Learning about leadership and what that can teach you

This past weekend I attended my first Society of Professional Journalists event. It only took me 27 years.

The event was about leadership. I am always interested in learning about different ideas about leadership, it was only an hour away in Columbus and the Scripps Foundation picked up almost all of the cost.

spj groupAs a professor and student media faculty adviser, I wanted to use this weekend to learn at least one thing about leadership that would help me. And I wanted to learn about getting an SPJ student chapter started at Cedarville. I learned both of those things.

The most important thing I brought home from the seminar/workshop came out of an exercise we did called the “5 Why Process.” We paired up and asked five why questions about why we had come. I learned that we could really get to the root why. Most importantly I got to my root why, which is to do whatever I can to help the Cedarville journalism program grow. That’s ultimately why I went. Coming to that realization, I hope, will increase my intentional acts to help the program grow in numbers and influence.

With program building more firmly in my mind, I was more engaged than I would have been when it came time to talk about putting our leadership skills into practice at the chapter level. I soaked up all I could about how to get started and make it relevant to journalism students, student media and even the rest of the campus. To sustain an active and successful SPJ student chapter will take a lot of work and encouragement. But it can be done. And I will use the “5 Why Process.”

An added benefit to the “5 Why Process” knowledge I gained is that it will be a good teaching tool for fledgling reporters. When you can’t get somebody to open up, I will teach them to tactfully dig into that area you want them to talk about with this process. Because most sources are probably a lot like me. They probably really don’t know why until somebody makes them talk about it.

If you wonder if a Ted Scripps Leadership Institute is for you as a student leader or as a professional, SPJ does a great job of recapping it online. The Storify also gives you a flavor for what the event is like.

A World Series hero, why wins as a stat matter at least a little, and the sun shining on the bay

OK, I have more pressing matters today. But only once in a couple lifetimes do we see somebody do what Madison Bumgarner did last night in leading the San Francisco Giants to another World Series ring.

When most of us went to bed last night it was with the knowledge that Bumgarner was awarded the victory even though Jeremy Affeldt was the pitcher of record. No doubt that Bumgarner is the hero and the MVP of this series, but I tweeted:

This morning I found replies to that tweet from two guys a lot younger than me (and former students of mine) who can stay up later than even me. And they are baseball guys, which is something you don’t find a lot of in their generation. At least not at their level of dedication to following the sport. They are to be respected for that in this age of “baseball is slow, it’s so boring.” But nights like last night remind us why some baseball players are artists.

First, Kyler chimes in with this:

Then the official scorer, or perhaps Bud Selig in his last act as commish, gets it right:

Thanks Kyler for the tweets or I might not have realized yet that the change had been made. (Reason No. 10 to love Twitter.)

Then comes along my favorite person to debate with on Twitter about baseball and the merits of Ohio State vs. Michigan (he’s kinda quiet about that one lately). I should’ve seen this coming, but it was late and I have classes to teach today.

If Andrew ever gets a job with MLB or at STATS, Inc., he will make it his mission to make the W-L stat for pitchers go the way of the game-winning RBI. I see his point to a degree, especially when it comes to relievers. But it does give us insight to the effectiveness of a starter.

Yes, a starting pitcher has no control over the run support he gets or the errors his defense makes or the skill of his defense or where the manager positions the defense or the umpire’s strike zone. I get that. But a pitcher also isn’t pitching in a vacuum. Game situations, including the score, cause him and his catcher and manager (or whoever might be calling pitches from the dugout) to make decisions. Those decisions affect the outcome of the game.

Pitchers pitch differently with the lead, from behind and when the score is tied. They must keep their composure when suddenly there’s a runner at third in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series through no fault of their own.

I will never say that wins and losses are the ultimate measure of a pitcher. But what stat is? Look at them as a whole and decide who wins the Cy Young, MVP awards, etc. And wins should play a part in our debates. After all, winning is the point to any game.

Even if it makes no difference in eternity, I enjoy debating sports. It’s fun. It makes you think. It challenges your assumptions. And it even makes you change your mind sometimes. Andrew, you have gotten through to me a little bit on the wins debate. But I’ve gone as far as I will go on this one. By the way, have you read “Season Ticket” by Roger Angell? Great stuff in there about the 1986 World Series, especially about Game 6. I know you’ve heard a lot about it even though you weren’t around for it.

One of these days, your Mets or my Reds will be playing again in October. Until then, Go Bucks.

As Fox signed off last night with a brief highlight reel, they did it to the song “Lights.” A great call by a producer somewhere. I’m not a Giants fan and I’ve never been to the city by the bay, but it is my favorite Journey song.

His conscience told him to quit the Sun-Times

Today was the day the syllabus said to read and discuss Chapter 10 in “The Elements of Journalism” in my Advanced Reporting for Print class at Cedarville University. The chapter is titled, “Journalists Have a Responsibility to Conscience.”

Last night I saw a Tweet by someone else that linked to this resignation letter:

As I read Dave McKinney’s resignation letter, I knew this would be a topic for class discussion today. If you aren’t familiar with the story, read the Chicago Tribune story about what happened that led to McKinney’s resignation from the Chicago Sun-Times.

In short, McKinney said he was removed from the Illinois state politics beat because of an unfavorable story he wrote about the Republican gubernatorial candidate. It wasn’t his editor who did this, it was much higher up the pay scale. He eventually got his position back. He said the deal was that his life would go back to normal, but it didn’t. So he resigned, saying the Sun-Times doesn’t have its reporters backs.

The Tribune story has more details and will help you understand the situation more clearly.

In “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write:

… it’s part of the journalist’s responsibility to encourage a transparent and open culture that won’t allow critics to call the credibility of the product into question.

If everything McKinney writes is true (and there is no evidence to doubt him at this point), his conscience told him there is no transparency and openness. It tells him credibility has been undermined in the public and in the newsroom. It will be a long time before Sun-Times reporters with a controversial story won’t be looking over their shoulders.

The next paragraph from Kovach and Rosenstiel:

As a consequence, there is a final principle that journalists have come to understand about their work and that we as citizens intuit when we make media choices. It is the most elusive of the principles, yet it ties all the others together: Journalists have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.

McKinney exercised his conscience because no one else would.

I make an analogy in class to this principle from Matthew 22:36-40. In this passage, Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the law. He replies that we should love the Lord thy God with all of our heart, soul and mind. Then he says the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, Jesus says, hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus is saying that if we are committed to those two big-picture commandments, we will know how to act and respond rightly in all situations.

It’s like that with the principle of personal conscience. If we have our journalistic ethics right, we will know how to respond when pressured into going against the standards and principles of journalism.

Journalism is an act of character. And, according to McKinney’s account, the acts taken against him did not reflect the character of true journalists.

I hope other newspapers are already forming a line to hire Dave McKinney.

If you are interested in at least a list of the principles from the “Elements” book, here they are: