J-School Centennial Experience

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Scholarly Symposium

Posted by Jordan Elliott on September 10, 2008

The first day of the centennial finally arrived, and in all honesty, Matt and I had no idea what to expect as we approached our first event, the Scholarly Symposium.  As soon as we found the room where the symposium was taking place -thanks to the help of the kind man at the front desk of the Reynolds Alumni Center- we could feel the buzz of excitement in the air.

People of all ages, students and alumni alike, were scattered about the room.  The round tables strewn with the food and drinks left from the lunch gave the room the same appeal as a wedding reception.  The room was filled with friendly talk of past experiences at Missouri’s school of journalism as people walked from group to group without hesitation, giving the impression that they had been friends for years.

The symposium began at three on the dot, and once the seven speakers took the stage the room quieted and people sat down in anticipation.  Barbara Friedman, assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, started off the meeting by introducing the speakers and describing their accomplishments and contributions towards the newly released book Journalism–1908: Birth of a Profession. 

The first speaker, Berkley Hudson, began with discussion of immigration and immigration press.  He spoke about the positive outlook on immigration at the turn of the century that made America such a melting pot at the time.  Because of this optimism, immigrant newspapers were a huge part of the national media: over 1500 publications across the nation were published in 33 different languages.  They let people know what was going on in their home countries, and they “…functioned as a schoolbook to help new immigrants get acclimated in the United States,” Hudson said. 

The next speaker, Hans Ibold, addressed the importance of globalizing journalism.  He spoke about Walter Williams’ support of globalization and how crucial he considered the portrayal of both local and worldwide issues in the media.  

Nods of approval and the scratches of pens and pencils echoed through the silent room as Maurine Beasley  took the microphone.  The hushed and serious tone in the room was almost instantly transformed, due to the energy that just beamed from Beasley.  She wasted no time in telling the audience a story about a front page news article in the 1900s dealing with a series of women pursuing a wealthy farmer for his money, causing him great confusion, when all he wanted in the first place was a housekeeper.  She told this story much to the amusement of the audience, and ended it by stating the importance of human interest stories in the news.  Along with her humorous anecdotes and radiating sense of joy, Beasley stressed a much more serious issue as well.  She urged her fellow alumni and eager students, “We can not move away from the values we learned at the Missouri School of Journalism.”  

Along a similar note, Tracy Everbach took over and spoke about sports journalism and its importance at the beginning of the 1900s.  She stressed the huge effect sports had in America’s statement of power during this time.  People began to get more and more involved in sports nationally and internationally, apparent in the 1908 olympics.  During these games, our main rival was Great Britain, who also happened to be hosting the legendary event.  The United States proved superior in the end, giving Americans a sense of power and accomplishment that had never been gained through athletic achievement before. She even mentioned our own Missouri Tigers (how could she not!?) by noting that even at that time the legendary MU/KU rivalry existed and was covered by the Missourian.

The last speaker, Earnest Perry, took the microphone with apprehension, as if the speech he was about to give would be excruciatingly painful.  After he began speaking, it was apparent why:  Perry, an African American man, spoke about the role of African Americans in the foundation of the Journalism school here at Missouri.  He began his talk by stating that this topic was a hard one for him to work on in regards to the book, because as he dove deeper and deeper into his research, the majority of the answers he found led him to the knowledge that African Americans had nothing but an uphill battle at MU.  Until 1948, black Americans were not given admission at Missouri University, and even after they were given this right, it was nothing short of rare for a person of color to be accepted.  Since then we have made progress, with the J-School housing one of the highest percentages of multi-racial students as compared to the other sections.  But he urged us that we still had work to do.  Perry ended his speech with a fact that made the audience sit back and squirm with discomfort, the fact that he is the only African American male who has attained a PhD from the Missouri School of Journalism.  With this, the audience sat in stunned silence, hit with the realization of the nature of racism in MU’s past and even present.

The speeches ended with 10 minutes to spare, and a Q & A section followed.  Men and women asked heated questions dealing with issues ranging from immigration to the change in media technologically.  Sadly though, the questions couldn’t continue, as the session finished.  Friedman invited the audience back in 15 minutes for the next session, another hour of open questioning.

As we left the building, the brotherhood between the alumni was again apparent.  They immediately went back to their conversations, speaking passionately about the symposium, or reminiscing on times at the school.  All I could think to myself as I left the scene was that Maurine Beasley had put it perfectly in her speech when she said, “Everytime I run into a fellow MU graduate, I think- there’s a friend.”

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