Until Next Time…

At this time in 1971, I was getting ready to start my freshman year as a journalism major at Saint Bonaventure University. Forty years later, I find myself returning to Saint Bonaventure, about to begin a new chapter in my career as a member of the school’s journalism and mass communication faculty.

It makes for a nice story with a lot of symmetry. Not only is Saint Bonaventure my alma mater; it is the place where I met my wife, made some of my closest and lifelong friends, and acquired skills and values that helped to shape me professionally and personally.

But I am not returning to Saint Bonaventure for nostalgia. I’m heading back Richard Lee Office Sign to the university near Olean, N.Y., because I am passionate about journalism and the critical role it plays in our society.

Journalism in America is at a critical juncture today. The internet has radically altered the manner in which news is gathered, reported and delivered. It also has undercut the financial foundation of the industry at the worst possible time – in the midst of a global economic crisis. On the other hand, the internet provides unprecedented benefits for all of us as consumers of news. It enables us to receive news and information faster and more conveniently than ever.

As a consequence, the challenges confronting journalists in the 21st Century also are greater than ever. Mergers and consolidations have resulted in an unhealthy concentration of media ownership. Cutbacks, layoffs and buyouts have depleted personnel and resources. Yet while the business side of the industry struggles, the journalism side continues to do its job — and do it well.

Last week, I wrote about New Jersey’s Race to the Top debacle, recounting how the state lost $400 million in federal education funds a year ago because of a clerical error. The error, which ultimately cost a cabinet member his job, might not have come to light without the journalists who pursued the story. Likewise, we may never have known that Governor Christie took a state helicopter to his son’s high school basketball game had not a reporter broke the story, which eventually resulted in the Governor reimbursing the state for the ride. And earlier this year, an article on the struggles of agencies that combat poverty in New Jersey so moved Bruce Springsteen that he took time to write a letter to the editor to the Asbury Park Press commending the paper and the author of the story.

At a time when critics of the media are extremely vocal, I find inspiration in this type of journalism and hope for the future of the industry. As a journalist, much of my work at the Hall Institute and my research at Rutgers University has focused on media issues and the importance of quality journalism. At this stage in my career, I believe the best way for me to foster quality journalism is to train the next generation of journalists.

This is why I have decided to leave the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey for a teaching position at Saint Bonaventure. Although this is my final column as Communications Director of the Hall Institute, it will not be the last you hear from me. Once I am settled in my new job at Saint Bonaventure, I hope to find time to write an occasional column for the institute and the various internet news sites that have been kind enough to post my work over the past few years.

So rather than say goodbye, I prefer to sign off with a phrase I learned in Italy: A domani. Taken literally, it means “See you tomorrow,” but in a broader sense, it is a warmer way to leave because it conveys a message of “until next time” instead of farewell.

A domani, New Jersey.

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