My name is Jeff Browne, and it is my distinct honor to address you as the new Executive Director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association. Doing so in the shadow of John Hudnall’s distinguished career humbles me, but I believe I’m up to the task of serving as his successor.
I met many of you at one of our fall conferences, Sept. 21, 22 and 23, 2009, in Hays, Manhattan and Lawrence, where I have my office in the University of Kansas’ School of Journalism. (I teach two courses per semester for KU and run the summer Kansas Journalism Institute.)
First, a little about me: I come to Kansas most recently from Colorado State University, where I served as Director of Student Media, the Executive Director of the Colorado High School Press Association, and as an adjunct professor in the journalism department. In my 10 years at CSU, I advised students in newspaper, yearbook, magazine, radio, television and online journalism. I developed a course for the journalism department in multimedia news production, and I was lucky enough to work with hundreds of talented young journalists.
Prior to my years at CSU, I taught journalism for nine years at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colo., and for six years I was a sports writer covering college athletics at daily newspapers in Florida.
And as challenging as all those jobs have been, teaching high school journalism may very well have been the most difficult.
Most high school advisers exist on an island in their schools, finding creative ways to express their love of the language, their joy in working with students, their passion for good storytelling, their love-hate relationship with technology, their place on their school’s faculty, their status in the community and their commitment to education. Toss in the never-ending deadlines and the sometimes unreasonable demands of bureaucrats at every level, and it’s enough to maintain a level head.
That’s where state-wide and national organizations come in. They become your support system and, at times, your lifeline. Those organizations also open a world of education and training that can help you every day and in every class.
I encourage all Kansas advisers to join our organization. A $40 membership allows you and your students to attend fall conferences at discount, and it allows your students to enter Story of the Month and Photo of the Month contests. In February, KSPA organizes regional competitions for its member schools’ students, and the top journalists from there move on to the May 1 state competition on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. Members also may join our Facebook group, where you can share ideas, chat and generally amuse each other about the thrills of advising scholastic media.
If you advise student journalism in Kansas, memberships in KSPA and the Journalism Education Association, located at Kansas State University in Manhattan, are essential components in building your skills and honing your students’ as we all face the challenges of teaching journalism in the digital age. They also allow an advisers island to grow a little larger, and to be populated with friends and acquaintances who share the same passions, concerns and deadlines.
I will use this blog space throughout the year to draw your attention to many items that may help you better understand your role as a journalism educator:
- Summary blog posts of news about scholastic journalism;
- Links to tips about “best practices”;
- Updates on Kansas State Department of Education decisions and programs; and
- Generally anything that sparks excitement in teaching high school journalism.
Additionally, selected members of the KSPA Board also will write posts, and KU students who work on the KSPA office staff will produce content for the site.
Taking the reins from John Hudnall, who poured 19 years of his life into this organization, is certainly a daunting task, but with an active membership and an experienced Board of Directors, I know we can continue to build on John’s legacy on behalf of all Kansas’ student-journalists, past, present and future.
Finally, although I grew up in Nebraska and have lived in New Jersey, Florida and Colorado, I look forward to playing some tiny part in the grand history of independent journalism in Kansas, in the tradition of William Allen White, A. Q. Miller and the countless now-forgotten editors of papers all across the state. In fact, Kansas boasted more than 4,300 newspapers in the 1930s.
And as the state’s flower is the hearty sunflower (and as we’ve incorporated it into our organization’s logo), I’ll close with words written in 1904 by a nostalgic former Kansan, now also forgotten, in hopes that the traits displayed by the sunflower can be a guiding philosophy for future generations of Kansas journalists and their mentors:
“The sunflower was always out in the open. It did not hide in dark places and it did not seek the shade. It made its own way. It was no parasite. It stood by the dusty roadside and out on the high prairie — and you always knew what it meant . . . . It turned its gold petals and black center always toward the sun. No matter how fiercely the heat beat down, it faced the music and never blinked.”