Friday, September 26, 2008


I spent two years advising the student newspaper at Grand Rapids Community College, The Collegiate ( It was already an award-winning publication when I took over advising. However, the staff was nearly all new along with me. Only two students returned with real experience - the sports editor (who was a better news writer than editor) and the photo editor (who was on campus very little).
There were plenty of mistakes - on everyone's part that year. Sometimes I was too lenient. Sometimes I was too stern. Students spelled headlines wrong, botched layouts, failed to produce stories in a timely manner, etc,.... Overall, I was confident they were learning.
While awards are not the best sign of a great publication, they can be a sign of something good going on. During the second year (2007-08), things really started to improve. Most of that credit goes to a dedicated staff. Some people joined the returning Collegiate staff and together really made an impact.
There have been a couple of nice validating moments: 1. The paper's web site won first place in the state's community college newspaper competition and the print edition was third (no other paper was honored in the top three for both print and online). 2. The Collegiate won the prestigious Apple Award during the College Media Advisers spring national convention in New York City (due to a hotel scheduling problem, staff members were robbed the opportunity to accept the award on stage). 3. The Collegiate was recently named a finalist for the Associated Collegiate Press' prestigious Pacemaker Award.
Awards, on their own, do not prove excellence. However, there's no way all three of these organizations are wrong. The Collegiate stands out.
I could not be more proud of the students who put so much into the paper. I can't think of anything more satisfying than to watch students being successful.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Constitution Day

Constitution Day came and went Wednesday, Sept. 17. For most, the event went unnoticed.

Most are not aware it is actually a federal mandate that all institutions receiving federal funding honor the event in some way. Maybe many do in small ways I'm not aware of. I doubt most comply.

This year, Grand Rapids Community College stepped up thanks to members of the student newspaper The Collegiate. The paper has been on a roll under editor-in-chief Lonnie Allen. A non-tradition student, Lonnie has led the Collegiate from an inexperienced staff two years ago to winning the prestigious Apple Award and now making the finalist list for the Pacemaker Award. Those are both notable achievements for any staff.

What I'm most impressed with, however, is the level of passion exhibited by stepping up to the plate with an event like Collegiate staff organized for Constitution. The event was modeled after one started by students at Florida Atlantic University, known as Free Food, Free Speech. Students willing gave up their First Amendment rights during the event in exchange for a free lunch.

What's amazing is how few people realize what it would really mean to give up those rights. I don't ever want to find out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't read!

It's that time of year when many people like to bash "the media" for its coverage. Presidential election time brings this cry to a climax. The Republican National Convention crowd gave one of its biggest cheers when the media was criticized.
Bring on the criticism.
I say, we (the media) criticize you and you criticize us right back. That's how it should work. We're both need to answer to our critics. We don't need to cry foul when criticism happens. We need to listen and respond appropriately.
A thriving democracy thrives when citizens are educated and informed. Education is a lifelong pursuit. Information comes from many sources - the media being a primary provider. Consumers of media need to be able to filter for themselves what information is reliable and what is not worth your time.
Tune out if it's not reliable. Don't read if it's clearly biased.
It's your decision what to absorb.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Torch

Advising a college student newspaper puts a bit of a target on a person's back to begin with. I'm not going to be one of the few who increase the size of that target by publicly critiquing the paper online.
I advise the Torch, the student paper at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. While this is my first year at FSU, it is my third year advising a student newspaper.
Each edition of the paper, I take pen to newsprint to point out all the flaws. That may seem a bit harsh, but it's the reality of the newspaper business. Every edition has flaws - plenty of them. There has never been a "perfect edition" of any newspaper.
So, I critique. Some of my students have called my criticisms harsh. Others have readily accepted them. I believe it's my duty during critiques to point out specific areas where there can be improvement.
So, I finish with my latest favorite quote from the book "The Last Lecture" by the late Randy Pausch: When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you.
Think about it....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Just a woman?

Women will never be left out of the political equation in the United States like they once were. Those days are over. Women vote, women make decisions, women make an impact and women can run our country.
My 5-year-old son was big on voting for Hillary Clinton because he thought "a mom would make a good president." He's probably right. Being a mother, and a father for that matter, is a valuable life experience to becoming the president.
Once Hillary was eliminated from the presidential race, there was some clear disappointment among many women. I side with those who thought Hillary being elected to president would not have been as groundbreaking as it could have been. Sure, a woman president would have made for huge headlines. But truth be told, she is forever linked to her husband. I don't hold it against her, I just point it out as reality. She was First Lady before she was a politician.
Insted of Hillary, I hope a woman emerges all on her own as a serious presidential contender in the near future. A woman the likes of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (a groundbreaking achievement of its own) or McCain's vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Which brings me to Palin. Is it good enough to just stick a woman on the ticket to gain widespread support among women?
If anyone thinks so, I find that narrow-minded thought process disappointing and insulting to all women.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First day in class at Ferris

Today was my first official day in the classroom at Ferris State University. Coincidentally, my first class was in the same room where I taught a class as part of my interview back in November 2007. That seems like such a long time ago now. I took it as a good sign, since I did get the job.
I have one ENGL 150 course. It's new for me. The exciting thing is it all freshmen. They look unsure, but ready to learn. It's my job to help them move along through the semester. I'm sure there will be ups and downs, but each class is only 50 minutes long.
I have two Journalism classes - 121. They are back-to-back. The only difficulty to that is I need to be sure I don't skip important content in the second section. Sometimes, it is challenging to remember which class I said what in. Am I getting old?
All three classes started well. We didn't accomplish much other than setting the tone for the semester. What can you do in 50 minutes anyway? It really flies by.
I also got my first edition of the Big Rapids Pioneer in the mail today. Another newspaper to add to my daily reading. So far, it reminds me a bit of my days back at the Huron Daily Tribune. Small town paper with small town news. It's great stuff!