I was so anxious to get to work I didn't hang around for the graduation ceremony.
Now, 34 years later, my younger daughter Cindi received her master's degree in journalism from Medill, and after attending her graduation the other Saturday I wish I'd stayed for my own. What I liked about it was the sense of continuity-that in spite of the technology revolution confronting the graduates of today, Medill is still teaching the same reporting principles and ethics my class and I learned.
Jay Harris, publisher of Knight-Ridder's San Jose Mercury-News and a Medill alum and former professor, acknowledged in his commencement address that the new technology will change "the role and social purpose of journalism." Still, he said, "enduring principles, your highest ideals, will provide beacon lights. The best traditions point us toward doing the right thing," Mr. Harris said. So, he advised the graduates, "embrace change but hold fast to those values."
I remember working hard at Medill (mostly on the Daily Northwestern, if truth be told; I was sports editor when Northwestern had a good football team)-but not as hard as Cindi and her classmates. "I never did so much writing in my life," Cindi said. "It was demanding from Day One."
That's the way it was and that's the way it should be. Medill throws a lot at students; the real world isn't neat and precise, and neither is Medill.
Cindi probably got the most out of her quarter on magazine management, in which students come up with their own concept for a magazine and then research the idea, sell the ads, write the copy and produce a prototype issue. Abe Peck, who presides over their efforts, told me the course is really as much on behavioral psychology as it is magazine management. "The students find that it's harder to give orders than to take orders. It's very collegial, the '90s kids want to get along. But they find there's got to be a hierarchy; the buck has to stop with somebody." Cindi's class came up with a trade magazine called Camp Management, designed, as the prospectus states, "to help camp administrators run more successful camps." It's a solid concept (they "sold" ads to 80 different companies), and two organizations are thinking of actually publishing the magazine (for a slight fee to Medill, of course).
Jay Harris, in his commencement remarks, asked that the students "follow a course of their own choosing." I gave Cindi a book of poetry by Robert Frost, who expressed much the same sentiment: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."