W. Joseph Campbell

Posts Tagged ‘Pedagogy’

Appealing across generations of students: The Verne Edwards Mystique

In Journalism education, Newspapers on November 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm

The following is an expansion of remarks I offered yesterday, at a memorial service in Delaware, Ohio, for Verne E. Edwards, my undergraduate journalism professor and mentor who died this month at 90-years-old. I dedicated my media mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong, to Edwards, who for 33 years taught journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University.


Verne Edwards, mid-1970s

How was it that Verne Edwards commanded such respect, such reverence, across generations of students?

He was a professor known for rigorous expectations — and sometimes-stern appraisals. I remember writing a headline for the student newspaper, the Transcript, that referred to Mount Union College (now University of Mount Union) as “Mount Vernon.”

In his weekly markup of the Transcript, Verne circled the errant headline in red pencil and identified it as the worst he had ever seen.

Verne was exacting, and could be quirky; he sometimes addressed his classes in a sidelong manner, not making much eye contact. But he was tough, and honest, and fair. And his students tended to feel terrible when they believed they had let him down. As in mistaking Mount Union for Mount Vernon.

The question of Verne Edwards’ appeal across generations has personal dimension and relevance: I have taught at American University for 17 years and know few faculty who command the kind of respect, indeed the reverence, that Verne so clearly won from generations of students. I have puzzled about the qualities and attributes that gained for Verne Edwards such esteem.

It is a puzzle; I call it the Verne Edwards Mystique, and I cannot claim to have fathomed all its sources.

The Verne Edwards Mystique surely sprang, in measure, from the authority borne of high standards and relevant experience. Verne was a print journalist. At one time or another, he wrote editorials or edited copy at such newspapers such as the Detroit Free Press, the Milwaukee Journal, and the Toledo Blade. He wrote the textbook, too — Journalism in a Free Society, which he required in his classes for years.

It was little exaggeration that Ohio Wesleyan’s journalism program was known, to some of us, as “Vernalism.”

The Verne Edwards Mystique was rooted, too, in a deep and abiding interest in students, and a dedication to staying in touch. Verne would keep up on the accomplishments of his former students, and would welcome them back to campus.

Year after year, for many years, Verne prepared an annual alumni newsletter that he filled with details and updates about his students from across the generations. His newsletter was a highlight of the end-of-year holidays. And it created bonds among his former students, even for those who had never met one another.

What may best explain the Verne Edwards Mystique, though, is modesty, a decided modesty.

Verne was no self-promoter. He could have been, surely, given the awards and the recognition he received during his career. But his ego was kept under wraps and under control; his was a modesty that’s rather rare in the academy.

Students sensed that, too. Verne, they knew, was the real deal. And he didn’t flaunt it.


More from Media Myth Alert:

Blogging about journalism history: Why, and why bother?

In Debunking, Media myths on August 10, 2011 at 6:44 am

Journalism historians who blog.

It seems a little oxymoronic.

After all, isn’t journalism history a little too fusty, a little too musty, and a little too obscure to be readily adapted to contemporary social media such as blogging?

One might reflexively think so.

But a panel of four journalism historians who blog will discuss why they do so at a panel in St. Louis this afternoon, during the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

The panel, titled “We blog about journalism history: Why, and why bother,” will consider the value of injecting historical dimension into contemporary debates and critiques about the performance of  news media, both traditional and online.

I’ll moderate and participate on the panel, which will bring together Chris Daly of Boston University, Karen Russell of the University of Georgia, and James McPherson of Whitworth College.

I intend to point out how blogging about journalism history can offer relevant and valuable context to the blogosphere’s never-ending debates about media performance. Journalism historians can bring to those debates perspective and analysis that would otherwise be missing or overlooked.

I also expect to note there are personal reasons for blogging as well. By blogging, journalism historians can test emergent ideas and hypotheses. Blogging can reinforce (and direct attention to) previously published work — much as Media Myth Alert seeks to do in promoting my latest book, Getting It Wrong, which debunks 10 prominent media-driven myths.

Blogging is a way to call out media myths. After all, as historian Gerard DeGroot has pointed out, “The good historian is a mythbuster.”

Blogging also allows journalism historians to take the steps toward developing larger, more detailed works, a point suggested several years ago in an intriguing blog post by Timothy Burke about why historians blog.

Among other points, Burke said he writes online essays because “I want to find out how much of my scholarly work is usefully translatable into a wider public conversation.”

Blogging about journalism history can have pedagogical value and impact far beyond the blogger’s expectations and knowledge. As such, blog posts about topics in journalism history may greatly expand the reach and application of a scholar’s research.

So it promises to be lively, the AEJMC blogging panel, which convenes at 1:30 p.m. in the Landmark #1 meeting room of the Renaissance Grand and Suites Hotel in St. Louis.

Panel-goers are invited to live-Tweet the proceedings, and use the Twitter hashtags #AEJMCblogging and #AEJMC11.


Recent and related:

%d bloggers like this: