Ohio University and journalism’s future

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As I type this I’m sitting in Terminal B of Cincinnati’s airport. Which, weirdly, is in Kentucky. And if you’re telling me you picture Ohio and Kentucky as map neighbors, I’m calling bullshit.


I digress.

I’m in this spot, on this chair, because last night I spoke to student journalists at Ohio University. I was invited to wild-and-crazy Athens, Ohio, paid a little coin, asked to talk about three stories that would make good process discussions (I chose this, this and—of course—this). My feelings about the trip were, to be honest, mixed. First, I don’t love being away from the wife and kids. Second, I probably have a good amount of upcoming travel for new book research. And, third, Athens is sort of a pain. You either switch flights and land in Columbus or fly to Cincinnati and dive three hours along a stretch of road that can best be described as cardboard-like in excitement and diversity of scenery.

I digress digress.

I was schedule to speak at 7. Beforehand I dined with three students—the guys who split men’s basketball duty for The Post, Ohio U’s excellent student newspaper. Now, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old wad of pudding (which I certainly can be), hanging with 20-somethings isn’t always so great. I mean, I admire and respect and enjoy my Chapman University journalist gang in myriad ways. But do I want to spend the night bar hopping with them? Talking about Migos and whatever teenaged Kardashian is pregnant? Not really.

So I arrived reluctantly. And … these … guys … were … outstanding. It was like being thrown back in time to the University of Delaware student newspaper, circa 1993-94. They dripped with passion and intensity and drive. They see the future as this terrifying-yet-electrical thing. They live for writing. For reporting. For improving. They were dropping names in the business like Scott Skiles once dropped assists (30 in a game for the Magic on Dec. 3, 1990). Howard Beck and Lee Jenkins, Jemele Hill and Wright Thompson). They were Athletic subscribers and ESPN loyalists. They certainly know “lead” is spelled “lede.”

I can’t overstate how unexpectedly inspired it was.

Then—the event. Also great. Probably, oh, 50 students in the room. Questions upon questions upon questions. One student brought a clip and business card. Another two gave me their e-mail addresses. It wasn’t obnoxious—just the opposite. They sought feedback and insight, just as I once sought feedback and insight. Justice Hill, the veteran sports journalist, heads the program, and afterward a bunch of us went for coffee. More questions, questions, questions, journalism, journalism, journalism.

I often wonder about the future of this business, what with cuts and slashes and #fakenews hashtags bringing forth an unfair ugliness from the populace.

But as I sit here, in an Ohio a Kentucky terminal, I feel pretty solid.

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