The College celebrates Lovejoy Convocation events

This past weekend, the College celebrated the merits of journalism in our country with a myriad of events surrounding the presentation of the 2015 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award. The College established the award in 1952 and aims to reward exceptional journalistic “integrity, craftsmanship, character, intelligence, and courage,” according to the College’s website.

The events began with the third annual Sylvanne Labun Student Journalism Conference on October 4, which was hosted by Director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Dan Shea. The one-day conference addressed the question of “how technology and multi-platform journalism are disrupting and reinventing journalism” throughout the world. The day consisted of five presentations given by highly acclaimed members in the journalism field, and culminated in a panel discussion facilitated by Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Apuzzo ’00.

Presenters included broadcast journalist and Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Texas Christian University Aaron Chimbel, editor of The Texas Tribune Emily Ramshaw, Assisting Managing Editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Mila Sanina, editor-in-chief and founder of reported.ly Andy Carvin, and Lecturer in Law at the University of Toledo Fritz Byers. The panel discussion hosted three participants: editor of the Los Angeles Times Amy Fiscus, Associated Press reporter Jack Gillum, and producer of PBS Frontline Marcela Gaviria.

During his talk, Chimbel discussed the changing mediums of journalism and the advances that the digital age has brought to the field. He noted that while the newspaper industry seemed to have “peaked” in 1990, the Internet surpassed newspapers as a news source in 2008. He said that the increased prominence of the Internet as a news source has led some people to believe that people are not engaging with news anymore, but in reality, people are “still consuming massive amounts of media.” Chimbel also said noted that “never could a journalist better connect with people and produce better journalism” before the arrival of recent technological advancements.

Like Chimbel, Ramshaw also spoke about the importance of technology and the internet in her office at The Texas Tribune. According to its website, the Tribune is the “only member- supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans—and engages with them—about public policy, politics, government and state-wide WEBgreeneissues.” Ramshaw and her team have embraced the digital age with interactive quizzes, crowdfunding, live-streams of political events, and data heavy news pieces—even creating some projects “without a single written word,” Ramshaw said. When she was asked about how to keep consumers—especially young people—interested in the news, Ramshaw responded: “People want to engage, you just have to get them halfway.”

During the panel discussion, Apuzzo prompted the journalists to discuss the current state of journalism as a career and how they envision its future. The panelists agreed that the digital age has brought exciting research tools and increased connectivity to their work, but, in the words of Gillum, “[a journalist] still needs to talk to people and build sources,” suggesting that certain aspects of traditional journalism will remain useful despite any changes in media forms.

The three panelists then addressed their unique criteria for what merits a successful journalist. Gillum remarked that “writing clearly and quickly is critically important” to ensuring that readers understand your story, and Gaviria said that while “you can’t teach curiosity,” it is the most important trait for an aspiring journalist to possess. Fiscus added that what “gets young journalists noticed” is the ability to “do meaningful things with the tasks that you are given,” no matter how small those tasks are.

On Monday afternoon, Associate Professor of Government Walter Hatch moderated a panel, “Division and Despair: Reporting on Economic Inequality” as part of the convocation programming. Panelists included editor of the Ideas section at the Boston Globe Katie Kingsbury, Memphis Flyer columnist Wendy Thomas, and Seattle Times investigative reporter Mike Baker. The panelists discussed their proudest moments throughout their careers in terms of exposing the economic inequality that is often critiqued in our country.

On Monday night, the Lovejoy award was given to New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo in Lorimer Chapel. President David A. Greene presented the award to Boo, who then gave a speech detailing the reporting behind her 2012 book Behind the Beautiful Forevers and took questions from the audience.

Boo discussed the ethics behind interviewing and reporting, and credited the ability to build strong relationships with interviewees as a tenant of good journalism–something she was lauded by the audience for doing in her own work.

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