FRIDAY’S LETTERS: A Missou Professor Weighs in on the J-School Debate

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By: E&P Staff

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Charles Davis, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, continues the discussion first sparked by Denny Wilkins Aug. 15 column, and later rebutted in a separate column by Randolph D. Brandt, editor of the The Journal Times of Racine, Wis.:

I enjoyed both takes on J-schools and the newspaper profession. While I empathize with an editor weary of academic armchair quarterbacking, universalizing such criticism is no easy feat.

From my academic post, I strive to produce journalists with a keen understanding of what they face down the career path. That includes plenty of discussion of profit margin mania, but also daily reminders of what a marvelous opportunity newspapers afford for enterprising, intellectually curious young people. At the Missouri School of Journalism, you’ll hear lots of critical commentary about the profession, but I’d bet my colleagues — all former (and many current) journalists — deliver criticism aimed at improving and strengthening a profession we love dearly.

That said, our students frequently are more critical than we are, and almost to a person, they all just returned from summers spent in a wide swath of American newsrooms. They produce the Columbia Missourian the rest of their academic careers, so they come at their media criticism honestly.

As for the “early retirement” charge tirelessly lobbed at we profs in the J-School dustups, I’d urge Mr. Brandt talk to any of us who have made the transition from newsrooms to classrooms. If this is early retirement, it feels strangely like hard work. Mr. Brandt’s overall thesis merits attention, though, for he is quite right to call attention to those faculty who seem to find nothing good to say about an industry that needs our best and brightest, not our disaffected and burned-out.

It is worth noting that on many, many a campus, journalism professors are the lone defenders of America’s press, teaching students about the First Amendment’s majesty, the importance of shield laws, and the importance of fiercely independent, skeptical journalism, often to audiences increasingly hostile to our values.

Why do I teach? Because I love journalism.

Charles N. Davis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Executive Director, National Freedom of Information Coalition
University of Missouri School of Journalism


Sheehan And Others

I would guess that Cindy Sheehan has gotten her message to President Bush. She has claimed he killed her son and has called him the worlds biggest terrorist. Why should he meet with her. What would be gained for either party.

Why is the press obsessed with her? Where are the interviews with other family members of fallen servicepeople? Those who met with the president certainly have varying views. The press is obsessed with the negative, hyping it to the max.

In doing so, they are undermining the will to win and our ability to see it through.

Shame on them and Cindy Sheehan, who obviously didn?t respect her son?s choice to join the military.

H. Michael Sarkisian
Sacramento, Calif.


This reader has a “Long Gone Idea” about Greg Mitchell’s column On Losing a Son, and Saving Others

I live in the great fly-over land that is often written about but seldom visited. On my block is the family of a soldier in Iraq. A close friend’s daughter just came back from Iraq. Cindy Sheehan and Bill Mitchell do not represent them. I am old enough to know the history of World War II, to have lived and held a draft card for Vietnam and now young enough to not be so ossified in thought to believe that this war somehow is Vietnam Deja Vu. It is a long gone idea that all wars and conflicts somehow fit a template.

Peace is a wonderful thing; sometimes it takes a war to establish it. Oh, yes, by the way, I tried to volunteer but they didn’t want me at this age.

It is a sad and horrible loss for both families mentioned, but I think in your position and in your circle of friends it is really no surprise that you would know someone with Bill Mitchell and Cindy Sheehan’s opinions.

Rich Davis


The Sociopathic President

Picked up your article (on Sheehan protests). In it, a Miami Herald editorial suggests that the president ignore his advisors and consult his heart. In keeping with my 30 years of law enforcement experience, often dealing with people of sociopathic tendencies, and in my thinking derived there from, I have realized since Bush was governor in Texas that this man is sociopathic. He has no “heart,” if by that you mean that he consider the feelings of others and let those feelings guide his actions. It also explains his charisma, an attribute most sociopaths possess. They meet people well and are well liked by people. Until, that is, they finally begin to pierce his protective coloration.

L.R. Geleynse
Ferndale, Wash.

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