What would veteran newsman Peter Jennings tell students seeking a career in broadcasting today?
His wife posed the question to him when they were in Pullman for Washington State University’s 30th Edward R. Murrow Symposium April 14. The answer came that evening in Jennings’s presentation, after he accepted the Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcasting from WSU.
“If you believe that broadcasting is a public service, then please come into the profession,” he told the largely student audience of 2,500 in the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum theater.
ABC’s World News Tonight anchor had been on assignment in Iraq a week earlier and shared some of his views. The Iraqi people want U.S. and allied military troops to leave the country, “but not too soon,” he said. The situation there left Jennings wondering if enough public debate went into the U.S. decision to enter war. Once a country goes to war, it’s always difficult to be aggressive in reporting news from the front, and the public is often overwhelmed by misinformation.
Still, the broadcaster knows of nothing more satisfying than “telling a story well,” presenting it fully, and putting it in context for the public.
That’s the challenge for those entering careers in broadcast and print journalism. With 650 declared majors in communication and 700 pre-majors, the Murrow School of Communication has one of the largest enrollments at WSU.
The symposium was introduced more than 30 years ago to recognize achievements of communication leaders, whose careers have demonstrated the standard of excellence set by Murrow (’30 Speech). In recent years, the symposium’s scope has been broadened to a daylong event. This year it included more than thirty 50-minute workshops, many of them hosted by working communicators. More than 200 high school and community college students joined WSU students in the workshops.
Students were exposed to opportunities and challenges in public relations, advertising, communication, journalism, and broadcasting. The overall student response was positive, says WSU visiting instructor Lisa Irby. The experience confirmed for them the value of what they are being taught in the classroom, i.e., “Tell the truth.” The workshops and panels allowed professionals to share their personal experiences and insights, and provide students with “how-to” tips.
Sessions included “Got Ethics?” “What I Learned in School,” “This Just In: When News Breaks,” and “Who’s Holding the Media Accountable?”
Communication professor John Irby oversaw the high-school journalism competition, which attracted 79 entries in five categories. First-place winners included Amelia Veneziano, Richland High School, for news writing; Jon Hecht, Scarsdale High School, New York, for sports writing; Megan Brewington, Sandpoint High School, Idaho, for feature writing; Yarrow Frank, Sandpoint High School, for photography; and The Sandstorm, Sandpoint High School, for best overall edition. Irby says overall the quality was “very good, very strong.”
More than $90,000 in scholarships was awarded to some 60 students at the Scholarship Awards Banquet before the symposium, and Murrow School director Alex Tan expressed his thanks to the Washington State Association of Broadcasters for its $100,000 gift to the Murrow School. The money will be used to purchase broadcasting equipment for the new $17.6 million Murrow School addition that opened last winter.