Missouri School of Journalism to Recognize 505 Graduates at Spring Commencement Ceremonies

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Columbia, Mo. (May 8, 2009) — The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize its 505 May and August graduates during commencement ceremonies at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, May 16, at Mizzou Arena. Family and friends of the graduates do not need tickets to attend. Seating will be open.

Graduate degrees will be awarded to 64 students, including two doctoral candidates. There are 62 master’s recipients, seven of whom earned their degree through the online master’s program. The School first made its online graduate program available in the fall of 2001 with offerings in strategic communication and media management. The program enrolls more than 60 students annually.

Dorothy Gaiter
Dorothy Gaiter, BJ ’73
Alumna Speaker
Michael Brannen
Michael Brannen
Student Speaker
Kevin Gehl
Kevin Gehl
Master of Ceremonies

Of the 441 undergraduate candidates, 39 studied convergence journalism; 109, magazine journalism; 24, photojournalism; 59, print and digital news; 59, radio-television journalism and 149 studied strategic communication.

This year’s graduating class includes 28 Walter Williams Scholars. The program was created in 2004 in honor of the School’s founding dean, Walter Williams, and recognizes the highest-achieving incoming journalism students at Missouri. To be considered for the program, applicants must earn an ACT score of at least 33 (1460 on the SAT). Graduating Walter Williams Scholars will wear a red honor cord with their academic regalia.

Overall, 165 graduating seniors will be recognized with Latin honors. These students have at least a 3.5 grade point average for their last 60 graded MU credit hours.

The top 10 percent of the School’s graduates will be inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society founded at the Missouri School of Journalism in 1910. Its goal is to unite students with exceptional achievement from the nation’s leading journalism and mass communication schools. The ceremony and reception for the 43 inductees will be held prior to the May 16 graduation ceremony from 3 to 5 p.m. in 100A Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Kappa Tau Alpha Candidates

Bachelor’s Candidates

  • Maggie K. Brown
  • Tiffany Phoebe Chan
  • Pam Rose Cohen
  • Erin Nicole Cover
  • Brittany Elizabeth Darwell
  • Chad Stephen Day
  • Rebecca Marie Delaney
  • Laura Elizabeth Grossman
  • Erin Elizabeth Harmeyer
  • Jordan P. Hickey
  • Amanda Kelly Hoffman
  • Rachael Christine Keck
  • Quinn LaMoine Kelsey
  • Kathryn Rose Krawczak
  • Christine Martinez
  • Elle Rose Moxley
  • Laura K. Myers
  • Karen Nicole Ostergren
  • Chelsey Pollock
  • Kimberly Pribisko
  • Phil Michael Prouhet
  • Emily Wenzel Ristow
  • Samantha Rae Schaefer
  • Annelise Marie Searle
  • Andrew Jason Shepler
  • Ashley A. Smith
  • Jacob Stokes
  • Meghan Sundermeier
  • Lindsay Toler
  • Steven Blaze Welliver
  • Taylor Forbes Wiegert
  • Julie Ann Zykan

Master’s and Doctoral Candidates

  • Lindsay Nicole Barnes
  • Joshua Alan Bickel
  • Jacalyn Marie Borchardt
  • Thomas Kearney Cullen
  • Cristina Patricia Daglas
  • Katherine Anne Harmon
  • Andrea Maruniak
  • Amber Taufen
  • Brian L. Thompson
  • Emily Jo Younker
  • Katherine M. Myers (Hill)

The alumna speaker will be Dorothy Gaiter, BJ ’73, who, along with her husband, is the wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal. While a student at the School, Gaiter served as one of the founding editors of Blackout, a newspaper published by the University of Missouri’s African-American students. Following graduation, Gaiter worked as a reporter at The Miami Herald and an editor at the Miami News before joining The New York Times as a reporter for the week-in-review section, the metro desk and the style section. In 1984, Gaiter returned to the Miami Herald where she would become the paper’s first African-American female editorial writer and regular Op-Ed columnist.

In 1990, Gaiter became a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and by 1996 she had become the Journal’s national news editor who made coverage of race relations and urban affairs a priority. Her work in that capacity has been nominated two times for the Pulitzer Prize, and she’s won awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York and the National Association of Black Journalists.

In 1998, when the Journal launched its Weekend Edition, Gaiter and her husband, John Brecher, added the wine column to their regular duties. They became full-time wine columnists in 2000. Together, they’ve published four books, including “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine: New and Improved,” “Wine for Every Day and Every Occasion: Red, White and Bubbly to Celebrate the Joy of Living,” and “Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes From a Marriage.” Their column in the Journal, Tastings, has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

The Master of Ceremonies will be Kevin Gehl, who will graduate as a radio-television journalism major. Originally from Pleasanton, Calif., Gehl has been active as a KOMU-TV sports reporter and anchor. He also has served as a sports director for MU’s student-run radio station, KCOU 88.1. In 2008 Gehl was voted the University’s homecoming king, and he has served as president for the Friars Chapter of the Mortar Board National Honor Society. Mizzou ’39 selected him as a top senior. Gehl also worked as a campus tour guide and has written for The Maneater, MU’s independent student newspaper, in addition to working with Outreach Student Recruitment and the Student Athletic Board.

Michael Brannen, a radio-television journalism and business double major, will serve as the student speaker. Originally from Brookfield, Wis., Brannen created the first sports trivia game show on Mizzou’s student television network. He has worked at WITI-TV in Milwaukee and has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with Mark of Excellence awards for his work at KOMU-TV. Brannen will begin his graduate studies at the School this fall.

All the graduates will receive a copy of the “Class Tribute,” a booklet in which seniors, their families and faculty had the opportunity to make a gift in honor of their loved ones and to thank all those who made their success possible.

Additional information about the commencement ceremonies is available from the MU Commencement Web site. Gaiter and Brannen’s speeches will be available on the School’s Web site after commencement.

Alumna Commencement Speaker

Dorothy Gaiter, BJ ’73
May 16, 2009

Thank you. To Dean Mills, esteemed faculty, graduates and their families, I am so flattered to be here today at the close of the school year in which you celebrated the 100th anniversary of this great institution.

Thirty-six years ago, when I was graduating from this wonderful place, our nation was in a recession. The U.S. was trying to find an honorable way out of Vietnam. And gas rationing was just months away.

And yet, it was a golden time for journalism.

Woodward and Bernstein were making us proud as their reporting got to the bottom of Watergate, or perhaps I should say to the top.

Today, we’re in a worldwide economic recession. Our nation is immersed in two wars. And journalism? Newspapers and magazines, we’re told everywhere we turn, are on life support. And the radio and television industries are flagging, too.

This is indeed a challenging time for our profession. But in many ways, your timing couldn’t be better. There are so many more and new ways to distribute news today. If you think about it, every advance in technology has brought with it some anxiety and fears of dislocation.

When I was a student here, we wrote on typewriters. And when I got to the Miami Herald, my first job after graduation, my stories were set in hot type by typesetters. I can hear what you’re thinking: Man, is she old!

Yep, I am. But because of these advances in technology, there have never been more opportunities to do good journalism. And no technological advance will alter the public’s need for honest journalists who can deliver accurate, fair and trusted information through a fiercely independent vehicle, whether it’s on newsprint, over the airways or online.

And you know what? Some newspapers still have a pulse. Last month, the Audit Bureau of Circulation reported that the Wall Street Journal was the only major U.S. newspaper among the top 25 to show growth in total circulation. Journal folks attribute that feat to investments in print and online products that provide subscribers with greater value. These investments include: expanded coverage of politics, in the U.S. and around the world; more editorial pages, additional WSJ.com global editions, and new products, such as the WSJ Mobile Reader application for the Blackberry and iPhone.

I am encouraged, looking at you, that so many smart young people are excited about doing this kind of work, for it is necessary to keep democracies strong. As Walter Williams wrote in The Journalist’s Creed, we are “trustees for the public,” and “the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.”

And you are so well prepared to engage in that type of public service. As Michael said, you are indeed a class of trailblazers.

I have so many connections to this place, apart from the excellent preparation that I received here. Lee Hills Hall, home of the Missourian, is named for the legendary Lee Hills, who used to walk through the Miami Herald newsroom when I worked there. People would stop whatever they were doing to return his smile. He held many important positions with the Herald, from editor to publisher and eventually he became head of Knight Newspapers. He was physically small — about my height — but he had a giant intellect, and he was an untiring advocate for fearless, fair and accurate journalism. John Knight, whose family owned the Miami Herald and other newspapers and whose Knight Foundation has funded many important programs on this campus, also occasionally walked through the Herald newsroom in the early 70s. Sometimes he would walk up to a black reporter, smile, raise his hand and say, “Write on!” Yep, it was corny but it was his sweet way of trying to connect with the minorities who were new to his and other American newsrooms back then. I was just grateful that he didn’t linger to explain to me that it was a pun.

I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I was about 10. I grew up in Florida, the segregated South. My inspiration were the courageous journalists who covered the civil rights movement, many from Northern media outlets, but some very brave ones from the South, who were sometimes going against the culture of their local communities to tell the stories of my people. I seized on journalism as a way to promote tolerance and understanding; to educate and explain. So I wrote about race for more than 25 years and a subset of that, poverty. It was writing about poverty that resulted in one of my most important pieces of reporting.

On Friday, Nov. 20, 1981, I was sitting at my desk at the New York Times when a metro editor handed me an assignment: The federally subsidized Meals on Wheels program provided elderly mostly homebound people with one hot meal Monday through Friday. But on weekends, they had to fend for themselves, often without either the money or the ability to buy and prepare food. I was to go talk to some of those shut-ins.

Some were trying to make do by saving a slice of bread or a piece of fruit from the Friday meal to tide them over until Monday. Some were eating pet food because it was inexpensive and nutritious. The director of the program told me he had asked 85 food companies to contribute Christmas baskets and every one of those companies had refused. By the time I got back to the newsroom, my tears had dried and I filed my story.

The day that it ran with an amazing photograph of Roberta Garvey in her wheelchair and utterly alone, the very picture of vulnerability, restaurant critic Gael Greene read my story and called her friend James Beard, a towering figure in America’s culinary history. He had been distressed by the story, too. Together they began calling their friends in the food world, asking each for $430, the amount needed to feed 100 people an extra meal each week. No one refused. Eventually, Greene sat down with New York City’s Department for the Aging and worked out a plan where 100 percent of all privately raised money would be used to feed more people meals. That first year, their efforts fed 6,000 people Christmas meals. Last year, Citymeals on Wheels, the name they gave the new program, paid for the preparation and delivery of more than 2.2 million meals to 18,065 elderly New Yorkers.

I’ve shared that with you not to toot my own horn. In fact, my byline did not appear on the story. The New York Times back then had a policy that a reporter could only have one byline each day. It didn’t matter if you wrote five stories in one day’s paper. As it happened, on the Sunday that that story ran, I had another, a Page One story, and the editors put my byline on that one. Years later, long after I’d left the paper, someone at the Times went into the newspaper’s archives and affixed my name to the piece on hunger, which was very sweet.

But the reason I’ve shared this with you is to make the point that you don’t have to bag a sitting president to earn your chops as a journalist. However, naturally, if you’ve got the goods, it’s your duty to take him — or, some day, her — down. As Watergate underlined so effectively, no one is above the law.

My point is that there are stories everywhere, every day that can change your communities for the better. Someone has to hold accountable those, wherever they are, who make decisions that affect the public. Somewhere, as we sit here, some official is stealing public money. There’s a Ponzi scheme unfolding somewhere, maybe not as big as what Madoff perpetrated but one that will steal the hard-earned money of working people. There’s a bridge or a system of dams somewhere that’s vulnerable to a hurricane, hopefully not one with the force of Katrina. There is still poverty in the world, and racism, corruption, hatred and oppression.

There are no unimportant assignments just as there are no unimportant people.

And while you are out there doing good journalism, don’t forget to get a life. No editor will ever care for you the way your loved ones do. Don’t ever forget that. And if you have a hobby, another passion besides journalism, make time for it. You never know where it will lead.

After a quarter century of writing about race and poverty, wine, a once private passion that my husband and I shared for 35 years, is now my beat. Strange, but true. It’s not your usual wine column, in fact we think of it as a lifestyle column that uses wine as a hook to discuss the important things in life like love and family. Advertising Age magazine wrote approvingly in 2000, the year that I became a fulltime wine writer, that our column shows that “the medium of print remains a wonderful vehicle for the inculcation and maintenance of community.”

So my own journey has been a long and winding road through some of America’s finest newspapers. Ask me what I do for a living and I am proud to say: I am a journalist. And I’m especially proud to say I am a Missouri School of Journalism-trained journalist. Forty years from now, I hope you will be just as proud as I am to say that.

Your parents, your professors and your school have given you a great gift: You have the tools to change the world. Now go out and use them.

Student Commencement Speech

Michael Brannen
Radio-Television Journalism

Four years sure feels like four days.

It wasn’t too long ago we received our high school diplomas.

In a blink of an eye, we were bombarded with our first college textbooks, iBooks and Facebooks.

We had 16 inches of snow in one night, a Nazi demonstration, a number one football team, and who could forget, a monkey on the lam.

To every journalist in here who reported on one of these events, I ask: Can you remember every word you wrote?

I don’t remember the words I used to explain the Tigers whirlwind football season last year, but I can tell you how awesome it felt to see that clod of grass hanging onto Todd Reesing’s helmet.

My point is, for all the writing that goes into journalism, what we remember is not what we wrote, but what we felt.

The J-School spent four years preaching good writing to make our stories memorable.

These days, it takes more than good writing.

We must develop more Internet skills than any other graduating class.

We are a class of trailblazers because we are the first to experience four full years of convergence journalism.

Social networking has been our identity. I have an unusual request that only J-School students would really follow through with in a graduation ceremony.

I ask, now, in an hour, or later tonight, make a tweet to “mugrads2009,” and explain what today means to you.

It is a Twitter profile solely for our class.

Your posts will symbolize exactly what the J-School taught us: to become embedded in every networking medium.

Your tweet could be the most treasured thing you’ve written in college, not because of the words you chose, but how you felt when you chose them.

Scared, anxious, proud, or excited…in 140 words or less.

Maybe it summarizes how four years seemed to go by under a week’s time.

Maybe how your parents are taking you to The Winery after graduation.

Just like a well-written story, today’s emotions should be unique.

Years into the future, you’ll catch up with your fellow classmates.

You’ll tell them how in your early days, your first big screw-up at that new job resulted in your first F-my-life.com post.

You’ll tell them how your adrenaline kicked in on election night while texting the latest polls online.

You’ll tell them how dangerous it was to follow the troops while filing a report through Skype.

When you reflect on your career, you’ll thank the J-School for punishing you with spotty lab equipment, impossible-to-please professors and incessant deadlines.

You’ll be thankful that through it all, you had classmates also suffering, albeit lovingly, through it, too.

You’ll share the knowledge that you became the best journalists out there because of the Missouri Method.

You’ll remember how four years at Mizzou felt like the best four days of your life.

Congratulations to the social networking class of 2009.

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