You couldn’t tell it by the standing-room only crowd that came to hear Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward Friday night.
But, dozens of University of Alabama journalism students missed what for me was a once-in-lifetime opportunity: A Chance to Hear and Meet One of the Greatest Journalists Ever.
I left the outstanding lecture with mixed feelings- EXCITED and ENERGIZED about what we do as journalists, but ANGRY because so many of our journalism students did not show up. I saw fewer than 20 of the students in our classes here at the University attendance.
We have more than 300 majors in the UA journalism department.
This was such an important event that we invited students from the Society of Professional Journalists from Auburn University and Jacksonville State University to make the more than two-hour drive to Tuscaloosa for the lecture.
And, the AU And JSU students both had delegations at the event, which was sponsored by UA’s Blackburn Institute.
We had dozens of high school journalists in town for the Alabama Scholastic Press Association Winter Convention. But only one or two schools came to hear Bob Woodward, even though we re-arranged the convention schedule to include the 6 p.m. lecture.
Who is Bob Woodward?
Today as I began a 3-hour videojournalism workshop with 15 middle school students from the Birmingham area, I asked them what they knew about Bob Woodward.
Most were aware of his work connected to the Watergate scandal. These 6th, 7th and 8th graders could name all the U.S. presidents who Woodward has interviewed and featured in his 17 books.
These students were really sharp. But, I wonder how many of my college students are equally as adept in their knowledge of civics?
A matter of memory and relevance
I don’t remember Watergate. It happened when I was two years old.
I told the middle school group today that the first president I can remember was Jimmy Carter whose inauguration we watched in the cafeteria when I was in 1st grade at Richmond Mary Scott Elementary School.
As was evident in much of his address last night, Woodward is very much engaged in the policy issues that confront the White House and Congress today.
In fact, in his remarks Friday night, he referenced his latest writing this weekend about the sequester, the $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect March 1.
There were a handful of UA journalism students there. A few of the members staff of the student newspaper, The Crimson White, had a separate meeting with Woodward earlier on Friday.
What could be more important than hearing and meeting Bob Woodward?
Perhaps it’s a matter of relevance. Sports figures, pop culture icons and other celebrities are more relevant to today’s students.
If they’re not studying public policy or leadership, should students be engaged with people like Bob Woodward?