This past Friday and Saturday I accompanied Argus staffers to Chicago, where we attended the 27th Annual Illinois College Press Association Convention. Though we didn’t do as well as we’d hoped at the annual awards, the staff enjoyed sessions on all aspects of journalism presented by working professionals in the Chicago area. One highlight was keynote speaker John Kass. The page two Chicago Tribune columnist inspired students with his tell-it-like-it-is advice. For those who want to go into political journalism he stressed, “Don’t become friends with these people. In politics there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies; there are only permanent interests.” And for those wanting to break into the profession, period, he said they weren’t going to do it by blogging in their pajamas. You do it by reporting, Kass said, telling them they shouldn’t be trying to get a foot in the door; they should be trying to knock it down by working on their own stories on Sundays when everyone else is watching football, and keep pitching stories based on investigation and written in a voice that’s all their own, using plenty of detail. “But you see this?” he said, pulling out a reporter’s notebook. “Don’t use this like a weapon. Keep it in your pocket. Talk to people.” Though Kass said the business is changing right under his feet, he explained, “It’s not that news is dying, it’s just that the delivery system is failing.” He added, “It’s all about storytelling, and that never changes.”
Another highlight came before we even checked into the convention hotel. Argus alum Chris Fusco (’94) offered to give us a tour of the Chicago Sun-Times, where he’s an award-winning general assignment reporter. Duty called and he had to cover Pat Quinn’s press conference. We were left in good hands, though, and students appreciated being able to sit in on Editor-in-chief Don Hayner’s editorial board meeting, during which time Metro editor Shamus Toomey left the room and returned to announce, “Breaking news from Argus alum Chris Fusco: Pat Quinn just called for Roland Burris to resign.” Students were impressed by how Hayner talked directly to them at times and explained the process as each section editor was called upon to report what they had going on. Hayner said their best chance of breaking in was to become multi-talented in an increasingly multi-media world, urging them to become proficient at photography and web programming in addition to their reporting skills. When Chris returned from the press conference, students got the chance to talk with him, too, about his job. “It’s a lot of stress,” he said, but quickly added that he loves it.
Congratulations to Chinny Ekwulugo for winning Honorable Mention in the Critical Review (Film) in the open category (all schools), and to Jessica Hinterlong for taking 3rd Place in the Sports Game Story category among schools with fewer than 4000 students. Here the staff poses for a picture at the awards luncheon: (back row, l to r) editor-in-chief Garrett Rapp, photo editor Erin Tobin, opinions editor William Hanzel, (front, l to r) chief copy editor Chinny Ekwulugo, managing editor Laura Spradlin, and news editor Nicole Travis.