year’s editor-in-chief Morgan Feddes.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Media organizations: Why you should hire my journalism students

Posted by James McPherson on March 5, 2009

Obviously in many ways this is not the best time for a wide-eyed change-the-world college journalism grad to venture forth into a changing media world. Newspapers and local television stations–the two places that grads traditionally might start (and perhaps spend) their careers–are suffering. One of my students has spent a lot of time and effort blogging about the state of the industry.

Yet that blog also helps illustrate one of the reasons that the many media organizations that do need help should be trying to get my students to go to work for them. Those students realize what the current media world looks like (for proof, see their video evidence below), and yet still feel that they can use media to make a positive impact on society.

And they’re already using their skills to do so. They produce an award-winning and technologically multifaceted newspaper, the Whitworthian. Most of the members of the editorial staff have already done professional internships. They are bloggers and Twitterers. Despite heavy course loads and long hours putting out a newspaper, 10 of those students also have taken it upon themselves to do an independent study program this semester, in which they devote two hours per week to learning (largely by researching and taking turns teaching) and improving more technical multimedia skills.

Obviously, unlike some of the flabby technophobes now cluttering newsrooms (while more recently hired people with more imagination and enthusiasm are let go, under “last-hired, first-fired” policies that also reduce diversity), the soon-to-be grads bring a wide range of the kind of skills that might actually save American journalism. Exactly how they might do that remains to be seen–after all, dozens of media professionals in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere have told me and my students during the past couple of months that they (the professionals) don’t have a clue how to go about it.

But counting only on middle-aged media folks (and I happen to be one of those) to fix things would be like bringing back the Bush administration to save the American economy. Those who were in charge when things fell apart–regardless of whether they were at fault–are not particularly likely to be the best pe0ple to put it back together.

Rapidly changing technology isn’t the only issue, of course. Though our students tend to have an advantage in that area over many students elsewhere, they may be a bit behind students in programs that place most of their emphasize on “tools and toys.” But the tools and toys keep changing, and the media need employees capable of changing with them. The liberal arts-and-skills emphasis of our program turns our student journalists into good writers and creative thinkers, not just technicians.

That same emphasis also means that our students develop needed interests and skills outside of journalism. Many have studied abroad, and most are at least somewhat fluent in more than one language. They study philosophy and math. Many double major, typically in areas such as business or political science. All take courses in literature and history (and are required to take a course in media history, so they know where the industry has been).

Within our program, we place a heavy emphasis on ethics–so much so that an ethics class (offered as an elective at some schools, if offered at all) is the senior-level capstone class for all of our majors. At a time when American journalism gets about the same level of trust and respect as Congress, journalists who understand and apply ethical considerations should be in high demand.

Obviously professional news organizations need people who can do the job of putting together meaningful and well-researched stories in various ways. To help illustrate that my students can do that, too, I’ll share a few examples of what they’ve produced (you can see others on the Whitworthian site). It is worth noting that these examples were produced by so-called “print journalists” who recogize that media are undergoing vast and sometimes scary changes–and yet still want to be involved with those media. The industry needs them–and society as a whole needs them, too.

Voices of Inauguration“:

The Journalist’s Digital Dilemma“:

“Media Impact Sights & Sounds” slideshow:

“STA World Traveler” (Note: Checking out this video may actually improved the student’s chances of getting an internship):

Posted in Education, Journalism, Personal, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »