Journalism Graduates to Be Recognized at Fall Commencement Ceremonies

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Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 14, 2009) — The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize its graduates during fall commencement ceremonies that will be held at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18, in Jesse Auditorium. Family and friends of the graduates do not need tickets to attend. Seating will be open.

Sallie L. Gaines, BJ '73
Sallie L. Gaines, BJ ’73, Alumna Speaker
Carson Elizabeth Munroe
Carson Elizabeth Munroe, Student Speaker
Juana SummersJuana Summers, Master of Ceremonies

Graduate degrees will be awarded to 48 students, including four doctoral candidates and 44 master’s recipients. Three of the graduates earned their degree through the online master’s program.

Of the 99 undergraduate candidates, 33 studied strategic communication; 26, magazine journalism; 14, radio-television journalism; 11, print and digital news; 10, convergence journalism; four, photojournalism; and one, agricultural journalism.

Overall, one-third of the graduating seniors 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.

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 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18, in 100-A Reynolds Journalism Institute. This year’s inductees are:

Doctoral Candidates

  • Jeesun Kim

Master’s Candidates

  • Courtney Flatt, Convergence Journalism
  • Anne Elizabeth Cicero, Magazine Journalism
  • Mark Stanley, Convergence Journalism
  • Lourdes Fernandez Venard, Media Management, Online

Bachelor’s Candidates

  • Katelyn Elizabeth Duff, Strategic Communication
  • Lauren Ruth Fredman, Magazine Journalism
  • Casey Meredith Phillips, Radio-Television Journalism
  • William H. Powell, Print and Digital News
  • Xenia Shih, Convergence Journalism
  • Kimberly Constance Volk, Strategic Communication
  • Phoebe Wu, Magazine Journalism
  • Joshua Michael Wolff, Print and Digital News

The alumna speaker will be Sallie L. Gaines, BJ ’73, the senior vice president of media relations for Hill and Knowlton, Chicago. She joined the public relations agency in 2000 after 26 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, 23 of them at the Chicago Tribune. In addition to overseeing strategic planning initiatives, Gaines does crisis counseling and media training for H&K nationwide. She works with clients including Pringles, Lettuce Entertain You, Deloitte Consulting, Levy Restaurants and the American Optometric Association.

As a business reporter, Gaines’ beats included manufacturing and metals, transportation/airlines, personal finance and consulting. She also was a business columnist, writing about the Chicago scene. Gaines was the first editor of the Tribune’s award-winning “Transportation” section and was its boating columnist/writer. She also edited the “Saturday New Homes” section, which was named the best real estate section in the U.S. by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Gaines also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola University Chicago. She is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and president of its Leadership Fellows Association (alumni). Gaines is a trustee of the Chicago History Museum and a former board member of Perspectives Charter School┬áin Chicago.

The Master of Ceremonies will be Juana Summers, a convergence journalism major, history minor, from Kansas City, Mo. A Walter Williams Scholar, Summers will intern with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Jefferson City bureau immediately following graduation. She has held internships with the Austin American-Statesman in Texas and WashingtonPost.com. While a student Summers was an active member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and worked for the University of Missouri Department of Residential Life.

The student graduation speaker will be Carson Elizabeth Munroe, a strategic communication major from Ontario, Canada. A Latin honors student, she will enroll in an accelerated two-year nursing program at Queens University in fall 2010. Munroe has interned with Delaware North Companies in New York and JDI Advertising in England. On campus, she has been an active member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and the Mizzou Swim Club team. Munroe helped found a student fundraising and advertising committee and the Art in Health Care committee at University Hospital. She has also worked as a recruitment outreach leader.

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

Alumna Speaker

Sallie L. Gaines, BJ ’73
Dec. 18, 2009

Thank you, Juana. And thank you, Dean Mills, distinguished faculty and proud families and friends. It’s an honor to speak here today. I loved my time at Mizzou, partly because I know I got a good education here, and partly because I made strong friendships that made a huge impact on my personal and professional life.

Now graduates, this is the part where I’m supposed to congratulate you on the wisdom of choosing the University of Missouri and journalism, and where I’m supposed to send you off with glowing promises of success and achievement.

You’ll understand if I’m a bit reluctant to deliver that message to you today. I’m guessing that many of you are graduating without a job in hand, and you’re anxious.

I’m also guessing that many of you are about to start jobs that aren’t exactly what you envisioned when you started here.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. You are victims of a double whammy – graduating during the worst economic recession in 70 years, and amid the greatest upheaval the world of journalism has experienced since the introduction of the computer.

The business of news is changing faster than its leaders and editors can adjust, which is a polite way of saying that most newspapers and magazines are shrinking – assuming they’re still in business at all.

Radio news? Forget it, unless you enjoy endless talk, the louder and ruder the better.

Television has all but given up on news and is trying to attract viewers with caustic commentary and gossip. What does it mean that Jon Stewart is the best interviewer on TV these days? You can call him a fake, you can say he’s playing it for laughs, but he asks the good questions that the so-called experts ignore in their zeal to out-shout each other.

Yes, the Web is the place to go for breaking and constantly updated news – as long as you’re happy with just a paragraph or two.

You’ve heard all of these laments, and I admit I’ve lamented more than my share. I hate shrinking newsrooms because they mean less news is being reported, and many of my friends and colleagues are out of work.

In my public relations job, I hate struggling to figure out what media are worth pitching on behalf of clients.

I hate to see my friends in advertising come up with creative ideas, but hesitate to commit huge client budgets to media that reach fewer and fewer people.

But frankly, it’s time to stop all this lamenting and hand-wringing. Journalism is changing. So what? This isn’t the first time an industry has undergone a sea change.

So, what’s the great new business model going to be for journalism?

I haven’t a clue. And, with all due respect, neither do the distinguished faculty who taught you and who are sitting here today. Conventional wisdom says that, during times of uncertainty, we should seek out the voice of experience for enlightenment and guidance.

Not this time. Frankly, we grey hairs don’t know where this road is leading. So today, I give you graduates this challenge: Youare the ones who must figure out what is next.

No small order, but I am confident you’ll succeed for several reasons.

First, despite all the lamenting, people dowant news. Parents want to understand why their kids are being sent to war. Employed people want to understand why business decisions made in other countries lead to job losses here. Farmers want to understand why they can sell genetically engineered crops in some countries, but not in others.

As we live our lives, we can’t help but recognize that we are affected deeply by events in which we don’t participate directly, and which we do not control. We all want understanding, and that begins with knowing the facts.

Oh yes, there is a demand for news. And where there is demand, I am confident somebody will come up with a way to deliver.

And “deliver” is the key word here. That’s because journalism really is not changing at all, despite all the lamenting and hand-wringing. Journalism still is knowing what makes a good story, knowing how to investigate the facts, knowing how to judge the credibility of sources, knowing the difference between fact and opinion. Journalism is knowing how to write that story, whether for a long-lead time magazine, a community newspaper, a topical blog or a constantly updated Web site. It’s knowing how to craft that story for an audience that will read it, hear it, see it or a combination of those.

It is how that story will be delivered that is changing. And even though all attention lately seems to be on the technology of communication, it’s important to remember that technology is merely a tool – just an updated typewriter and delivery truck.

Technology will never – cannever – replace the human mind and spirit, which are the true sources of journalism.

The same is true for those of you beginning careers in public relations, advertising and marketing. You still have to know how to tell your clients’ stories, how to distinguish fact from fluff, to know the right audience to target, and how to most effectively reach that audience. Crafting and delivering a credible message requires intelligence, creativity and business savvy. No technology will ever replace your brain.

Yes, it’s true that today’s journalism faculty could not teach you what the delivery system or systems will look like in five years. That’s OK, because I know you’re going to figure it out and teach us!

There is a second reason I am confident you will succeed in this challenge. What you didlearn here is journalism. Regardless of the technology delivering the story, you know how to get that story, whether in words or images. You have been taught journalism, whereas too many of your peers – the folks you’ll be competing with for jobs for the rest of your careers – have been taught technology.

Just last week I talked with Jim O’Shea, a former Chicago Tribune colleague and later editor of the Los Angeles Times – and a proud alumnus of the School, having earned his master’s here in 1971. Jim is part of a small group of journalism veterans starting a news co-op in Chicago. His lament is that he is inundated with resumes of young people who know all about delivering a story. They’re all about the latest whiz-bang technologies.

But they don’t have a clue about how to actually find, report and write a story, Jim said. They only know how to send a story around the world after somebody else has written it.

That will never be you. Technology is a tool, one you are comfortable with, but you don’t call it journalism. And that’s what makes you the logical designers of the successful journalism business model to come – you know it’s all about the journalism.

However, as you look for the next news-delivery model, please keep one thing in mind: It absolutely must be profitable.

It costs money to report the news. You need smart, trained people – people like you. You want to be paid a decent salary, right? And it can cost staggering amounts of money to send reporters, camera crews, photographers, translators and their equipment to cover the news. You cannot cover the war in Afghanistan by phone. You can’t reliably report on global warming without having people on the ground in the rain forests of Brazil, the polar ice caps, the grasslands of Africa.

If the economies of all nations are interconnected, you need business and economic reporters in those nations to explain decisions elsewhere that will have repercussions here – and vice versa.

One reason that so-called news has morphed into endless commentary is that talking heads and opinion pieces are a lot cheaper than actually sending reporters to cover the news.

Profit is not a dirty word. It’s what will give you a decent wage. It’s what allows editors to send reporters and cameras to wherever in the world news is happening.

We already see the amazing impact technology has had on our business. There’s no shortage of people who’ve found innovative ways to deliver news and other information faster and faster. You read about them almost daily. But if you read carefully, you’ll notice a paragraph buried at the end of every story. It reads:

“Joe has yet to make any money at his new enterprise, but…”

Get out there and show us how to do it. I and all of the other grey hairs want you to succeed. I’m confident you will. Astonish us. Get rich.

And when you do, don’t forget to hire more journalists.

Student Speaker

Carson Elizabeth Munroe, BJ ’09
Dec. 18, 2009

Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman and especially graduates and your parents.

Graduates, when you woke up this morning, did you feel a variety of emotions? Maybe excitement, for the road ahead; apprehension, most likely a direct result of leaving the warm college bubble; fear, that we won’t see our friends for a long time; and pride, for the accomplishments of our fellow Tigers, our alma mater and becoming new members of the real world.

As we let all of these emotions wash over us, I realized that as new representatives of an up-and-coming generation, there were a few logical things we all need to do immediately after graduation – check Facebook; chat with some friends; and update our statuses to make sure that all our friends, and by friends, I mean anyone we’ve ever spoken to, ever, knows that we are graduated.

After refreshing our pages just a few more times to soak in the last of our college updates, I think it is only necessary to take this opportunity to ask our parents for one last thing: more money, just one more time. I tried and was de-nied! Well, we’re finally graduating and have to fend on our own. So, naturally as journalists, it’s time to pull our cell phones and profoundly tweet, “Broke. Don’t want to graduate. Real world, go away!”

My point, ladies and gentleman, is that our generation is part of a new society with more ways to communicate than ever before. Once-a-day newspapers are not capable of producing the amount of knowledge our society craves. There are numerous outlets to satisfy these new cravings: voicemail, MySpace, Facebook, Skype, Blackberry messaging, iChat, AOL Instant Messaging, Twitter, faxes, e-mail, cell phones, blogs, Web sites, instant Internet updates, and a multitude of iPhone applications. As journalists, you know we never use just one!

Like it or not, these forms of communication have been chosen by our generation as their own. These forms of communication are the future and will constantly be changing from today into tomorrow. But with that future comes a great responsibility to ensure the emerging new kinds of journalism embrace, define and celebrate the traditional hallmarks of accuracy, ethics, and integrity.

It is you, the distinguished leaders of tomorrow, who are charged with the responsibility to continue building this foundation. A free press is essential to our democracy. And while this is a huge responsibility, it is an exciting, honorable one. As our parents and faculty have told us, we will be, and now have become, the future of this industry. At Mizzou, we have received a world-class education, the best instruction and experience that will ensure we bring journalism to new heights. We know that we are capable of this because we have learned from the very best.

At the School’s centennial, we watched hundreds of successful alumni and respected journalists return home. We have had other unique opportunities such as welcoming presidential candidate Barack Obama to address our student body. We have also hosted Lisa Ling who spoke to Mizzou about the importance of quality journalism.

We have a massive network of alumni, faculty and staff who hold impressive accomplishments in the field and pass on their experiences to us everyday both inside and outside the classroom. But most importantly, we have a student body that is passionate about great journalism and has the talent, work ethic and creativity to make it in this business.

And so my fellow graduates, we have traveled as a pack of Tigers for the last four years, and now, it is time to disperse into the wild, real world. Not a single one of you should despair for we have lived up to the prestigious reputation of one of the world’s leading journalism schools. Let the critics mistake a changing field for a dying one. We know the truth. For we are Mizzou, and we are the change.

The principles of journalism and the inspiring nature of our craft pulse in our veins. And because of that, great journalism can never die. Always remember, “Wise shall be the bearers of light.” And lastly, as my mom’s words of wisdom have guided me, I hope you, too, remember to continue to persevere with educated eyes, in fairness and optimism.

Congratulations, graduates of 2009, and welcome to the “Mizzou Mafia!” Thank you.

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