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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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The Food… and the people! were AMAZING!

Posted by kathrynlucchesi on September 10, 2008

I just got back from the kickoff BBQ at Mizzou Arena. I met alums from all sequences, and definitely loved meeting the broadcast alums. I met some producers from Colorado, reporters from around the midwest, and some ESPN anchors. I heard some great stories about KOMU, teachers and classes. It turns out the first news writing class is the same for all of us journalism students. 🙂 It was great to hear the alums say they felt like they made a great decision by choosing the Missouri School of Journalism… and that they felt great to be back and see everyone.

I can’t wait for tomorrow and the sessions!

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Institutional Rumblings and Modernization

Posted by Tina Casagrand on September 10, 2008

by Kristina Casagrand and Chad Hesson

When Chad Hesson and I met before the event at 1:15, in our dress shirts and jeans, YouTube pins tacked to our messenger bags, we struck an appropriate image of freshmen trying to act experienced.  We arrived early, we looked sharp, but we sat at the back of the room, not daring to take a place at the fancy tables with the alumni. We’re the bloggers.  They’re the professionals.

The question of professionalism permeated the Institutional Rumblings and Modernization roundtable.  A board of distinguished MU grads and professors, who were obviously bribed into writing a book, discussed their contributions to Journalism—1908: Birth of a Profession.

Bill Taft, an ornery elderly man of the distinguished age of 93, composed a chapter of the book detailing the history of newspapers up to 1908. He adequately described them as country newspapers and rural publications, simply because those were the communities before that time. The outlook towards journalism must have been along the lines of  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but surely a more archaic phrase.  He claimed that on the edges of the 20th century, the idea was to simply change the demographics and not the wording.

Next we heard about Stephen Banning’s research (part of which he attributed to resources in Taft’s basement) on the influence of press associations in 1908.  In particular, the Missouri Press Association formed in 1867 to bring about unity in the field.  At the time, there were too many puff pieces, too many untrained editors.  And journalism, noted Banning, is “too noble of a calling to be left untrained.”

Lee Wilkins then “teased out the philosophical roots” of founding the journalism school, noting that journalists should be loyal to the public, only to be cancelled out by Fred Blevens’ talk of political and partisan press in 1908.  He described how some newspapers boasted how much control they had over public policy, and how newspapermen were hired to run campaigns, ending his thought with “and Olbermann and Matthews got the axe?”

Advertising in 1908 had yet to blossom into its current artistic force it is now, and Caryl Cooper’s enthusiasm for the subject mirrors the lack of inspiration educators felt for the field at the time.

During the question-and-answer session an alumnus argued that journalism is not a profession, saying it’s “not the same thing as what you have institutionalized in medicine and law.”  Betty Winfield countered, citing Walter Williams’ creed as proof of the profession.

Yet with technology and blogs rising as a form of communication it’s becoming harder to define journalism and professionalism.  One of the panel speakers pointed out that in the 1700’s, newspapers carried more analytic and critical essay writing.  Journalists have been working with the information collection model that has served us very well for 100 years, he said, and now we have a chance to examine that model.  He also added:

“We are people of moral worth beyond the money that we earn.  We count in a way that’s rooted in ethics and morals.  We need to recover OUR part of that conversation.”

Do bloggers reflect the new model, a return to the critical/analytic side of the pendulum?  We may not be professionals (yet), but as bloggers, we’re definitely the future.

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First Impressions

Posted by dblanchard on September 10, 2008

We made it in this afternoon — stopped by the State Capitol and KOMU along the way and saw many of the faculty and staff who help make the Mizzou experience so valuable. It was nice to see thriving newsrooms, and listen in on a few lessons it can be hard to remember in the “real world.”

It is really a great thing going here.

Next stop was the Reynolds Institute. The new facilities are amazing — quite a departure from a falling apart Walter Williams hall I enjoyed as a student. I’m excited to see what everything is used for.

The check-in process was more efficient than I imagined the J-school could muster. Though the student worker who personally berated me and my friends was not a positive.

I’m very much looking forward to the barbecue tonight — and all of the events the rest of the week.

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