Category Archives: Journalism

My new life as an (adjunct) professor

I am in week 4 of teaching a remote, asynchronous course at Columbia College Chicago. Despite the fact that I have not met any of the students in person, it’s going pretty well. I like the students and their blog proposals, their discussions are fun and their reactions and questions are interesting. They are also forgiving of the couple of times I’ve goofed up on the assignments, which I appreciate.

The biggest surprise to me, a hardened veteran reporter who can’t ever remember missing a deadline, is how badly I feel when I have to mark assignments late or missing. “What’s going on with them?” I wonder. “Do they know the deadline? Are they sick or overwhelmed with work, family, school?” Columbia, a media arts school based literally under the L tracks, draws a wonderfully diverse and creative student body and the students are often holding down one or more jobs while they juggle their studies. I really want every one of them to succeed.

Deadline clock
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Get a grip, I tell myself. They are not going to learn to meet deadlines until they have to meet deadlines. I still remember the glare of a city editor when I pushed too close to the ticking minute hand on the newsroom clock. My professors in my long-ago Marquette University journalism school, were heartless in giving us an F for any missed or late assignment. It put the fear of deadlines in us, not to mention the fear of failing.

Yet, how can I do that? This is a different era, thank goodness. Although I and most of my friends worked part-time, college costs were a lot less in those days and we didn’t have to deal with a pandemic as well. None of us were responsible for younger siblings or our own kids in those days.

Teaching requires imparting hard truths as well as supportive coaching. For now, I’ll grant extensions and gently nag them to get the work done on time. I’m not sure what my attitude will be when we get to week 8 or 9 or 15. It’s hard to shake off a lifetime of deadline behavior.

Hello world!

You might know me; I’m a newspaper and digital veteran, having worked for small, medium and large newspapers and websites, reinventing myself as the times demand. I’ve been a member of the working press since 1976.

I started a highly successful online column, pre-blog, that is still running; I’ve reported on Haitian refugees on Florida beaches, militia conspirators in the Montana mountains and a segregation-defying pharmacist in northern Virginia. I have written obits of the great and the quirky, built websites, taught others to use technology and debugged, tested and taught the Washington Post’s new content management system to the newsroom.

I returned to my hometown to care for an aging parent during the early months of the pandemic, then retired from my job. Now I’m moving to Chicago, teaching a college class and finding what kind of life I’ll create without the demands of someone else’s schedule.

Life is personal and so is this website, so you’ll also see my real life here: my homes, my family, my favorite places, what I’ve privately read and publicly said.

tipping my Nationals cap