- Florida A&M University
- Tallahassee, FL
Joe Ritchie is a veteran national editor and the former foreign editor at The Detroit Free Press. He now guides students through professional development programs.
The Knight Professor would oversee a program of professional development (focusing on both personal and professional skills), professional forums (involving on-campus guest lectures, student participation in professional conventions and seminars and student field trips to major communication centers), and recruitment (attracting additional high quality students and helping support them with scholarship assistance.) (1990)
The development fund would support professional internships for faculty, travel to professional and academic conferences and meetings, research and public service activities and assistance in completing terminal degrees. By strengthening the academic and professional performance of its entire journalism faculty, FAMU will increase its capacity to help journalism students to become more knowledgeable, more effective and better prepared for their work in the field. (1998)
The Knight Chair has become known throughout the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at FAMU as the “place to go” for students to make their international connections and explore global options. Beyond the FAMU-Shantou partnership created by the Chair, students seek advice about study abroad and overseas internships and fellowships; the university Office of International Education and Development works closely with the Chair and now routinely refers SJGC students to this location. We’ve seen several dozen students obtain passports in the past year, and the Shantou connection has yielded several strong outcomes: our first exchange student, Caryn Wilson, returned to Beijing for a year and managed to score an impressive 5 of 6 on the HSK language proficiency exam, after which she was hired by The New York Times. The second student, Clarece Polke, just returned from a successful exchange semester and is working as an intern in New York with MSNBC. Her final semester at FAMU is Spring 2013. Shantou Professor Peter Herford’s visits to campus early in the spring semester are becoming annual events, and a formal Memorandum of Understanding is now in the works. Three more SJGC students are either enrolled in co-op courses in Mandarin Chinese at Florida State or have indicated that they will register next semester. Other students have studied in France, while others are considering opportunities in Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
Slightly related to the first outcome, the Knight Chair’s last graduate assistant, Wandoo Makurdi, who also was a valuable participant in the summer 2010 South Africa multimedia reporting project, finished her documentary on how South Africa used the World Cup to raise its international profile. The result: First place in the national Society of Professional Journalists 2011 “Mark of Excellence” competition in the Television In- Depth Reporting category (http://www.spj.org/moe11.asp).
Our Professional Development Colloquium series has consolidated efforts to bring together students from our long-divided Journalism and Graphic Communication divisions. Over the past year and a half, we’ve had approximately 450 students work in small groups of three to seven students to produce multimedia projects on topics related to diversity in the media. Virtually all of these groups have included at least one graphic design student working together with several journalism and public relations students. The positive outcome has been heightened awareness of how media professionals produce multimedia in team settings. We’ve had about 80 such groups do these mini- projects, several of which have been outstanding and even competition quality. The Colloquium series also has continued to bring in excellent speakers from across the spectrum of the media world, and the integration between the two divisions has meant far more cross-pollination with speakers with news backgrounds (traditional print and broadcast, online and photo) as well as public relations and graphic design.
Question-and-Answer with Knight Chair
State of the industry: What disturbs you most about journalism and the media industry today? What excites you most?
Even for someone who embraces the digital information age, the rapid consolidation and closing of printed media disturbs me deeply. Just today I’m reading that the latest old print icon to capitulate is Newsweek. Newspapers that are cutting back home delivery to two or three times a week (Detroit!) or abandoning print editions altogether, like the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, will impact precisely those folks who are still on the back side of the digital divide.
On the flip side, it’s encouraging (I’ll wait a bit before saying “exciting” about this development) to see that others are willing to fill the gap, like The Advocate in Baton Rouge, which is trying to produce a New Orleans edition that will be home delivered daily if enough subscribers can be found. I think there is still something to be said for the printed newspaper and news magazine, despite the 24-hour news cycle. Though I have The New York Times mobile app on my iPad, iPhone AND iPod Touch, and use the app regularly, I still unwrap my home delivered newspaper every day to get a better sense of the news value decisions made daily by some of the smartest people in the business. I hope we don’t lose this altogether. I’ve said this before. While the democratization of the news and information business has its positive aspects, most Americans can still use the guiding hands of smart traditional news “gatekeepers” who can help them sort out what is really significant and what is merely entertaining or interesting.
Teaching the profession: What do you do to bring the newsroom into your classroom? How do your students learn about current journalism practices?
Because I have returned to one of the world’s top newsrooms virtually every summer in the past decade (except for leading the South Africa project in 2010), I have stayed on top of current newsroom practices and incorporate my experience directly into my teaching of skills courses. I’ve witnessed firsthand the process of integration of print and Web at The New York Times and its global edition, the International Herald Tribune, and made a personal study of how these two brands integrated their separate online products for the Web. (Their mobile apps remain distinct, though they still integrate much of the content of the two entities.) I’ve been able to use my firsthand knowledge of this integration to show students how this aspect of the news industry is still evolving.