J-School Centennial Experience

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Our Centennial Experience

Posted by alexandragoff on September 14, 2008

Text by Brandon Schatsiek. Photos by Alex Goff. Additional photos have been uploaded to the Centennial Flickr group.

Deciding what college to attend is one of the hardest decisions any person will make in their life. For 100 years now, young aspiring journalists have been making the easiest decision possible.

As the Missouri School of Journalism celebrates its 100th birthday hundreds of J-School alums flocked to Columbia to check out the newly renovated Walter Williams Hall and the brand new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Ever since the opening of the J-School it has been considered the best there is and because of this success, has drawn some of the most ambitious young men and women from around the world. The going joke for those at Mizzou is that anyone who is from out of state…is bound to be a journalism major.

The opening ceremonies started on Wednesday night with a BBQ and free concert open to the public at Mizzou Arena. Dean of the J-School, Dean Mills welcomed everyone that was an alum back to town and encouraged all of the journalism undergraduates in the crowd to take notice of the professionals and pioneers of their profession and follow their steps to continue taking journalism to another level for the future.

Then came the entertainment of the evening. With the directing hand of Ken Paulson, BJ ’75, senior vice president and editor of USA TODAY, “Freedom Sings”, a critically acclaimed concert that combines music with a history of the First Amendment and the United States.

Ok, so this sounds like a super boring concert right? I mean it’s about press freedom and the history of the First Amendment for God’s sake. But only after a couple of minutes I realized that this wasn’t just something that PBS would run on a Sunday morning.

The show focused on songs over the past three centuries that faced strong scrutiny, were censored and even banned because of their content. The narration took the audience back in time by playing these songs and giving background information to why the First Amendment was supposed to protect these songs and their writers.

The show expanded on why the First Amendment is so important to every American citizen and why we need to protect it. Songs ranged from gospel to rock to rap and included: “Short People” by Randy Newman, “Annie Had a Baby” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin, and many others.

The concert was a surprisingly good one; a round of applause goes to the band and the people from the J-School that booked them because I highly doubt there is another concert on tour where the audience will sing along to “This Land is Your Land” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” in the same set.

Thursday night brought the class reunions. Alex Goff and I went to the Wine Cellar and Bistro in downtown Columbia where 14 members of the ’71 Radio and TV class gathered.

Interviewing anyone that you don’t know can be a very intimidating thing and walking into a private room full of prominent journalists and PR advisers while they are eating a very expensive meal is nerve-wracking as well. But graduate Steve Doyal quickly met Alex and I with open arms.

Now the senior vice-president of public affairs and communications of the greeting card giant, Hallmark, Doyal felt that attending the J-School gave him a leg up on his competition. It taught him to deal with urgency, to be decisive and that thinking critically are all important ideas to remember after students have left the school.

“The school was very different then, the broadcast sequence was among the smallest and now it’s among the largest,” he said. “We still believe that the Missouri Method is the way to go and that is why the Missouri School of Journalism continues to be the best in the world.”

Doyal then introduced us to Senate Minority Whip for the state of Nevada, and J-School alum, Valerie Wiener. After graduating with her BS in broadcast she received her second degree in literature and eventually went to law school. Wiener was most proud of her historic run as being a part of the first all women legislative team in United States history.

She has written several books and has held her position in Nevada legislation since 1996. She said it was nice to be back for the first time in 35 years and that the most important thing she learned in her time away was that it is vital to restore political faith in the people because they are the ones who ultimately have the power.

After speaking with several alums, they continued with their dinner and began to go around the table giving a brief account of their lives over the last 35-plus years. After only two people talked about their accomplishments in their business and personal lives another alum interrupted and said, “We’ve gone through two people and they have combined to write six books, this doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.” Then Doyal chimed in bragging that he at least read one book in the last 35 years. Walter Williams would be proud.

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