Monday, May 13, 2013

It may take "Sex, Drugs and Mental Illness" to get us back together

I'm excited about the possibility of a fall reunion with one of the best journalists I ever worked with, Matthew LaPlante Now Professor LaPlante at Utah State University, Matt is not only a great reporter, storyteller and writer, but his greatest strength may be his creativity and ability to see projects through to a tangible result.

Many of us can contemplate great ideas, ponder the "next big thing," and just plain bullshit about what we should do this summer. Matt moves beyond those steps - he's action-taking, get-it-done person. Always has been. I have long been impressed by those attributes.

That's why I am doubly thrilled at the possibility of reuniting with Matt in a professional manner for the first time in a decade. In fact, come October 2013, when the National Fall Media Convention gathers thousands of students, professors and professionals in New Orleans, it will be almost exactly 10 years since we were both on the staff of the News-Register in McMinnville, Ore.  I recall the date easily because we moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., on my daughter's fourth birthday. She will be turning 14 this year.

I spent time as a correspondent for the Grand Rapids Press, then started work on a master's in communication from Grand Valley State University. Going back to school then provided me to teach journalism classes at both GVSU and Grand Rapids Community College, where I was privileged to advise The Collegiate student newspaper for two years (2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years). That gave me enough experience to know my future was in teaching. That was clinched when I landed the full-time position at Ferris State University, teaching and advising the student newspaper The Torch. I now have five years with FSU. My time with students - in and out of the classroom - is what motivates me professionally every day.

Matt moved on from the N-R to work for the Salt Lake Tribune and then into academia. His ventures are countless. Off the top of my head, Matt spent time embedded in Iraq, has traveled to Africa and Cuba for stories and continues to pursue opportunities to tell important stories. A few times, we have leaned on one another for advice about teaching journalists or, heck, even parenting.

We got together briefly in Colorado under less than ideal circumstances one summer. Our car broke down and the LaPlante's were generous enough to drive over from SLC to camp with us a couple nights, making the "adventure" far more tolerable. Another year, I stopped in SLC with the kids on the way back from a Route 66 trip from Illinois to California. We stayed a night, giving Matt and I a chance to bullshit on his front porch.

A session we are loosely titling "Sex, Drugs and Mental Illness" may be what finally gets us back together. I would expect nothing less.