Cover Story: Start the Press!

The News Record and 125 years of journalism at UC

Oct 12, 2005 at 2:06 pm
Sean Hughes

Stop The Press!

The smell of former basketball coach and talk radio lightning rod Bob Huggins isnÕt even gone when University of Cincinnati President Nancy Zimpher is in a late-September roundtable with the editorial brain trust of The News Record in the Swift Hall basement newsroom.

ItÕs the collegiate equivalent of politicians getting an audience with the editorial board of a daily newspaper pitching for an endorsement. ItÕs smart public relations on both sides.

The paper is editorially independent from UC, receiving support only in office space and a director of student media. Staff is paid from advertising revenue.

¨I have to make sure the values of the institution are reflected in my statements,Ó says Zimpher, who might or might not be addressing her firing of Huggins and the academic vs. athletic smackdown that ensued. ¨IÕm sure there are people who were frustrated with the decision or with the process. IÕm acutely aware that we have to win back students.Ó

Zimpher fields all manner of questions, addressing inadequate parking, tuition and her plans to add 5,000 students in five years. She asks the staffÕs help telling a USA Today reporter about student newspapers.

¨IÕm prepared to be asked what the "value addedÕ is of student newspapers,Ó she says.

Columnist Doug Remington asks Zimpher if, at the end of 2005, society is beyond asking whether being a woman informs her decision-making.

¨You know, Doug, IÕm beyond that,Ó she says.

Several female News Record staffers smile and nod pridefully.

The paper
ItÕs a production day, the afternoon before the paper hits stands, and after Zimpher leaves, News Record editors — 13 in all — must resume reading and clearing pages all afternoon for the midnight deadline. Just like in a daily newsroom, a bureaucratic stop stick slows the day but not the work.

¨Publishing (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) means theyÕre always pretty much on deadline,Ó says Albert Salvato, director of student media and News Record advisor for five years. ¨We work two weeks ahead, we keep two-week budgets. We donÕt want knee-jerk stories. We are reactive, but we want to think ahead because thatÕs the way the business is supposed to work.

¨Students teach students. That is the basis of an independent newspaper.Ó

Gone are the days of the paperÕs dodgy editorial commitment along with its musty and, Salvato says, roach-filled space in the old Tangeman University Center. The modern News Record stresses editorial accuracy and consistent editorial style and is forging ahead as a professional training ground for students serious about futures in all aspects of print journalism.

Managing Editor Michael Rovito says the paper owns the UC beat.

¨We treat UC like our city,Ó says Rovito, a rangy and easy-going counterpoint to Editor-in-Chief Julie HollydayÕs compact seriousness. ¨The Enquirer has Cincinnati. Most of the students donÕt subscribe to The Enquirer, so UC is our city. We report crime, sports, good news, bad news, and we do it in a professional manner because we all get internships and this is the best training before we enter the real world.Ó

Strangely, The News Record celebrates the 125th anniversary of student journalism at UC just as the university is establishing a journalism department for the first time. After years of completing the tastes great/less filling requirements of the writing certificate in lieu of journalism, students can now receive a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in one of three tracks: news editorial, magazine/narrative non-fiction and photojournalism, which is pending.

ItÕs an official stamp that will validate students who begin at The News Record, put in the grunt work of internships at daily newspapers and who have, in turn, returned to the schoolÕs newspaper with professional experience. It puts them in the running for real journalism jobs, Salvato says.

¨WeÕve been around since 1880,Ó he says, referring to Belatrasco, UCÕs first foray into journalism. ¨ItÕs time to put it on the map.Ó

Theory in the trenches
Jon Hughes is a professor of English and journalism and director of the new journalism program. He came to UC in 1972, is a former News Record advisor and in 1975 was one of the founders of the writing certificate.

ItÕs been for Hughes a long, strange trip to the journalism program. HeÕs a former hard-boiled daily reporter who kept track of the shifting roles and responsibilities of modern journalism, and he was the first full-time English professor at UC to teach journalism.

¨Coming from a daily newspaper to academia was a culture shock,Ó he says. ¨I remember when I literally sat at my desk and shook because I was coming down from that daily high. I also had to be careful not to push my daily (grind) on them but to let them find it.

¨I was basically a consultant (as the News Record advisor). I didnÕt read copy before it came in unless they asked me to. They knew if they had legal questions, they could ask me. I didnÕt really care about their feelings. We werenÕt blogging. We were gathering news.Ó

And the big news stories havenÕt changed in 33 years, Hughes says.

ThereÕs war. Then it was Vietnam. Now itÕs Iraq.

There are demonstrations. Then it was against Vietnam and President Johnson. Now itÕs against Iraq and President Bush.

There was in 1972 the mediaÕs correlation between racism and poverty. There is in 2005 the mediaÕs slow, post-Katrina connection between racism and poverty.

Hughes is the second News Record affiliate to use the ¨cityÓ analogy to describe how the young journalists report campus news.

¨IÕve always felt that they oughtta hoe their own garden, that they ought to cover what topic readers want to know,Ó he says. ¨And their readers are UC students, staff and faculty. They could stay busy covering this city — the city of UC.Ó

Having a new journalism program will make it harder for students to get in the pages of the school newspaper, Hughes says.

¨Students will compete for space, which is the real world,Ó he says. ¨The best-written story will be published. Welcome to journalism.Ó

The department will mix faculty and staff, the traditionally educated who already teach journalism courses with guest spots filled by some of the cityÕs name-brand working journalists like The Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty. ItÕs theory in the trenches.

Hughes says his previously proposed journalism program never came to fruition because area universities with long-established programs reserved the right to reject his proposal on the basis that UCÕs proximity to the cityÕs urban center would drain graduating journalism talent.

¨I was interested in proposing a journalism major, but that policy — which has been reinstated — deterred me,Ó Hughes says. ¨To get a new program approved, the Ohio Board of Regents had to approve it and other schools could reject it. I wrote a proposal about 30 years ago, but I didnÕt have support. IÕve outlived everybody.Ó

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Dean Karen Gould called Hughes in July 2004 to ¨talk about journalism.Ó He told her that teaching journalism without a journalism department affected the staff.

¨I think there was kind of a problem with identity for the (journalism) faculty,Ó Hughes says. ¨(The certificate program) is equivalent to a minor. Up to two years ago weÕd awarded 500 certificates.Ó

There can be imbalance for students writing and editing the school paper, however, without the intellectual might of a journalism program. Salvato says a journalism major equals more coursework, better-prepared journalists and better post-graduate opportunities.

Regardless, graduates who cut their journalistic teeth in that newsroom, many of whom also received the writing certificate, number among the countryÕs best and brightest journalists.

All the president