There is plenty to be pessimistic about in the newspaper industry these days.
But I won’t dwell on that in this column, because my intention is to focus on the bright future for journalism. Yes, you read that correctly.
If you ever need to regain a proper perspective and enthusiasm for something, I’d recommend spending a little time around young people who have their whole lives in front of them. Their possibilities are as endless as their enthusiasm.
I was reminded of this attending the national Journalism Education Association convention late last year in Chicago. The most recent reminder came when the Illinois Journalism Education Association had its annual luncheon at the Illinois Press Association/Foundation office in Springfield. This year’s luncheon included the awarding of the All-State Journalism Team. This year, it also included a passing of the torch from IJEA Executive Director Sally Renaud of Eastern Illinois University to the organization’s new leader, Linda Jones of Roosevelt University.
If you ever need testimony of how being around journalism students can keep veterans excited and enthused about what they do, talk to Sally or Linda some day.
Anyway, I was dragging a bit when I showed up for the IJEA event at 9 a.m. on June 1. In addition to being the director of the Illinois Press Foundation, I have been serving as bureau chief of Capitol News Illinois.
The state legislative session had been scheduled to end May 31, so when the IJEA event was planned I thought June 1 would be a day of celebrating the end of a busy few months with Capitol News Illinois. I figured it would be a day to exhale and breathe a little easier.
But state government rarely cooperates with the schedules of us folks out in the real world, and this legislative session was no different. May 31 ended up being a day lawmakers met past midnight, and June 1 (and June 2) was an additional day of the extended session. So, I got a brief nap in after Friday’s coverage was wrapped up and before Saturday’s IJEA event began.
I know, I know. Suck it up, Rogers. Journalists work like that all the time!
Truth be told, I didn’t necessarily need a jolt of enthusiasm that Saturday morning. You see, I find just about every aspect of our work at Capitol News Illinois to be rejuvenating. But, yeah, I was tired.
I spoke to the group for 15 minutes or so about Capitol News Illinois. That perked me up a bit. Then, during lunch I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Trenton Butler, who was sitting at our table. Trenton was co-editor-in-chief of The Advocate student newspaper at Washington Community High School. He was excited about his next adventure in life, as a student at the University of Georgia.
Trenton was there because he was one of the members of the 2019 All-State Journalism Team. Eight of the 14 All-Staters attended the luncheon, with their parents and in some cases their advisers. As they were being honored after the lunch, I learned of Isaac Goffin’s enthusiasm for covering sporting events at Conant High School regardless of the weather conditions. I heard about Elese Smith picking up additional assignments as editor-in-chief of the Jersey Community High School yearbook after some students left the staff after the first semester.
Emma Brown, managing editor of The Sentinel student newspaper at Marist High School, wrote, edited, shot photographs, assigned stories and coordinated news conferences. Emma Trone, editor-in-chief of the U-High Midway at the University of Chicago Laboratory High School, was one of only three students responsible for all aspects of the print and online editions.
These kids, just like you, are battling the elements, taking on additional responsibilities, and doing a little bit of everything to do their jobs well. And they are enthusiastic about it.
And speaking of enthusiasm, boy, did Brett Elliott bring it! Elliott, the principal of Richwoods High School in Peoria, was named the 2019 IJEA Administrator of the Year. He has helped the Richwoods broadcast, newspaper and yearbook staffs thrive. And hearing him speak about his passions for education, journalism and life in general, it was easy to see how well he motivates students.
If there was a theme for the day, it was that journalism is alive and well. The demand for quality journalism is as strong as ever, it just looks different these days than it did for the many of us who have been practicing the craft for decades. There are plenty of examples of that shift on digital and social media platforms. Heck, even Capitol News Illinois is an example of the changes occurring.
My wish is that we all can embrace those changes and opportunities the way these students and educators have!