In the last few months I’ve attended a couple of journalistic reunions. And while reunions by nature channel the past, these left me thinking about the future, too.
The first marked the 25th anniversary of when the San Antonio Light stopped its presses forever. Former writers, photographers and editors came from around the country to reconnect and reminisce about the once-powerful daily’s glory days and demise. It was a mellow celebration of memories, with a sprinkling of speculation about what’s ahead for the news biz.
The second gathering sprang from yesterday, but focused on tomorrow. Some Alamo Heights High School alums, led by former Hoof Print (the student newspaper) editors Marie Kisner and Banks Smith, organized a gathering of folks who had worked on the publication, yearbook or literary magazine in the late 1960s and ‘70s.
Peers shared funny and inspiring stories, and praised the late, beloved journalism teacher Mary Norman, in whose name some grads plan to arrange a scholarship fund.
Smith, the paper’s 1969-1970 editor-in-chief, and Yale Phillips, its editorial editor then, related one of the cooler stories. They described the high drama at the start of the school year almost 50 years ago, when campus administration announced plans to shut down the Hoof Print. Smith, Phillips and fellow staffer Kim Manning led a protest campaign so effective the periodical continues to this day.
Meanwhile, Phillips’ daughter, Vivian, an Alamo Heights pupil who’ll be on the Hoof Print this year, also attended. Like the many high school students studying journalism today, she represents the fourth estate’s next generation.
Her interest came in part from her father’s stories, but she has her own reasons to believe in the importance of truth and the practice of responsible storytelling.
“I think in journalism in high school and college, you learn about communicating and checking facts,” she said. “It’s really important to be able to access accurate information from a reputable source. A lot of people get their news from social media, like Instagram, but anyone can write anything there. I love journalism, and I might consider it for a career, but whatever I do, I think I’m gaining important skills.”
Kristin Cade has taught the craft for 25 years – the last 13 at Alamo Heights High School. Her job is more challenging than ever before, she told me.
“It has definitely changed, with smartphones and digital media and fake news at your fingertips. It can be frustrating the way things are sometimes portrayed, or that people can be so quick to believe anything on Facebook,” the career educator said.
“But, I am just as passionate about helping students see the world as it really is, and to report both sides of the issue, even if it’s not what you, the reporter, personally agree with it. And, I think that teachers across the land are still passionate about it, too,” Cade added.
Although journalism is an elective, more students are signing up for her courses in recent years, she noted.
As long as teachers continue to believe passionately in teaching good journalism practices, and students continue to learn to value the free press and its importance to our society, I believe there’s hope for the future of real news.
To me, that’s good news.