Modern Day Journalism: How Social Media Have Shaped the Twenty-Four Hour News Cycle

March 21, 2017

This is brief – but strong and good — insight from one of my social media students at Cuyahoga Community College. Well done!

Paige By Paige

In today’s day and age, society revolves around social media. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have billions of users and accumulate new ones every single day. It is no wonder why these networks have become leading sources of news journalism. With millions of people constantly visiting these platforms, social media have become one of the most important ways for information to be communicated to the public.

One of the greatest appeals of social media is that it is instantaneous. A Twitter user can compose a tweet and immediately post it. An Instagram photograph can be shared within seconds. It is this quickness, combined with the vast reach of social media, that allows them to thrive. People like being able to know about events as they unfold and promptly express their opinions on them. Therefore, quick, social media-centered journalism is critical to the 21st century. As social media make it easier and…

View original post 50 more words


MEDIA MEMO NO. 3: For the media and President Trump

February 22, 2017

Having heard some of President Donald J. Trump’s news conference on February 16, and having seen and read dozens of media stories about the first month of President Trump’s presidency, here five words of advice for both parties.

Stop fighting. Get along. Collaborate.

First – to the managers, directors, editors, publishers and reporters who comprise the media in 2017: To turn one of Brooke Gladstone’s phases a bit, you have the government you deserve. Public opinion survey after survey shows that distrust of the media, and a belief that the media is biased, are both at all-time highs. President Trump’s election came about, in part, as a result of that distrust. So if you’re unhappy about the outcome, you’ll find one leading cause for it just by looking at a mirror.

A lot of media analysts have stated this as well, as have countless editors and reporters working within the profession. One is Derek Thomspon, senior editor of The Atlantic and author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. Below is a link to his article citing four main reasons for the distrust. There are more reasons, but this is a strong starting point.

Billy Graham has been on the Gallup Polls as one of the “Ten most admired men in the world” for the past 60 years. His son, Franklin Graham, has a blunt assessment that concurs with President Trump: The media is lying. When the occupant of the White House and major religious leaders agree on an issue as important as this, the owners and managers of newspapers, television news-gathering divisions, and news-based websites had better take notice and change their ways.

Let’s also admit the obvious:  All too often, today’s media has become the pawn (willing or unwitting) of special interests. The WikiLeaks revelations from John Podesta’s emails included the existence of a lengthy list of media members who were “friendly” to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. It also revealed details about a huge party which dozens of media on her “friendly” list attended, around the time Clinton announced her candidacy for President in Spring 2015. Gallup and other polls show that the public believes the media supports the Democratic Party, by a margin of 3.5 to 1.

 

aaaa-trump-wisconsin

A screen shot of Fox News’ coverage of President Trump’s speech on August 16, 2016

One way the media could begin to redeem itself is to change its direction and focus. Don’t be overly concerned about the White House, but instead look at the plight of the average Jane and Jose in our land. It’s quite telling that Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, admits that her newspaper made a mistake by not thoroughly covering the Flint, Michigan, water contamination crisis.

Part of what made journalism great in the last quarter of the 20th century was its ability to focus on what Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly (creators of “See it Now,” the first in-depth television news program) called the little picture. This concept of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” as stated in a column in the Chicago Evening Post 125 years ago, is something still taught in journalism colleges and universities across the country.

It’s time to refocus. How many more Flints are out there in the nation? If the media returned to a vital role of being a champion of the little people, its reputation would improve.

Now, let’s look at what’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Executive Office Building, and elsewhere in the Trump Administration, with respect to the media and the practice of journalism.

Mr. President: You gave a prescient speech about six months ago on the campaign trail. On August 16, in Wisconsin, you said this:

Every day you pick up a newspaper, or turn on the nightly news, and you hear about some self-interest banker or some discredited Washington insider says they oppose our campaign. Or some encrusted old politician says they oppose our campaign. Or some big time lobbyist says they oppose our campaign.

“I wear their opposition as a badge of honor. Because it means I am fighting for REAL change, not just partisan change. I am fighting – all of us across the country are fighting – for peaceful regime change in our own country. The media-donor-political complex that’s bled this country dry has to be replaced with a new government of, by and for the people.
(Emphasis added.)

You not only won the election, you defeated the very complex which you eloquently identified on the campaign trail. Now you face a new challenge – Working with at least a portion of the enemies you conquered. Some of them are political. Some are donors. And some are members of the media.

aaa-fake-news-boston-globe

The editorial page “spoof” describing the beginning of (what it hoped would be a fictional) Trump Presidency. This was published as a mock front page in The Boston Globe in April 2016.

Whether or not the media deserves it (in my humble opinion, most don’t), as a statesman and the leader of the world’s greatest democracy, you need the media to report, accurately and fairly, upon your administration and its accomplishments. If democracy is to grow and thrive around the world, then the U.S. media is in a unique position — has a unique responsibility — to broadcast truth and light in places where all too often there are only messages of hate and doom.

They don’t get it. They don’t understand that your usage of Twitter belongs in the same category at John Kennedy’s employment of live TV news conferences or FDR’s radio fireside chats. You are utilizing a newer medium to communicate directly to improve the lives of the people – the oppressed, the downtrodden, and those who seemingly have had no voice and no way to improve their own lives.

Because they don’t get it, you need to exhibit both exceptional leadership and exceptional restraint in showing them a path towards some degree of collaboration and respect for each other.

Here’s a suggestion – Try some one-on-ones. Invite new NBC News President executive Noah Oppenheim to the White House. Have dinner with the New York Times’ Dean Baquet.  Do a two-for and have both Marty Baron (executive editor) and Jeff Bezos (owner) of The Washington Post over for a conversation.

Let them realize that you understand the business challenges and pressures they face. Give them an opportunity to have an exclusive and see if they are willing to work with you or continuously write or broadcast story after story which attacks you.

You have proven that you don’t need the media to campaign and win an election. However, governing is easier if the public isn’t divided and walled off into dozens of “echo chambers” where everyone is seeing and hearing nothing but their own point of view.

Something beyond winning or losing an election is at stake here. E Pluribus Unum should be more than just a motto.  Extend an olive branch from your position as the victor. Media leaders would be wise to accept that offer. Then, just maybe, we can obtain some equilibrium in a land that’s becoming increasingly less civil and more hostile.

Our first president could have been a king, but he wanted a democratic republic to govern the land. George Washington said, “While a courteous behavior is due to all, select the most deserving only for your friendships.”

Try imitating President Washington’s advice, at least for a while, with respect to the media, President Trump. Give them some courtesy, and offer an opportunity for them to change course. It’s in everyone’s best interests – including the nation — that this happens.

shamina merchant john kerezy

John Kerezy with Ohio State University student Shamina Merchant at a presentation at Cuyahoga Community College in spring 2015

I am an associate professor of journalism/mass communications at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). These views are my own, and not those of Tri-C.

SOURCES:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/why-do-americans-distrust-the-media/500252/

http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-trump-says-what-we-all-know-news-media-has-been-lying-fake-news

https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/08/17/donald-trump-speech-with-transcript-the-decisive-moment/

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/the-rules-of-civility-and-decent-behaviour/

Hanson, Ralph, “Mass Communication,” Sage Publications, sixth edition, pages 127-128

https://ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org/2016/11/28/fake-news-trumps-true-news/#more-2748

ALSO VISIT:

https://jkerezy.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/media-memo/

https://jkerezy.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/media-memo-2/

 

 

 

 


Thanks to a terrific broadcaster and friend

February 14, 2017

One of the NBA’s greatest voices is CHRIS DENARI. Chris is the television play-by-play broadcaster for the Indiana Pacers. He’s also among an elite group of professionals and game ambassadors involved in the NBA’s global outreach, as he and partner (Indiana University basketball legend Quinn Buckner) traveled to Africa in 2015 as part of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program.

denari-buckner

Chris Denari, right, with Quinn Buckner

Chris is the voice of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, and also has past stops at Butler University and Indianapolis television stations in his career. In Indiana, followers of the Indy 500 know Chris Denari’s voice and broadcasts from his perch at Turn Four of the Indianapolis 500 at the Motor Speedway.  He’s a member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.

Chris and I first crossed paths back in 1979. Brad Boyd and I were running the Student News Bureau at Wabash College.  Chris was an incoming freshman, trying out for the Wabash basketball team, and desirous of trying his hand at broadcasting.

It didn’t take long at all for Chris to make his mark. He also took over as the host of “The Stan Parrish Show” a weekly cable television program which began with Chris doing a “Q and A” session with Wabash football coach Stan Parrish. Parrish went on to coach both with leading NCAA Division I programs and also in the NFL. You might know a guy he tutored at the University of Michigan named Tom Brady. But I digress …

Chris was phenomenal as a student broadcaster. He studied the opposing team’s players, and was usually better informed about BOTH teams than other college broadcasters would be about their own squad. He parlayed his interest and transformed his student experience into an internship, and then a full-time job, with an Indianapolis television station upon graduation from Wabash in 1983. He also earned a NCAA champion ring as part of the college’s 1981-1982 Division III national championship baskettball squad. He’s still participates in game-day shoot arounds sometimes.

denari 1982.png

Chris in 1982 at Wabash College

Today, as I type this, Chris is on the Indiana Pacers’ team jet heading from Indianapolis to Cleveland. Tomorrow he’ll be at Media Row at the Quicken Loans Arena,  broadcasting the Pacers vs. Cavs game.  But before that, Chris is giving some of his own time and talent to about 10 students from Cuyahoga Community College.

He has agreed to meet with these students, and share a little bit about his career path and what his job is like with the Pacers.  My Tri-C students are also benefitting from the kindness of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are letting them visit Quicken Loans Arena and see the areas in which the media work before, during and after NBA Contests.  (Here’s a quick shout-out and thanks to you Alyssa, for helping to set this up for Cuyahoga Community College.)

THANK YOU so much Chris. Among your many accomplishments, you’re also a terrific mentor as well as Some Little Giant.

NOTE TO MY STUDENTS: Be sure to arrive around 3:45 p.m. at the gray door on the SOUTH end of Quicken Loans Arena (nearest to Progressive Field). As long as you exit by 5:15 p.m. you can park your vehicle at the Tri-C District Office parking garage. (The garage opens for game customers later, with proceeds funding Tri-C scholarship programs.)

NOTE TO MY WABASH FAMILY:  Thank you!  I continue to be amazed at the response to “Glory Reborn:  Wabash College and its Athletic Teams, 1977-1982.” There is a pretty positive “buzz” about the book on social media, especially among the 55-60ish crowd of Wabash alumni.  Here’s a link to a story from the college’s website about the book, which includes connections to both a podcast about the book as well as an order form if you want to obtain a copy.  http://sports.wabash.edu/news/2017/1/23/basketball-wabash-celebrates-national-champs-new-book.aspx

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.


Book sales begin Jan. 28; “signing” with proceeds to Big Cookie Fund

January 19, 2017

Thanks to so many of you for your patience as the College and I have completed details for the publication and sale of my book “Glory Reborn: Wabash College and its Athletic Teams, 1977-1982.”

This book will be available beginning on Saturday, January 28, at the Wabash College bookstore. If all goes well, I will be at the bookstore at 12 noon and will be glad to talk with you and/or sign a copy. The book will be there anytime you come back to Crawfordsville, or you can purchase it online (and have it mailed to you) via this link:

http://www.wabash.edu/bookstore/

We are not certain exactly where the book will be listed on the bookstore website, but the site has a good search function. If you search by its ISBN number, the book should appear right away. The number is:  ISBN 978-0-692-82375-0

I will be at the college all day on Jan. 28 to join in the celebration of the 35th reunion of our 1981-1982 NCAA Division III National Championship Little Giant Basketball Team. There is a whole series of events happening on campus that day. Of special interest is a 1 pm alumni basketball game, the 3 pm Wabash vs. Kenyon basketball game, and then a post-game reception for all basketball alumni.

The reception is free. Wabash is asking that you RSVP for attending. You can do so by emailing or calling Michele Ward in the Alumni Office by January 23. 765-361-6369 or wardm@wabash.edu

The college bookstore is setting up a table/display for “Glory Reborn” at this reception. Of course if you want, I’ll be glad to autograph your copy of the book.  Price is $30.

BUT THERE’S MORE

We also want to use the publication of the book to help support The Big Cookie Athletic Spirit Fund. If you don’t know, Wabash super alumnus Rem Johnston ’55 established this fund, an endowment to which any alumnus or friend can contribute. The Big Cookie Fund provides resources and activities for students, particularly in association with athletic events. If you don’t know much about Rem Johnston, aka “The Big Cookie,” the link below has some details.

http://www.wabash.edu/news/displaystory.cfm?news_ID=10867

So with the book’s launch, the college and I felt that we should have proceeds from some “super special” autographed books go directly into the Big Cookie Fund.

How special?

Well – Pete Metzelaars ’82, Mike Holcomb ’82, David Broecker ’83, Malcom “Mac” Petty (H’77) and I will be there, and we will all sign these books. There will only be 25 books like these. For a $100 contribution (70 percent a tax deduction to Wabash) you can own a quintuple-autographed copy of “Glory Reborn”

Now if you want the autographed copies but can’t make it to the reception on January 28, contact me. Get us a check or a contribution, and the other guys and I will be glad to sign and send you the quintuple-autographed book.

And of course, if you can’t make it on January 28 you can still help support the Big Cookie Fun by contacting the advancement office. Just email advancement@wabash.edu, or call 765-361-6367

SPEAKING OF CONTACT

The college suggested that I establish an email address solely for the purpose of communication about “Glory Reborn,” and I’ve done that. If you have any questions about the book, have stories you want to share after reading, or anything else Wabash-related, you can find me at this address:

gloryrebornwabash@gmail.com

I will check this email every few days of so for the first year of the book’s publication.

Thanks, once more, to the dozens of alumni student-athletes who shared of their time and memories with me for this book project. A lot of “Glory Reborn” is about you and what you accomplished in this important era of Wabash and its athletic program.

Look for the next blog post from Wabash around January 28. Hope to see you in Crawfordsville then Long Shall We Sign Thy Praises, Old Wabash.

Thanks to so many of you for your patience as the College and I have completed details for the publication and sale of “Glory Reborn: Wabash College and its Athletic Teams, 1977-1982.”

This book will be available beginning on Saturday, January 28, at the Wabash College bookstore. If all goes well, I will be at the bookstore at 12 noon and will be glad to talk with you and/or sign a copy. The the book will be there anwtime you come back to Crawfordsville, or you can purchase it online (and have it mailed to you) via this link:

http://www.wabash.edu/bookstore/

We are not certain exactly where the book will be listed on the bookstore web site, but the site has a good search function. If you search by its ISBN number, the book should appear right away. The number is:  ISBN 978-0-692-82375-0

I will be at the college all day on Jan. 28 to join in the celebration of the 35th reunion of our 1981-1982 NCAA Division III National Championship Little Giant Basketball Team. There is a whole series of events happening on campus that day. Of special interest is a 1 pm alumni basketball game, the 3 pm Wabash vs. Kenyon basketball game, and then a post-game reception for all basketball alumni.

The reception is free. Wabash is asking that you RSVP for attending. You can do so by emailing or calling Michele Ward in the Alumni Office by January 23. 765-361-6369 or wardm@wabash.edu

The college bookstore is setting up a table/display for “Glory Reborn” at this reception. Of course if you want, I’ll be glad to autograph your copy of the book.  Price is $30.

BUT THERE’S MORE

We also want to use the publication of the book to help support The Big Cookie Athletic Spirit Fund. If you don’t know, Wabash super alumnus Rem Johnston ’55 established this fund, an endowment to which any alumnus or friend can contribute. The Big Cookie Fund provides resources and activities for students, particularly in association with athletic events. If you don’t know much about Rem Johnston, aka “The Big Cookie,” the link below has some details.

http://www.wabash.edu/news/displaystory.cfm?news_ID=10867

So with the book’s launch, the college and I felt that we should have proceeds from some “super special” autographed books go directly into the Big Cookie Fund.

How special?

Well – Pete Metzelaars ’82, Mike Holcomb ’82, David Broecker ’83, Malcom “Mac” Petty (H’77) and I will be there, and we will all sign these books. There will only be 25 books like these. For a $100 contribution (70 percent a tax deduction to Wabash) you can own a quintuple-autographed copy of “Glory Reborn”

Now if you want the autographed copies but can’t make it to the reception on January 28, contact me. Get us a check or a contribution, and the other guys and I will be glad to sign and send you the quintuple-autographed book.

And of course, if you can’t make it on January 28 you can still help support the Big Cookie Fun by contacting the advancement office. Just email advancement@wabash.edu, or call 765-361-6367

SPEAKING OF CONTACT

The college suggested that I establish an email address solely for the purpose of communication about “Glory Reborn,” and I’ve done that. If you have any questions about the book, have stories you want to share after reading, or anything else Wabash-related, you can find me at this address:

gloryrebornwabash@gmail.com

I will check this email every few days of so for the first year of the book’s publication.

Thanks, once more, to the dozens of alumni student-athletes who shared of their time and memories with me for this book project. A lot of “Glory Reborn” is about you and what you accomplished in this important era of Wabash and its athletic program.

Look for the next blog post from Wabash around January 28. Hope to see you in Crawfordsville then Long Shall We Sign Thy Praises, Old Wabash.


What a friend we have …

November 26, 2016

SHIRLEY KERR JOHNSON

January 16, 1926 -November 28, 2016

img_20150927_114401422_hdrFor the last 26 months, it has been my joy and pleasure to begin many of my days having breakfast with my mother-in-law, Shirley. Shirley and Grant moved in with us in October 2014, due to her failing health.

Today she a far better place to live: A house with many mansions in heaven.

shirley-1
It would be simple to fill up a blog just with wonderful adjectives describing Shirley.

Caring. Nurturing. Kind. Considerate. Cheerful. Thoughtful. Understanding. Loving. They would all be correct, yet all so inadequate.

Shirley loved life. She was 63 when we met in 1989, and in the 27 years since then we cherished so many wonderful family times together. We attended more than a dozen Kerr Bash family gatherings. Kathy and I traveled together with her and husband Grant (and sometimes our son Tyler) to Florida, and to Texas, and to Alaska. We played dominoes in an RV home along the Chena River in Fairbanks one summer. We attended Cleveland baseball games with her mother-in-law, Edna Johnson, who was an avid Indians fan.

shirley-2We’ve been to baptisms, more than a few family weddings and – more recently – family funerals as Shirley’s older sisters passed away, one at a time. Just two month ago we visited Titusville, Pa., for the funeral of her sister Barbara Beers. Little did we know that it would be Shirley’s last time there.

Wife. Mother of three. Grandmother of nine. Great-grandmother of two (so far).  And still, words don’t really describe Shirley’s life. Her reach. Her impact.

Shirley was a mainstay at First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula for many decades. She sang in the choir there. She worked as a secretary. She helped out with Vacation Bible School. She was an integral part of the women’s group and the hospitality committee there. A post-funeral gathering or any social event at First UMC was not complete without one of Shirley’s desserts on the table. It might have been pineapple whipped cream cake (nicknamed Shirley cake) or her pretzel salad. Whatever she made, it was certain to disappear long before the reception ended.

shirley-4I initiated having breakfasts with Shirley. I wanted to make certain she was taking her medicines and getting a good meal to start the day. In turn, she made sure her husband of 64-plus years, Grant, got his medications when he awakened. The two have been married since 1952. They lived in a house on West 13th Street in Ashtabula for nearly 60 years. There was boundless love in that place as Shirley took on the primary responsibility for raising Kirk, Kathy, and Keith.

What I received from Shirley Kerr Johnson in her time living with Kathy and me (and later Tyler as well) goes far beyond words. She has a boundless optimism about the future. She cherished every new picture of her great-grandchildren, and every conversation with a grandchild. She gave Kathy and me advice, gently and lovingly.  “You work too hard,” she told me. Today, I don’t think I’ll ever take a walk in a park or a long respite from academia without recalling her words.

Still, this doesn’t adequately describe Shirley Kerr Johnson, or her impact on the lives of those she touched.

Shirley is the most beautiful of reflectors.

shirley-3She mirrors love – Christ’s love – in much of her interactions with others. She always saw the good side of every situation. She would encourage, never admonish. She chose kindness over harshness. She spoke caring words, positive words, and always had an empathetic attitude toward others. You wanted to be with Shirley, around Shirley, because she helped you feel better about your life, your future.

As Shirley’s health deteriorated in the last month, a chapter of the Bible which has provided me with a lot of comfort and strength is Psalm 73.  Verse 26 reads, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Shirley’s flesh and her heart failed here on earth, but God is showing His love through Shirley – even in her last days.

On Friday, Pastor Chris Bell of First UMC in Ashtabula and a member of the church choir, Linda Downing, drove 75 miles each way to visit with Shirley. We concluded with family member in a circle, holding hands, surrounding Shirley in her hospice bed. Pastor Chris asked Shirley to select a song for us to sing. She chose, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”

shirley-5What a selection! Joseph Scirven wrote this song, first as a poem in 1855 for his mother. He was living in Canada, and sent it to comfort his mother who was then in Ireland. The final words of the third verse of this hymn are: In His arms He’ll take and shield thee. Thou wilt find a solace there.

Shirley – today you are in His arms. We love you and will miss you, but we know you are free from pain and in an infinitely better place, and a place where we can all join you one day.


“Hunger Games” vs. “Citizen Kane”

October 17, 2016

We have hundreds of students taking film and move-making classes at Cuyahoga Community College each year. Film Appreciation, Screenwriting, and American Cinema are some of the courses we offer in my area, Journalism/Mass Communications.

So, what if we looked at the 2016 presidential election contest through the lens of Hollywood? J.J. Abrams, Nancy Meyers, Steven Spielberg, or Kathryn Bieglow would have no trouble coming up with appropriate roles for our leading contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

With each day’s revelations from WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton more and more perfectly seems to match the character of Coriolanus Snow (actor Donald Sutherland) from the “Hunger Games” series of films. Snow is the manipulative president of Panem, willing to do anything to its citizens to maintain rule.  All power resides in the capitol, which controls the food supplies, schools, and just about every aspect of the population’s daily lives. Snow ruthlessly maintains iron first rule over an underfed and overworked population, even ordering carpet bombing of District 12 to save the capitol and preserve power.

snow and kane.pngCasting Central would find the perfect role for Donald Trump to be that of Charles Foster Kane (actor and director Orson Welles), lead character in Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” Like Trump, Kane makes his fame and fortune outside of the political arena, then enters politics for the first time by running for governor. He repeatedly accused his opponent, J.W. Gettys, of corruption in the general election. Kane seems headed for election, until Gettys makes public the fact that Kane is having an extramarital affair. Kane is disgraced and Gettys wins the contest.

No analogy will match a situation perfectly. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t murder or torture her opponents, as Snow does in the “Hunger Games” movies. And Kane? Well, in “Citizen Kane” he made his fortune as a newspaper publisher and editor. Last time I checked closely, it was just about impossible to find anything positive about Trump in most newspapers.

We’ve all heard the phrase that art imitates life. Yet in the 2016 election, is it the other way around?

QUOTES

“Hope: it is the only thing stronger than fear.”  — Coriolanus Snow

“My first official act as Governor … will be to appoint a Special District Attorney to arrange for the indictment, prosecution, and conviction of Boss Jim W. Gettys!” — Charles Foster Kane

SOURCES

http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/Coriolanus_Snow

http://thecollegeconservative.com/2012/03/23/the-hunger-games-and-the-united-states/

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0003575/bio

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechcitizenkane2.html

 

“Hunger Games” movies are from author Suzanne Collins’ series of similarly-titled novels.


A few thoughts about HS speech & debate

October 15, 2016

rhs-speech-and-debat
(Me, far left, with the eight Revere High School students we took to the OHSSL State Championships in March 2016. One, Drew Espinal, is now a freshman at Johns Hopkins University. The others seven students are back this year. Phillip King, principal and big program supporter, is at far right.)

STUDENTS:  You MUST bookmark and visit our “sign out” site for tournaments here:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0f49a5af2ca1f85-20162017

(HELP BY DOING THIS — Your coaches cannot keep track of 35+ students’ schedules)

When I first learned nearly nine years ago that some Ohio high schools offered speech and debate programs, my first thought was: “Why not my school?” At that time, “my” was Brecksville-Broadview Hts. (BBHHS). I knew how strong academically BBHHS was, and believed students there could do well if taught speech/debate basics.

My Wabash College debate team was the most rewarding extracurricular activity in college. I learned how to think in depth on subjects, and how to present contentions strategically, reinforce my own arguments and to rebut those of my opponents. It made me a better, more informed student during my years at Wabash. It helped me graduate with honors.

Fast forward more than 30 years. I approached Brian Wilch (now the principal at Hudson), and asked, “Could we do speech and debate?”  Brian’s answer was short, simple and strong.  “Yes. John, could you lead it up for us?”

I thought about it, talked it over with my son (then a BBHHS sophomore) and wife, and prayed about it. Believing it was worth the effort, I met again with Brian. Soon we began.

In October 2008, eight brave BBHHS students competed in the Cleveland District of the Ohio High School Speech League’s Novice Tournament. We eventually grew to around 14 students that first year. Two terrific parents came alongside to assist, Mark McCandless and Dr. Lloyd Yeh. Vicki Balzer, now at Magnificat High School, gave Mark and me “how to” start-up advice. We had two qualifiers for the State tournament that first season.

Since then, what’s happened at BBHHS with speech and debate is simply amazing. Today the program has about 40 members. Mark McCandless and his assistants are doing a superb job with the students. About 50 students there have qualified for State Championships in the past eight years.

More importantly, former speech/debate competitors from BBHHS are now attending or graduating from Harvard, Chicago, Vanderbilt, William & Mary, Washington (St. Louis), Penn, and other terrific colleges and universities.  We – the other parent leaders and I – learned that participating in speech/debate helped give these students an advantage in the college admissions process.

I led BBHHS for three years, then relinquished the reins but stayed on to assist three more years. I met many dedicated coaches, including  Tony Paparella of Revere HS. Revere once had a phenomenal speech/debate program in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, then it had died out. Tony, who did speech and debate when he was a student at Revere, revived the program when his own sons attended HS. Like me, he did this on a volunteer basis. He later convinced the Revere Schools board to allocate funds for speech/debate, and to pay a stipend for a coach.

I’d decided to leave BBHHS in 2013-14. I was studying for an advanced degree at Kent State University. At my last state coaches’ meeting (so I thought), Linda Miller, director of the state speech league, made a brief but passionate plea about a coach for Revere.  “The program is down to five students, and there’s no one to lead it,” she said.

I called Tony. He told me that he had stepped down for business reason, and no successor had lasted. Next thing I knew, Revere HS Principal Phillip King called me. He and I met, and soon Revere offered me the position of speech/debate adviser there. More thinking and praying was next. This wouldn’t help me in my studies at Kent State, but I’d witnessed the huge difference participation in this activity made in the lives of students. Revere’s support for the program was also impressive. So I said yes.

What a blessing these past three years have been.

It was hard at first. I got to know the teachers and the system at Revere. The faculty and a very powerful academic program helped. So did two student families. One was James White, a 2015 Revere graduate, and his mom Marie. They saw the benefits of this program and dedicated time and effort to helping it grow. The other assistance came from the Espinal family, especially Alexis (2015 graduate), Drew (2016 graduate) and their parents, Drs. Susan and Eric Espinal. They are unbelievably supportive.

We have grown steadily at Revere. Last year we had four State Championship qualifiers, 9th grader Melise Williams, sophomores Leah Espinal and Megan Warburton, and junior Anthony Pignataro. Anthony then surprised a lot of people (including himself) by becoming the Eastern Ohio District L-D debate champion of NSDA, the National Speech and Debate Association. He competed in the National Championships in Utah in June.

We had 18 students in speech/debate just two years ago. We are double that size this year. We have three terrific college student assistants: Ammar Abidi, David Burnett, and Noah Paulsen, helping out.  We will compete well against other schools in the Akron District and all over Ohio.

But success at tournaments is a side benefit of being part of speech debate. What students gain prepares them for college and beyond. They learn to:

  • Think critically – Anyone can toss an opinion on a social media site, but Revere students in speech and debate master how to analyze and “go deep” on topics and understand them excellently.
  • Communicate effectively – One can’t summarize debate or speech down to 140 characters. We build speaking skills. We learn to speak with room-filling energy. Debaters learn how to “build up, then narrow down” arguments. Individual Event speakers put passion and emotion into their speeches.
  • Live humanely – Our world is becoming ever-more shrill and uncivil. Revere students in speech and debate are thoughtful, articulate voices of compassion, of reason and purpose.

That’s just some of the benefits of speech/debate. New Revere student and parents – get ready to grow. Thank you, Revere Schools, for supporting this excellent opportunity for your students.

The 2016-2017 schedule is below:  Dates in BOLD ITALIC are Middle School events also.

REVERE HIGH SCHOOL     DATE                                                                             JUDGES NEEDED

October 8-9                        POSSIBLE – Georgetown (PF and Congress only)

October 22                          Novice at Glen Oak                                                           (NONE NEEDED)

October 29                         at Edison                                                                                              (EIGHT)

November 5                       Laurel                                                                                                    (EIGHT)

November 12                    Brecksville Broadview Heights                                                         (EIGHT)

November 19                    Copley                                                                                                  (EIGHT)
Selected returnees – Might go to Glenbrooks in NW Chicago
December 3                       Olmsted Falls  (one of locations for State tourney)           (EIGHT)
Selected returnees –Princeton (Dec. 2-3-4, via Bus, with Medina)

December 10                     Vermilion                                                                                                 (EIGHT)

December 17                     Stow Monroe Falls                                                                          (EIGHT)

January 7                             North Canton Hoover                                                                    (EIGHT)

January 14                           Wooster                                                                                              (EIGHT)

January 21                           Norton                                                                                                 (EIGHT)

January 28                           Solon (Open date in Akron and Canton)                                  (EIGHT)

February 4                          OHSSL Akron “Littles” at Wadsworth                                       (EIGHT)
This is the main State Qualifier tournament

February 10-11                  Possible National Circuit Tournament

February 17-18                  Eastern Ohio “Bigs” at Copley                                                     (FOUR)
This is the secondary State Qualifier Tournament

March 3-4                            OHSSL States at Berea/Midpark and Olmsted Falls            TBD

March 11                             State Novice / Middle School States at Medina                  TBD
This is also a Statewide Middle School Tournament

March 25                             Eastern Ohio “Congress Bigs” at Our Lady of the Elms

April 29                                “Big Questions” Debate at REVERE HS!
Student Leaders: Anthony Pignataro, President; Leah Espinal and Megan Warburton, Vice Presidents; Grace Cao, Secretary; Melise Williams, Troy Pierson andEmily Albert, practice captains