Ohio Journalist

A word from the Director

By Robert Stewart

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(June 13, 2011) — When I became director last year, outgoing director Tom Hodson told me that one of the challenges he hoped I would take on was the bringing together of the various generations of JSchool alumni. To grossly over simplify, Tom felt that the alumni he related to had studied with him back in the late 1960s. Alumni with whom I related more likely had graduated since my arrival at Ohio University in 1987.

Of course, the most recent alumni studied after the advent of the social media revolution, thus are armed with all of the digital dexterity necessary to stay in touch with us and each other. But older alums can struggle a bit when it comes to embracing and using such tools for everyday communication. My guess is, if you were Facebook friends while in college, you are more likely to remain Facebook friends after college. Otherwise, you may not have the digital mechanism to connect, thus the generation gap among our alumni.

The question that Tom asked me last year, and at least one ‘senior’ alumni has asked as well, is: Does it matter that there seems to be a “Generation Gap” separating our alumni? We can easily might be: What’s in it for the older generation, beyond the warm glow of connecting to a fellow Bobcat?

I recently found the answer.

On a recent trip with business journalism students to New York City, we had a “social” for my students and our Big Apple alumni. I witnessed the “a ha” moment, when it became clear to me why it is that our older alumni might want to have easy contact with more recent grads. Larry Neumeister, long-time AP reporter and managing editor of The Post back in 1981, sat with Ellie Behling, who graduated in 2007 and now works for a Web startup in lower Manhattan. During the social, Behling schooled Neumeister on the nitty-gritty of Tweeting, which the AP has asked him to do as part of his job.

In the safety of the Bobcat “cloud” of good feeling surrounding alumni from the JSchool, Behling could, with the good humor that comes naturally to her, coach Larry on good Twitter etiquette, technique, style, etc. A not-so-trival “gift” from a member of the School’s Society of Alumni and Friends.

One obvious exception, I should note, is Dick Linke, who graduated 70 years ago. Dick is a force greater than nature. He lives in Hawaii with his wife, Bettina (also a JSchool alumna), and continues to stay in close contact with friends in Athens. But if you want to connect with Dick Linke, you have to pick up a phone or send a letter (Note: I am Facebook friends with Bettina, so can contact Dick through her). On a recent vacation in Hawaii, I had the chance to interview Dick about his career as well as his student days in Athens back in the 1930s and early ’40s. You can watch that video on our YouTube channel.

If you follow the SAF on Twitter you’ve probably already read about our “Bootcamp” on July 16. At the request of a recent alum, focuses on social media, and will be conducted by 2010 graduate Ryan Lytle. The perfect combo, as far as I’m concerned. Prof. Evarts is passionate about grammar. Lytle is passionate about using social media to connect and communicate. And is it an accident that the event comes on the concluding day of Athens’ Brew Week? I don’t think so.

The 2011 edition of the Ohio Journalist can be downloaded as a PDF.

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