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Spring 2009 Cover Story

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Over the past 20 years, the Internet, new technologies, 24-hour access to information, a charged political climate and a heightened focus on the personal lives of public figures—not to mention the wave of blogs, cable news outlets and social networking sites—have significantly impacted the news we receive and the ways we get our news. We rely on journalists from print, radio, television and the Internet to provide balanced, unbiased information, although it seems that editorially-based news is just as popular. How, then, do we prepare future journalists to be skilled, ethical practitioners in this fast-moving information age? 

“Students need to be flexible and be able to adapt. They need to be able to tell stories in a variety of ways,” says Assistant Professor of Journalism Thomas Stanton. “They also need to be able to write and to think visually.”  Stanton, a journalist and former UDM instructor, returned to the McNichols Campus last fall to invigorate the Journalism program, coordinate the Neal Shine Media Center, and assume the role of faculty advisor for the UDM student newspaper, Varsity News. He’s also an award-winning author. His book, Ty and the Babe, was recently reissued in paperback, and he was honored in October as the Michigan Library Association’s Author of the Year. Stanton has been working to develop the Journalism program so that graduates are well-prepared to face the challenges of whatever aspect of the media they hope to concentrate their careers.

“We are continually reevaluating courses and changing them,” says Stanton. “No matter the medium, students need to know how to report and tell stories. That’s what we teach them. Whether working with words or audio or video, the key is telling the story. We prepare them by giving them the skills they need.” 

Are ethics a significant part of the curriculum? “Absolutely. Ethics are part of every journalism course we teach. Ethical journalists make for more credible journalists. I believe that as the media market becomes more fragmented and crowded, credibility will be our most valued asset.” 

Stanton says he also exposes students to real-world experience by bringing area professionals into his classrooms. 

“In the past several months, for example, our visitors have included Free Press sports columnist Drew Sharp, broadcaster Dan Dickerson, Detroit News reporter Joanne Gerstner, Automotive News online editor Phil Nussel and Free Press blogger Oneita Jackson,”  he adds. “We also tap Detroit pros to teach as adjunct faculty. Several of our students are going to The Detroit News for classes in online journalism with two top online editors.” 

Several of those students are freshmen, and their work is already appearing in the Neighborhood Blog at www.detnews.com. In addition, The Varsity News is online (www.thevarsitynews.net) with audio and video, and students are embracing it, according to Stanton.

Hundreds of alumni have made the transition from UDM’s Journalism program into successful careers in the media and have adapted to the changes along the way.  On the following pages, Stanton, and three UDM graduates, weigh in on the challenges they face every day in their jobs, whether it be ethical issues, new technology or the changing expectations of the public. 

Ron Fournier ‘85, is the Washington Bureau chief for The Associated Press. Marie Osborne ‘79, is the morning anchor for WWJ-950 Newsradio, and Luther Keith ‘72, former editor and columnist for The Detroit News, is executive director of ARISE Detroit!.

Read what alumni media experts have to say