Ayers Chair of Communication
Jacksonville State University's Department of Communication has welcomed a new faculty member into its fold-- Chris Waddle, who has been named the Ayers Chair of Communication.
"This is my first semester of what I hope is a long tenure," Waddle said. "Journalism is undergoing a tremendous change in every form. Television journalism is changing, print journalism is changing and online journalism is expanding. It's still important to do good journalism, but the platform is changing."
It is because of those morphing platforms and what he calls the "stress and duress" on the news industry's financial side, Waddle said, that it is now more important than ever for universities to produce quality journalists.
This semester, Waddle is teaching an Introduction to News course, and beginning in the spring of 2009, Waddle plans to teach Opinion Writing, a course that is new to the department but one he has taught previously.
"Opinion writing begins with information," Waddle said. "You don't go into a debate and win by shouting louder. You go in with a better set of facts and the ability to express them."
He is also working with the faculty of the Department of Communication, the College of Commerce & Business Administration, the history and the political science departments as well as other JSU officials to put together a conference on economic development and the media, which will be held in March.
Waddle's passion for journalism took root in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement. It was during a time when the news was filled with the stories of people like John F. Kennedy, George C. Wallace and Martin Luther King, Jr.-- and as a college student in Birmingham, Ala., Waddle was near much of the action.
"I felt a calling to be a part, not of the upheaval itself, but in telling people about the upheaval," Waddle said. "Society needed explanations."
Ever since those tumultuous days in Birmingham, journalism has been Waddle's livelihood. When drafted during the Vietnam War, he served as a military newspaper editor in Fort Campbell, Ky. At the Birmingham Post-Herald, he reported on the local school districts' attempts to desegregate classrooms. Waddle later worked as Washington correspondent for the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times during the Watergate scandals.
While working as managing editor for the Kansas City Times, his staff was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for General News Reporting for the coverage of a national disaster. That same year, a writer under his direction won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Waddle worked with the Anniston Star as managing editor, editorial page editor and then executive editor and vice-president for news.
In 2001, Waddle was named Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at American University in Bulgaria as a Fulbright senior lecturer. He was selected in 2003 as the James A. Clendinen Professor in Editorial and Critical Writing for the University of South Florida. Waddle then spent an academic year in Cambridge, Mass., taking part in the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
Waddle currently serves as president of the Ayers Family Institute for Community Journalism. He is also the Anniston coordinator of the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism, a tuition-paid, stipend-provided program of the University of Alabama and the Anniston Star. He continues to actively review books for the Anniston Star and to produce news commentaries on Alabama Public TV, on a podcast with the editor of the Star and on his own blog, called OneJournalist.
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