Schieffer introduces new director
Associated Press executive and former bureau chief John O. Lumpkin will take over the journalism program effective June 1, 2009.
By Rick Waters '95
When his son was choosing a university to study journalism in the early 1990s, John O. Lumpkin was not surprised that he turned down an offer from Northwestern and a scholarship from Missouri.
TCU offered something they couldn’t – hands-on opportunity on Day 1.
"He met several of the faculty and was told what he wanted to hear. You can get in on the Skiff when you get here. No waiting til your junior year,” the elder Lumpkin recalled. “That’s what his experience was here. Eventually, he became the editor and went on to a newspaper career and then to the Associated Press, where he wound up covering the Pentagon.”
Now senior Lumpkin is the one choosing TCU.
The Schieffer School of Journalism named him the program’s new director on Dec. 22. Lumpkin, a vice president and former bureau chief for the Associated Press, will assume the role on June 1. (Click here for the news of his announcement.)
“John is first and foremost a reporter and a news executive,” said Bob Schieffer '59, moderator of CBS News’ "Face the Nation" who introduced Lumpkin to the university community this afternoon. "He brings a wealth of real world experience that we need to take the school to a new level. He is widely known and greatly respected in the journalism community and we are fortunate to get him.”
Lumpkin will continue his position at the AP through May.
“I have had a great run with the greatest news organization in the world and will miss it, but I am excited for this opportunity and the tremendous potential TCU and the Schieffer School have to offer.”
Schieffer and Lumpkin also used the introductory event to unveil renderings for the 2,350-square-foot media convergence lab for students to produce news reports for multiple media platforms from traditional print to online video. It would function along with the TCU Daily Skiff newsroom. (See renderings here or below.) Construction of the lab and renovation of the J.M. Moudy Building, projected to cost $5.6 million, is scheduled to begin in May and finish by January 2010.
“The goal is to make the Schieffer School one of the top, if not the top, journalism programs in the country,” Lumpkin said. “It should be mentioned in the same breath with Northwestern and Missouri and others.”
The technological improvements are “critical” to train future journalists who can exhibit their reporting and writing skills across multiple platforms, he said. He also credited scholar-practitioners in the faculty with developing those skills and help students understand how to maximize the technology and resources.
“Journalism and mass communication is changing rapidly, but it still comes down to reporting – knowing where and how to find news, accurately gather and check facts, prioritize and organize the information, and communicate it in a compelling way,” he said. “That’s true of print, television, radio, the Internet.”
Schieffer agreed. “Our emphasis will be on individual reporting training,” he said.
Lumpkin said he would like to eventually teach in the school, in addition to his directorial duties. Schieffer, however, plans to continue his career with CBS News for the near term, but he will organize and host his annual symposium in the spring.
“I’d also like to start some journalism workshops during the year,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and colleagues in the business and I envision bringing them to events on special topics, such as law enforcement coverage, courthouse reporting, feature writing.”
The school recently partnered with the Washington D.C. think tank CSIS and hosts monthly symposia on world affairs.
Lumpkin envisions a more formalized recruiting process of students. the school will recruit talented high school journalists nationwide, looking at associations, award programs and other sources that might help identify them
Both Schieffer and Lumpkin expressed optimism about journalism’s future despite the current advertising downturn, which has prompted widespread layoffs and buyouts. They said people’s need for news will ensure that jobs continue to exist, although business models may change.
"Nobody knows where journalism is going," Schieffer said. "Nobody knows whether our students here at TCU will be working for newspapers, Web sites or television stations. So we’re going to make sure that everybody who works here is familiar with all the various platforms in journalism."
"News and information has never had a larger audience than now in the history of the modern world," Lumpkin said. "There is an audience."
Schieffer said blogs, Web sites, even Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, depend on the work of journalists to provide information. Democracy cannot exist without an accurate free press, he said.
They also agreed that journalists must change. They can no longer specialize in just print or broadcasting, so TCU will change the way it teaches with the convergence lab, said David Whillock, dean of the College of Communication.
Yet the basics will continue to be emphasized.
"For all the technology, the profession still comes down to the individual reporter," said Schieffer. "The individual reporter who has the courage and the expertise and the knowledge, who goes to wherever the story is, gets the story and then tells it to his viewers and to his readers and to his listeners in language they can understand . . . that’s still the basics of what people will learn here at TCU."
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