Mike Who? Royko? Can you spell that?

By RJI on January 16, 2008 0 Comments

by Alan Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur

So, what are they teaching? Alan Mutter asks.

The news veteran, who writes the "Reflections of a Newsosaur" blog, says one of the simple pleasures of blogging is getting called from time to time from a student who needs a quote for a term paper.

Note to future callers: get some flash cards on the titans of 20th century journalism before you call Mr. Mutter.

Mutter was, er, dismayed when a Columbia J-school student who called him recently didn't know who Mike Royko was. Mutter, mercifully, did not identify the student, but did wonder aloud what $43,000 in tuition and fees buys these days at one of the nation's best graduate journalism programs.

Read the blog entry for a transcript of the brief -- and, yes, dismaying -- conversation.


Mindy McAdams, a journalism educator who writes the blog Teaching Online Journalism, takes Mutter to task a wee bit about whether the kids today really need to know about the Pulitzer-Prize winning Chicago columnist, who died nine years ago, to get along in the biz -- and Mutter graciously accepts the criticism.

“Do I expect a 20-year-old (or a 25-year-old) today to know Royko’s work?” McAdams writes on Newsosaur. “No. Why should she?”

On her blog McAdams challenges "the green-eyeshade types" to correctly identify seven names. She doesn't think anyone over 40 will know them. Take the quiz here.

Mutter says: "Newsosaur, who never had a green eyeshade but always wanted one, barely got a passing grade."


The student in question has outed himself on newsosaur. In a comment Davide Berretta says with humility that there are gaps in his knowledge about the history of US journalism because he lived in Italy most of his life.

But he also complains that Mutter held him up to unneccesary ridicule by not warning the student in advance that he intended to write about the conversation, or even afterwards that he had. "You didn't have to, but these are two simple acts I learned to perform, yes, at the j-school," Davide Berretta writes.

Mutter replied that if he had known Berretta was from overseas "I probably would have treated the item differently." But he stressed that he didn't identify the student -- and that his purpose wasn't to make an example of anyone.

"The point of the post was to stimulate a discussion - which has proven to be lively, indeed - about whether and what traditions should be passed along in journalism schools," Mutter says.