Neuharth To Academics: Butt Out p.14

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By: ALLAN WOLPER AL NEUHARTH, former Gannett chairman and the founder of USA Today, told an auditorium packed with aspiring writers they must fight off academic attempts to stifle their First Amendment rights.
"I have been hearing about all these establishment types in academe who want to turn back the clock on the First Amendment," Neuharth said in his keynote speech at the College Media Advisers convention in Orlando. "What a bunch of nonsense that is."
Neuharth referred to reports that some college administrations were mistakenly citing the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hazelwood case as a reason to take over editorial control of student newspapers.
The Supreme Court ruled by a 5 to 3 decision to allow high school administrators to censor newspapers if they were part of the school curriculum, but did not include colleges or universities in their ruling.
Neuharth insists the nation's campuses must be a showplace for free expression rights, even though many people at universities allow journalistic access only under duress.
He pointed out that college coaches were even debating whether to permit their high-profile players to be exposed to any sort of public scrutiny.
But Neuharth noted that one coach sees journalists as freaks who are so out of touch with reality that he sees nothing wrong with allowing his players to be interviewed by them.
"Gary Williams, the basketball coach at Maryland, says there are so many weirdos out there, why not let them talk to reporters," Neuharth remarked.
He also ridiculed academic advisers who urge students to get advanced degrees at the expense of solid journalism experience.
"You don't need a master's degree to be a good journalist," Neuharth insisted. "I don't care whether someone is a magna this or a cum laude that. I want someone to work for me who is curious. Someone who is interested in what is happening."
Neuharth contended the best young journalists are those who develop an insatiable appetite for news.
"To get a job, you have to have it here in your gut," he said, pointing to his striped shirt under a red jacket, handkerchief and white tie. "You have to have an edge. But you have to put yourself in the position of your readers. You have to give them what they want."
He suggested journalists should continue to pursue tough stories accurately and fairly without worrying about the reaction to them.
"People like Mike Wallace are preaching that kind of stuff," Neuharth said. "There's a guy who has been a hatchet man all his life and now he's getting religion at the age of 75."
As he has done before on behalf of Gannett, Neuharth defended the march of chain newspapers across the country.
"There are some valid criticisms about chains that some people are making," he said during a question and answer session that followed his talk. "But sometimes, like in Springfield, Ohio, a chain comes in and takes over a newspaper that had been a mouthpiece for the Chamber of Commerce."
He said that the extensive downsizing of newspapers is starting to turn around, providing a major opportunity for entry-level journalists.
"The publishers were the first ones to downsize," said Neuharth.
"I think they're finding out that was a mistake. I predict that there will be more hiring of entry-level jobs than at any time in recent history."
Neuharth was asked in an interview after his speech why chains like Gannett are starting campus-oriented newspapers to compete with college papers in university settings.
"The colleges have a different audience than the commercial newspapers," Neuharth replied. "I think it is great if they compete against each other."
He insisted the Internet and new media would generate a wide range of opportunities for those who were journalistic entrepreneurs.
"It means that young people will have to take to the roads that are less traveled and not worry about how much money they might make," he said.
Neuharth noted that journalists in their twenties and thirties should take chances and not be concerned about financial success until their forties.
That remark drew some laughs from the future reporters and a couple of grunts of disapproval.
"It's easy for him to say," said one student who asked not be identified. "But things are expensive today. It costs $4.95 in this hotel for just a bagel and coffee."
?(Former Gannett chairman Allen Neuharth (left) makes a point following his recent address to the College Media Advisers) [Caption & Photo]
?(Wolper, professor of journalism at the Newark campus of Rutger University, covers campus journalism and other topics for E&P) [Caption]

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