Journalism School to Recognize 134 Graduates during Fall Commencement

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Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 16, 2008) — The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize its 134 fall graduates during commencement ceremonies at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 19, at Jesse Auditorium in Jesse Hall. Family and friends of the graduates do not need tickets to attend. Seating will be open.

Graduate degrees will be awarded to 40 students, including four doctoral candidates and 36 master’s recipients. The class includes three graduates of the online master’s program. The School first made its online journalism program available in the fall of 2001 with two online degree offerings, strategic communication and media management. Including this year’s graduates, 20 students have graduated from the program, which enrolls more than 60 students annually.

Brian Storm, MA '97
Brian Storm, MA ’97
Alumnus Speaker
Robert Berlin
Robert Berlin
Student Speaker
Robert Crosby III
Robert Crosby III
Master of Ceremonies

Of the 94 undergraduate candidates, six studied convergence journalism; 16, magazine journalism; six, photojournalism; 14, print and digital news; 13, radio-television journalism; and 39, strategic communication. Two students will receive a bachelor of science degree in agricultural journalism.

Overall, 31 graduating seniors, or approximately 33 percent of the class, will be recognized with Latin honors. These students have at least a 3.5 grade point average for their last 60 graded credit hours. The group includes four Walter Williams Scholars, a group named after the founding dean. More than 200 high-achieving students have participated in the program, which was launched in 2004.

The top 10 percent of the School’s graduates will be inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society founded at the School in 1910 with the goal of uniting students of exceptional achievement from the nation’s leading schools of journalism and mass communication. The induction ceremony and reception will be from 2 to 4 p.m., Friday, Dec. 19, in the Student Lounge in Neff Hall. This year’s inductees are:

Kappa Tau Alpha Candidates

Doctoral Candidates

    • Carrie Brown

Master’s Candidates

    • Krysten-Marie Chambrot
    • Jason Aaron Johns
    • Kara Julieanne Krisanic
    • William Swanger

Bachelor’s Candidates

    • Daniel A. Buoniconti
    • Robert Howard Crosby III
    • Daniel Lee Lawhon
    • Kendra Lueckert
    • Jennifer Elyse Noncek
    • Myunghwa Park
    • Katerina M. Stam
    • Alexandra Smith

The alumnus speaker will be Brian Storm, MA ’97, president of MediaStorm, the award-winning multimedia production studio based in New York City. MediaStorm has won several nationally recognized awards for its multimedia and documentary work, including multiple Webby Awards, Pictures of the Year International awards and an Emmy in just the last two years.

Prior to launching MediaStorm in 2005, Storm spent two years as vice president of news, multimedia and assignment services for Corbis, a digital media agency founded and owned by Bill Gates. Storm led Corbis’ global strategy for the news, sports, entertainment and historical collections. From 1995 to 2002, he was director of multimedia at MSNBC.com, a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC News. There, Storm was responsible for the audio, photography and video elements of the site, and he created “This Week in Pictures” and “Picture Stories” to showcase visual journalism in new media. Storm serves on the advisory board for The Council on Foreign Relations, The Eddie Adams Workshop, The Alexia Foundation and Brooks Institute Journalism School. He has judged both the Missouri School of Journalism’s Pictures of the Year International and the National Press Photographers Association‘s Best of Photojournalism contests.

The Master of Ceremonies will be Robert Crosby III, a strategic communication major from Detroit. A summa cum laude graduate, Crosby has served as an account executive for Mojo Ad, the premier student-staffed professional-services advertising agency that specializes in the youth and young adult (YAYA) market. He has interned at Young & Rubicam and Clear Channel Detroit and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Summer Venture in Management program. The American Advertising Federation named Crosby as one of the 2009 Most Promising Minority Students in Advertising.

Robert Berlin, a radio-television journalism major from Albuquerque, N.M., will be the student graduation speaker. As a reporter for KBIA-FM, he has interviewed political candidates for the Missouri offices of governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Berlin has done play-by-play for Mizzou football and volleyball games and called the Big 12 Championship Game and the Cotton Bowl for the football team. He was the chief announcer for KCOU, the University of Missouri student-run radio station, and has served as president of Delta Chi Fraternity.

Further information about the commencement ceremonies is available from the MU Commencement website.

Alumnus Speaker

Brian Storm, MA ’97
Dec. 19, 2008

It’s quite an honor to be here on this important day at this critical moment in journalism.

I’ve been thinking about what to say to you all for some time. Trying to put myself in your situation given the current climate.

I was in the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Tuesday with some friends and I asked them about their graduation experiences. One woman graduated from NYU a few years ago and Bill Cosby was the speaker.

I said, “Wow, that’s pretty huge. What did he say?”

She said, “I don’t remember, but he was funny.”

Given that even Bill Cosby was not memorable, I feel the pressure on me is officially off.

But, then I realized, I’m not funny.

What I am is optimistic and passionate about journalism.

How can that be given that both the economy and the journalism industry are in a crisis?

Record numbers of lost jobs, homes and retirement funds are creating a divide between the American Promise and the American Dream.

At a time when people need quality news and information, traditional media are hemorrhaging and appear headed for bailout style CPR.

How did we get into this mess?

The moment journalism institutions began answering to their shareholders and their ever-increasing demands for profit margins, the public’s need to know was in jeopardy.

Walter Williams wrote in The Journalist’s Creed that “The supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.”

There’s no mention of 25% profit margins as a metric for success.

If you want to make a pile of money, this is not the right profession for you.

Frankly, Journalism needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for a quick buck. Journalists lead a rich life, but rarely get rich. We are inherently purpose driven, not profit driven.

Simply put, we, the practitioners of this craft, need to take journalism back.

You’ve just received a world-class education from the most storied journalism school in the United States. You are entering a profession desperate for new solutions. As such, the opportunity for you right now is absolutely huge.

You simply need to take the profession on your shoulders and make it what you want it to be.

At this moment of radical change in our profession, I see an opportunity for a new breed of journalistic entrepreneurs collaborating with each other to create compelling stories, using new tools and creating dramatic change in a global marketplace.

We need you to bring energetic idealism to the table at this turning point in our profession.

Imagine what it must have been like to be alive during the industrial revolution. How epic the turmoil must have been to existing businesses. Every aspect of life was disrupted by the changes occurring in agriculture, manufacturing, production, and transportation.

Imagine what it would have been like to be the owner of a horse and buggy business. And to, for the very first time, see an automobile drive by. What was that?

The right question to ask yourself at that moment is what business am I in?

Am I in the horse and buggy business? Or, am I in the transportation business? Are you in the newspaper business? Are you in the magazine business? Are you in the broadcast business?

Or, are you in the business of storytelling?

We are living at the start of a communications revolution that will change society as much, or more, then the industrial revolution did.

Think about the companies and products that have only recently changed our lives:

How did we get rid of our junk before eBay?

How did we find our way before GPS?

How did we waste our lunch hour before YouTube?

Xbox, PS3, The Wii.

Really, your parents played board games like Monopoly and Yahtzee.

They watched commercials too. No TIVO.

Can you imagine a world without Google? A world where you can’t do reconnaissance on your blind date?

What did we do before:

Amazon? MySpace? Yahoo? Skype? Flickr?

And of course, iPods.

Did you know that iTunes recently passed Wal-Mart as the number one retailer of music in the world?

I’m so excited I just twittered.

Honestly, no one has command of all these new capabilities. And, that is why the opportunity is so exciting.

As an industry, we are like awkward teenagers driving a Ferrari. The next few years will see incredible advances in our journalistic abilities.

It’s going to be crazy exciting. And you get to define it.

To do so, you will need to maintain the highest journalistic standards. This is where your Mizzou experience will serve you.

I don’t think the communications revolution that we are going through is about some reinvention of storytelling or journalistic creed.

The way we tell stories has evolved over the years, but beginning, middle and end still works. Ethical and accurate information will still rule.

I think the revolution is happening because of access. Access to powerful tools and access to global distribution in an increasingly connected planet.

It used to be that a high definition video camera would set you back $70,000. Now they are a few thousand dollars and I own one. It used to cost $250,000 to have a broadcast quality post-production system. Now, for less than $5,000 you can edit with a Macintosh that’s so fast it requires a seat belt. As the cost of entry plummets, the fidelity of the toolset is exploding. Thank you Moore’s Law.

Of course, having the tools is only part of the equation. We all know the famous adage, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” The fact is, we all own a printing press now.

MediaStorm is a team of six people. We only recently stopped working out of my apartment. But, we have visitors to MediaStorm.org from more than 130 countries each month.

How do these people find us? We aren’t a mainstream media company. We don’t spend any money on marketing.

We simply produce and publish compelling stories.

As old business models fail, I expect to see an influx of independent, purpose-driven collaborations. Small teams with passionate experts operating for the public good. The new world of open access makes this possible.

The average consumer today has an abundance of choices and more access to information than at any other time in history. It’s actually information overload. What we are all fighting for now is mind share.

Quality is what people care about. It’s what they are trying to pinpoint in a sea of information. It’s what they will forward to their friends when they do find it. It’s what they will blog post. We had one guy in Russia do a blog post about a story on our site and for a week straight our traffic was up 15 X. All coming from Russia with love.

One guy spread the virus through Russia with a simple blog post.

This surge of connectivity is another recent innovation that I’m hugely optimistic about. I think it’s the greatest hope for restoring quality journalism.

Marc Andreessen sent an e-mail in the Fall of 1993 to only 12 people. Mosaic, the first Web browser, spread virally and changed how we communicate with each other.

Connectivity is the new killer app.

My goal at MediaStorm is not simply to generate awareness; it’s to create change.

I want to share one example with you. We produced a piece about Congo called Rape of Nation earlier this year. Photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale spent eightyears documenting the story of how diamonds mined in African war zones are financing the ongoing conflicts. It’s the story Leonardo DeCaprio dramatized in the Hollywood blockbuster Blood Diamond.

A woman from Oak Glen, California, Shea Downey, wrote in our reader feedback: “Thank you so much for your coverage on this devastating issue.” Reading this I felt we accomplished our first goal of raising awareness and compassion.

But then she goes on to say, “I am a small, fine jewelry retail owner.” This is the most powerful type of connection that we can hope to make. This is a person who can create real change by choosing where to purchase her diamonds.

She then writes, “I intend to forward this to all I know in the industry.”

YAHTZEE!

She’s driving awareness to her personal network, a highly targeted group of diamond buyers.

It’s true that less people care about Congo than Britney’s belly button. For me, it’s not about reaching the largest possible audience; pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s about reaching the right audience with a relevant message.

Today, there is a robust infrastructure in place to reach these specific audiences and to create real change.

I’m inspired by this new era of connectivity every day and I’m constantly looking for ways to leverage these connections. On Wednesday, at 9:54 a.m., I updated my Facebook status with:

Brian is writing a commencement speech.

I then posed a question to my network: What would you say to the University of Missouri School of Journalism Class of 2008?

I want to share a few responses with you:

First, from your very own Brian Brooks at 9:59 a.m., “Ignore the medium. Think content.”

At 10 a.m., photography agent Paul Melcher writes, “Be the change you would like to see happen.”

Both quite poetic. Words to live by.

Then, Mizzou grad (MA ’91) Adam Berliant at 10:01 a.m. wrote, “I remember the commencement speech that I heard when I graduated from there. The guy was a reporter from the New York Times. He essentially said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t go into journalism.'”

While I don’t agree with that level of cynicism, it’s true, not everyone will make it as a journalist. There are 20,000 students who will graduate with a degree in photography alone this year. Only the very best will succeed in this craft.

Look, I wanted to play shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. You know what, I wasn’t good enough. Granted, your odds of making it as a journalist are better than mine were of making it as a Major League Baseball shortstop, but it’s going to be tough and you will need to be great.

So, back to more Facebook advice. Patty Caya, a student at NYU, wrote at 10:08 a.m., “Be the generation that finds the new model for journalism and makes it work. Take the talent and training and idealism that brought you to study this profession and apply all of that energy to figuring out the future rather than mourning the past. You will need to be part of a changing profession and that won’t be easy. If you want to do something that is easy, do something else.”

Tough love from Patty. To which Adam Berliant, at 10:14 a.m., posted, “New idea: Just read your Facebook comments.”

OK, so I will.

Mizzou grad (MA ’92) Dick Doughty wrote, “They must fall in love with the world. Otherwise they will become hacks and careerists. Beyond that, tell them they are historically lucky SOBs. For real. Graduating at a sunset of cynicism andhard economic times. Struggle is always at the heart of the best stories!”

Mizzou grad (MA ’94) Elizabeth Osder wrote, “Be about what you get to do and not where you get to do it. The where’s are shifting but the whatis why we all came to MU. It’s the fire in your belly, your drive to tell stories, to witness.”

So, what then is the key ingredient for success? Simply put, Passion.

My friend Jesse Kornbluth, once a contributing editor of Vanity Fair but who now writes almost exclusively on the Web at HeadButler.com, wrote, “I encourage kids to place the biggest possible bet on what they really careabout. The plight of the coal miners? Go to West Virginia. Become the world expert. Surfing? Move to California. Beg a job as an assistant board shaper, write for surfer rags. Rock? Be a roadie if you have to, just to get into position. Take the plunge. Write. Suffer nobly. Everything you have learned is preparation for what you are now about to learn. On the other side of a million words, the world will see you and you’ll know you weren’t crazy. Or, sadly, that you were.

See, Jessie is a good writer.

You start today from a very ideal place, The Missouri School of Journalism. A program with 100 years of tradition.

There has never been a more important time for the Missouri Method of Journalism, to help people understand the complex world in which we live. You will need to build on these values to move our profession forward. And, we are counting on you.

It is one of the most exciting times in history to be a young journalist. You have an almost limitless palette of storytelling tools, an audience unbound by physical borders and the most powerful communications technology ever developed at your disposal.

Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Our role as journalists is to help the bending process. This is your time. This is your moment.

I offer you congratulations on your accomplishment today and wish you great success in your journey.

A note of special thanks to those who shared their ideas for this speech including those noted above, Elodie Maillet, Ed Kashi, Merrill Brown, Rich Beckman, Tom Kennedy, Kenny Irby, Richard Koci Hernandez, Liz Ronk, Andreas Gebhard and to the 46 who made comments via Facebook.

Student Speaker

Robert Berlin, BJ ’08
Dec. 19, 2008

I must have written and rewritten this opening nine times. I wanted to start with something inspiring and provocative, something memorable. But I just couldn’t put the past four years into one sentence, so I decided I’d tell about a story I heard while riding to the airport at the end of Thanksgiving break.

My friend and I were listening to a radio reporter interview a store manager about Black Friday. The reporter said store manager so-and-so (the name’s not important) said that purchases will be down this year due to a struggling economy. Then came the sound bite of the store manager, who said, “Purchases will be down this year due to a struggling economy.” I know every graduate in here is thinking the same thing I was.

I turned to my friend who also happens to have graduated from the J-School and asked, “Did that reporter just parrot his bite?” She answered with an emphatic, “Yup.”

My next thought was that this reporter must not have graduated from here. Had he tried that in Greeley Kyle’s class, that reporter never would have made it to Broadcast 3. Then, I thought, he must have graduated from Kansas.

But our experiences are more than just a technical conglomeration of how to write a good a story. There are some great reporters sitting here tonight, and I am often blown away by my peers’ work. One example of this was on election night when students from all of the School’s media worked together to bring informative and compelling journalism to our mid-Missouri audiences. I am proud to say I am graduating with you. My only regret is that I didn’t meet and work with more of you.

All of us came to Mizzou for this moment: Graduation from the world’s best school of journalism. Anyone who has spent all night copy-editing, all day at KBIA trying to add in natural sound before deadline, or dealt with Kent Collins in the Tiger Chair at KOMU as he stops everyone in the news room to explain the meaning of Don McLean’s song, “American Pie,” line by line and proudly proclaims, “This is the poetry of my youth!”, understands this is something we have earned.

As we go on to bigger and dare I say better things, whether in journalism or not, I believe we are better for having suffered through those sleepless nights. Sure, there were times we cursed the J-School. All of us at one point probably wanted to quit. And yet, we’d get up that next morning after one, maybe two, hours of sleep, say something about our editors I can’t repeat, and go back to the convergence lab or to the ad lab or the photo lab. Why? Passion. Passion for questioning and informing, and passion for trying to make a difference in the lives of others through the stories we tell. Don’t ever lose that drive.

In closing, we owe thanks to all those who helped us along the way: parents, professors, editors and each other. Without that support we wouldn’t be here.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.” As journalists we can have that impact. We can make a difference. Now is our chance make an impact. I am confident we will.

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