Celebrating Kent State Journalism Professor’s Legacy, Global Impact

It’s time to celebrate the legacy of Evonne Whitmore, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at Kent State University, who lost her battle with cancer this morning. The Fulbright Scholar was a broadcast journalist and held several leadership positions in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).


When the Kent State University football team takes the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide here in Tuscaloosa next Saturday morning,  I’ll be thinking about one of the Kent State professors who made a real impact on my life.

When it comes to journalism and media, Evonne Whitmore was a winner in every way– a champion who constantly made touchdowns as a broadcast journalist, a media scholar, a program planner, newsletter editor and professional organization leader.

I was saddened, though not surprised,  today to learn that Dr. Whitmore lost her battle with ovarian cancer this morning.

You see “Von,” as she was known to those of us in broadcast journalism education, doesn’t miss an AEJMC annual conference unless something is really wrong.  (AEJMC is the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, a 99-year-old organization that’s the nation’s largest group of educators who teach in areas of journalism and mass media)

Two weeks ago today Von was scheduled to be on a panel with me discussing the status of EEO rules for broadcast television stations.    She, in fact, had invited me to join her in this discussion.

I later learned that she was ill and unable to travel to the AEJMC Convention, which was held earlier this month in St. Louis.

Leading the Way 

Illness is about the only thing that would keep Von away from AEJMC where she was supposed to be finishing her term as head of our Council of Divisions.

In that role, she was very involved in the planning of an association annual gathering that has become more difficult every year as more and more units (divisions and interest groups) have been created.

Those of us in charge of research paper sessions would receive regular communication from Von regarding our role in preparing for research competitions.

Even before ascending to this role, Von had served as newsletter editor for the Commission of the Status of Minorities.  I succeeded her in that position and found the job a whole lot easier because she set a model for what represented excellence in producing a division newsletter.

Setting a Model

As a broadcast journalism educator, Von was on the ball in helping her students learn how to present themselves not only on the air, but online as well.

Her digital portfolio is just one example of the way one brands him or herself in the Web environment.

Because of the care she took in documenting her work and sharing her achievements online, Von even beyond her own lifetime  has a way of teaching us the right way to do things.

Her teaching, in fact, went beyond the borders of the United States.    Amidst so many other things she was doing as a faculty member in the Kent State School of Journalism and Mass Communication, she was named a Fulbright Scholar.

This photo was one featured on Evonne Whitmore's digital portfolio.

A Global Strategy

In 2008, she spent time at Ahram Canadian University in Giza, Egypt, working on research and lecturing on promoting internationally accepted journalistic principles that will increase media credibility in Egypt.

I recall her talking about her travels to Egypt during my first visit to her campus in Kent, OH in 2009.  I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see when I returned to Kent State earlier this year.

I’m hoping someone in her family when the time is right will take the multimedia assets that I know she gathered in Egypt and the writings that she’ s done and allow some of her students to produce a product that lets her legacy live on for years and years to come.

The Virginia Connection

Though I first met Von as a fellow panelist at the Broadcast Education Association several years ago, she and I never talked much about our mutual connection to my home state of Virginia.

She not only worked at my father’s alma mater, Hampton University, as the general manager of  WHOV-FM, but also across town in Virginia’s largest TV market– Hampton Roads– as a reporter at ABC affiliate WVEC-TV.

She lived her life to the fullest and left a legacy for those of us in journalism education to follow.

Reaction from Scholars Who Knew Her

As news spread about Dr. Whitmore’s passing, the comments came quickly today on the e-mail listserv for the AEJMC Minorities and Communication Division.

“Von Whitmore was a dedicated worker in AEJMC and a dear
friend to many of us, ” said Linda Callahan, who chairs the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Minorities.

Callahan took over as vice chair of the Commission after Whitmore, who was due to become vice chair of the commission, was name vice chair of the AEJMC Council of Divisions in 2007.

Others in both the Commission and the Minorities and Communication Division knew Whitmore for her scholarly contributions.

“Von contributed mightily to the body of research about diversity issues with her 2004 dissertation, said Columbia College Broadcast Journalism Coordinator Lillian Williams in a post today on the listserv. “Von’s research helps us to understand the actions, and reactions, of our schools to the standard, and the impact of that standard. ”

Whitmore’s dissertation was entitled An Historical Perspective On The Accrediting Council On Education in Journalism and Mass Communications from 1986-2003: Examination Of The Impact On Curriculum

A Legacy to be Celebrated And Continued

As the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012,  I think it would be fitting to offer a special program built around the legacy of Von Whitmore– her international work,  her leadership and her scholarship.

She exemplifies the type of journalist, scholar and person we all should strive to be.

We will miss her.



Can I really take a technology vacation?

From August 17 to August 24th, George Daniels is taking a six-day technology vacation.

I may look like I'm sleeping, but I was tweeting here in 2009 at the Intercollegiate Online News Network Conference at University of Tennessee. Now, help me as I take a sabbatical, No Tweeting for 6 days !

Hey, this was supposed to be my one week of vacation at the end of the summer.

I just wrapped up a great AEJMC Conference in St. Louis after finishing an engaging Race, Gender and Media class at the University of Alabama in July after teaching a 4-week basic news reporting class also at UA during the month of June.

My goal was to relax this week and re-charge so that I can be refreshed for the start of a new school year.

But it’s Wednesday and I’ve done more posting and reading e-mail, planning for classes and WORKING online, even though I’m away from the office supposedly on “VACATION.”

So I’ve decided that I have to CUT off and unplug the computer and stay away from my blog if I really want to relax and get some other fun things done during my time off.

Starting tonight at midnight– Wednesday,August 17, I am going to just let my e-mailbox go and not blog, not tweet, read or post on Facebook.

My self-imposed technology moratorium will end at midnight NEXT Wednesday, August 24th, the first day of fall classes at University of Alabama.

I promise I’ll tell you all about it on my next post– NEXT Wednesday!

Five Words for AEJMC In the Coming Year

Some suggestions are made for the organizers of the AEJMC Annual Conferences in the future.

AEJMC Members raise their hands to vote on a proposal introduced at Friday's business meeting in St. Louis

ST LOUIS– We’ve been posting from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Conference (AEJMC), which ended Saturday.

So it’s time to move on from this gathering that’s arguably the biggest of the year for me as a journalism educator.

There are some topics on which I will continue to post even though the conference is over.

But, in this final update, I address some of the AEJMC organization-specific issues that may have not been reported else.  This kind of “inside baseball”  stuff is often left to those in leadership to decide.

Continue reading “Five Words for AEJMC In the Coming Year”

AEJMC’s Very Last Panel Provides Terrific Takeaways

The last panel of the four Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Community gave attendees some definite takeaways to benefit their teach students to write/produce for online platforms.

Panelists listen as Jim Flink of Newsy.com makes a point.

ST LOUIS– While most people were either gone, heading to the airport or getting ready to depart from the 2011 AEJMC Convention, those who hung around until the very end of the convention got some solid ideas to take back to their classrooms.

It was the other book-end to the opening keynote where Rishad Tobaccowala provided insights on technology and communication.

Scheduled for Saturday at 1:30 p.m.,the very last session of the four-day AEJMC Annual Conference was just what I needed.

The Media Management and Economics Division collaborated with the Newspaper Division to sponsor the discussion on “Managing Innovation: Online News Professionals Talk About What’s Ahead.”


Each of the panelists had just 5-7 minutes to share their advice for what they’re looking for or what they want students to know for the future of working on the online platform.

Bob Rose, deputy managing editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had SEVEN (7) THINGS  to help students land that first job:

  1. Find
  2. Own
  3. Promote
  4. Edit
  5. Inform
  6. Diversify
  7. Entertain

Then, from the TV side, Jim Flink, who previously spent 15 years with Hearst Broadcasting,  most recently at the top-rated ABC affiliate KMBC-TV,  shared his thoughts about the future, based in part on his latest project– Newsy.com

  • What’s next is ALREADY HERE!
  • Morph to Mobile
  • Gatekeeping/Agenda-setting Role for Media is dead
  • News Is Customized and Personalized
  • You have to excel on Multiple Platforms
  • Vertical Integration is Key
  • The Tablet is very personal (on-camera presentation different from TV)
  • We’re in the age of Penny Press in a Pack or Pocket
  • You are You, Inc.

Susan Hegger, politics and issues editor at the St. Louis Beacon had quite a different perspective – choosing to focus students on the basics.

  1. Clear, Elegant Writing is Still Important
  2. Students Need to Know How to Report
  3. Journalists Must be able to tell a story
  4. Journalists Should Know Which Medium Best Tells A Particular Story
  5. A Journalist Should Know SOMETHING– have expertise in an area

As former editor of the Bakersfield Californian, Mike Jenner finds himself telling students about the six things that as an editor he looked for in new hires.  He shared his list of six with those at Saturday’s panel:


Perhaps the youngest of the panelists being just about a year out of her experience at the Missouri School of Journalism, Kelsey Proud urged the faculty types in the audience to encourage their students to fail.

“It’s hard to let students fail,” Proud said.

She had a message for faculty to give to students:

“No matter what type of organization you work for, don’t be scared.”

I walked out of there with some strategies to put in place for my  students at University of Alabama who will be arriving for a new semester in less than two weeks.

Scholar Blogger Consultant Takes AEJMC’s Top Dissertation Award

Matthew Ragas of DePaul University manages two blogs and managed to complete the top doctoral dissertation in the field of mass communication in 2011. He was recognized last week at the AEJMC Annual Conference in St. Louis.

ST LOUIS– One of the things attendees at the AEJMC Annual Conference were challenged to do by our opening keynote speaker Rishad Tobaccowala was to start a personal blog.

We might want to look to this year’s winner of the Nafzinger-White-Salwen Dissertation Award for guidance.

Not only has DePaul University’s Matthew Ragas managed to produce the top dissertation in the field this year. He did it while maintaining not one, but TWO web logs.

Ragas did what we are often challenging our journalism students to do online– follow their passions and write about it often.

The FloridaFoodHound blog is just one example of how to do that. One can go there to find all kinds of restaurant reviews and “ruminations,” as he describes his posts.

But, Ragas also maintains a separate family blog, RagasReport with his wife.

On Friday, Ragas and his major professor took the stage as the new DePaul University professor was recognized for his dissertation research

Matt maintains the FloridaFoodHound blog which provides “Chicago (and Florida) restaurant reviews and ruminations by a New Orleans native.”

According to his web site, he also consults for several companies.

Winners of AEJMC awards help further association’s diversity efforts

Research award winners from the 2011 AEJMC Annual Convention reflect a new level of ethnic and gender diversity in award recipients.

ST LOUIS–While it probably never crossed the minds of the various selection committees, the winners of several of the top awards at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) reflect what appears to be a new level of diversity.

For a number of years, women have risen through the ranks of AEJMC leadership to become president.  In fact, three of the last five presidents are women.  The new president, Linda Steiner will continue the female dominance of this position.

Next year in Chicago, a man, Kyo Ho Youm, will lead the organization. A native of South Korea, Youm will to be succeeded in 2013 by Paula Poindexter, an African American woman.

Despite the diversity in these leadership roles, change has been slower to come in the ranks of those receiving top honors for their research and scholarship.

In an association like this, one’s scholarly profile is equally, if not more important than a particular office or leadership position held.

“We don’t realize the importance of role models, of being part of a group where you don’t see anybody like you,” said Felix Gutierrez, a professor of journalism and communication at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication. ”

After this convention, young women will see that they can be recognized for their sustained scholarly contributions.  International graduate students can look to this year’s award winners and see AEJMC as a place that doesn’t allow a language barrier or a cultural difference to keep  them from making an important in the contributing new knowledge to the field of mass communication.

At least two of the faculty award-winners have international backgrounds while a third has broken a significant gender barrier.

First Woman Deutschmann Winner

-6 books
-50 journal articles
-25 book chapters

Those are just some of the scholarly stats on Sharon Dunwoody, the Evjue-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The former president of AEJMC on Friday became the first woman to receive one of the association’s highest honors, an award that is NOT given every year– the Paul J. Deutschmann Award.

2 terminal degrees, Mission To Fight Cancer Among Latinos

It wasn’t enough for Mugur Geana to receive his Medical Doctor degree from the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania.  He had to go back to school and work on another terminal degree, a Ph.D. in Strategic Communications from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Now he’s working on using his dual background to help fight colorectal cancer in the Latino community.

Expert  on Psychosocial Properties of Digital Media

He may have a long last name, but those who know “Sri” in AEJMC know what Sri Kalyanaraman has contributed to knowledge of digital media.

He started building his national profile as a scholar as a doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University.  Now he’s an associate professor on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill faculty.  On Friday, he was recognized for his early career contributions to the field.

On this 40th anniversary of AEJMC’s Minorities and Communication Division, it is worth noting how much ethnic and gender diversity is reflected in those chosen for scholarly recognition at this 94th gathering of the nation’s largest group of journalism and mass media educators.

“When I joined AEJ, I was glad there was a Minorities and Communications Division of which to be a part,” Gutierrez said.

Minority Journalism and Mass Communication Students At All-Time High, Struggle To Find Work

The latest data on journalism and mass communication enrollments had good news about minority enrollment, but the latest survey of graduates had very bad news as the gap between minority and non-minority grads continues to widen.

ST LOUIS–  While the job situation for journalism and mass communication students has improved in 2010, the number of minority students continues to lag far behind that of non-minority students, a new study shows.

Results from the Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates released Wednesday shows that journalism and mass communication graduates from racial and ethnic groups fared worse than anyone in the job market last year.

While minority bachelor’s degree recipients reported no rise in employment-from 48.6 percent in 2009 to a statistically comparable 49.1 percent in 2010-nonminority graduates saw employment levels improve from 63.9 percent to 67 percent. The gap of 18 percentage points between the level of employment of non-minority and minority graduates in 2010 is the largest ever recorded in the graduate survey.

In reporting the results at a presentation at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Conference, Lee Becker, who directs the Annual Surveys at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Communication,  described this as the “dismal part of the report for this year.”

While they were not finding work with the same level of success as non-minority students, the number of students from racial and ethnic minority groups was at all-time high in the 2010 Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollments.

36.3 percent of students were classified as racial or ethnic minorities.

In explaining further the up-tick in enrollment, yet the continuing struggle of minority students to gain employment, Becker said there are factors that are not necessarily explained in the numbers in the latest surveys.

“There are things ingrained in the system that work against minority students,”  he said.

Among them are contacts within professional networks, being first-time college students, increased tuition costs that force more students of color to work instead of taking what are increasingly likely to be unpaid internships.

These factors influence one’s preparation for work.

According the Becker, his research has shown that minority students equally prepared for work as non-minority students get hired at the same level as non-minority students.

JMC Faculty Diversification Outlook Bleak

In a separate study on doctoral programs in communication, racial and ethnic minorities were few in 2008-2009 with African-Americans making up only 9.4 percent of domestic graduates with only two percent Hispanic.

“Journalism and mass communication faculties are not going to become more diverse any time soon if they rely on the labor pool created by the nation’s doctoral programs in communication,” the report said.

When asked about how to address the problem of the lower number of students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, Becker made several suggestions:

1. More aggressive recruiting is needed to attract minority students to pursue graduate level work.

2. More talk among faculty to students about the value of scholarship and academic research to the field of communication

3. More efforts to raise awareness among minority students about the value of a graduate education.