In our work as journalism professors, sometimes we have to play the role of encourager and promoter. Such is the case today as I learned that not one, but TWO of my current students seemed to question their affiliation with the journalism profession.
In a recent blog post, West Virginia University Graduate and University of Alabama Journalism Master’s Student Tim Steere questioned whether we should call him a journalist
He was writing about one of his first interviews. This comes from someone who also worked for On campus Sports, a site that says its site provides content produced “exclusively by student journalists on campus.” Steere tweeted earlier this month how excited he was to be interviewing the record holder for striped bass.
Sounds like something a journalist would say. Tim, my friend, YOU ARE A JOURNALIST! Embrace your role.
Steere is one of seven graduate students enrolled in our one-year community journalism master’s program here at The University of Alabama. The program puts them to work during their last two academic terms in the nation’s first “Teaching Newspaper,” the Anniston Star. The “COM-J” program, as it is affectionately called, was hailed by the Poynter Institute as one of the programs that had “bucked the grim trend.”
Steere’s classmate, Ryan Phillips, who works as one of the editors of the Tuscaloosa- based alternative publication, Planet Weekly, identified himself as an “aspiring author.”
“I hate the term journalist, ” Phillips wrote recently.
WHAT? You’re in a community journalism master’s program. But, you hate the very label of which we should be most proud?
Time for some Cheerleading
As a long-time member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I am one of the biggest proponents of us journalists identifying with a profession that has practices that are unmatched.
In almost every class I teach at the University of Alabama, I have become a cheerleader for our profession, which is much-maligned by those who hear the horror stories of newspapers laying off reporters and news outlets that get the story wrong.
But, our unwavering commitment to accuracy, integrity, balance, fairness and ethical reporting is one of the things that separates us from just ANY author. We are not just writing words. We are writing the news and reporting the news in a way that communities need to move forward. Our readers are citizens who depend on our professional work product to exercise their role of citizen in a free democracy.
I know there are those who have left black marks on our profession. But, every time I write here on this blog or produce a video for my YouTube Channel or when I was producing one of the hundreds of live TV newscasts more than a decade ago, I was (and still am) doing journalism. And, I’m darn proud of it.
I just wish great students like Tim Steere and Ryan Phillips could share my pride.
Fortunately, just as there were two of my students shunning their journalism labels, three other students were embracing their journalistic affiliations and recently inspired another generation of students– mostly those in high school– to learn and perfect the craft of feature writing.
Elizabeth Manning, in fact, wrote about teaching on Valentine’s Day some important skills about writing.
“Going back to the basics reminded me yet again that a writer cannot divorce journalism from feeling,” Manning noted in reflecting on the experience at the recent Alabama Scholastic Press Association Winter Convention here in Tuscaloosa.
One of her co-presenters, Laura Monroe, reported that their session was so good that it sparked lots of questions from the up-and-coming journalists, one of whom noted “I want to be you guys one day.”
Wow! Now THAT is the reaction we want to elicit from folks when we talk about what we do as journalists.
The theme for the ASPA Convention was “Spread the Love” and thanks to Monroe, Manning and their Elizabeth Lowder, we have some other young people who have the potential to be proud what we do in journalism enough to join the profession.