Sunday, February 25, 2007

Journey to Cole Campbell's school

RENO, Nev-- This posting from the Silver State comes a day after a two-day journalism conference highlighted by a tribute to Cole Campbell, the late dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism and former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Campbell was, in fact, looking forward to welcoming the more than150 people who attended the AEJMC Midwinter Conference here on his campus this weekend.

As a kickoff to the event Friday night, one of Cole’s friends, John Pauly, dean of the Diedrich College of Communication at Marquette University, gave the keynote address that was preceded by remarks from the president of AEJMC and the provost at University of Nevada-Reno.

“Dean Campbell was an impressive leader and his loss certainly saddens us all,” said Wayne Wanta, who teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves as president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Cole had many dreams for this school, some of those are actually coming to fruition this spring,” said John Frederick, executive vice president and Provost of University of Nevada-Reno.

The hosting of the conference was one of those plans that had been two years in the making as the annual event is designed as an informal gathering for presentations of research-in-progress and reunions for friends in the world’s largest organization journalism educators.

While most of the day and half conference consisted of research paper presentations and panel discussions on industry issues, Pauly’s Friday night keynote was a chance to remember Campbell and consider the state of the field of journalism.

You can read more about Campbell's appointment as deah here.

Drawing on the work of some of Campbell’s public journalism cohorts such as Jay Rosen or Gil Thelen, Pauly criticized journalists as be “indifferent to process.”

“Public journalism wanted to make the profession more relational and less positions,” Pauly said. “Cole always thought of journalism as something done in collaboration with citizens.”

Pauly’s address, which was appropriately titeld “Journalism Matters,” a mantra that Campbell had posted on his Web page,” also included some frank reflection on Campbell’s sometimes tumultuous days at the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Campbell’s tenure at the Post-Dispatch coincided with Pauly’s term as head of the journalism program at St. Louis University.

Pauly criticized the 280-person staff at the Post-Dispatch as being “stodgy” and “resistant to change” with top reporters and a publisher he says undermined Campbell’s efforts to nudy a “lazy, under-achieving newspaper.”

“He just persevered in spite of this,” Pauly said. “Cole believed journalism was our shared rehearsal for public life and with enough practice we’d get it right,” he said.

Nearly two months after his death, Campbell, I suppose, would want those of us teaching journalism to do what we can to continue to try to “get it right.”

It’s an appropriate call for action as we leave this city where Cole Campbell ended his life and career prematurely.

The struggle continues.

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