Gilbert '87 and his wife, Amy (Lydic) '86, live in Jamestown with their three teenage daughters. Photo credit: Scott Huck
by Sharyn Kopf — Marketing
November 9, 2009
How do you get your news? The local newspaper? TV? A favorite website? All of the above? With so many options, people wanting to study journalism face more opportunities — and more challenges — than ever before.
Cedarville University's new journalism program recognizes the current complexity of the career by converging a wide range of disciplines. In this way, students are prepared for any and every possibility — from traditional print to blogs to video.
"Today's graduate needs flexibility for a variety of jobs," said Jeff Gilbert '87, Cedarville's new journalism professor. "We want to equip students to work on any publication or website and to help them develop strong skills."
Gilbert brings 22 years of experience to the University, mostly in sports writing and editing. A broadcasting major with an emphasis in journalism, he got his start at a small newspaper in northern Virginia. He spent the last 12 years at The Roanoke Times — a major metro paper in southwest Virginia — where he held several positions, including page designer, copy editor, and sports editor.
But this past August, he "left the mountains for the cornfields" when he came to Cedarville. Gilbert brought a vision for the journalism major with him, one that would see it grow at a manageable rate, giving students an opportunity to gain experience in several media outlets beyond print journalism. Most importantly, the program will focus on marketability.
For instance, Gilbert said, "Students need to understand social network audiences like Facebook and Twitter, not only how they work but how to be ready for wherever such means of communication might go."
Like Cedarville's other programs, the journalism major integrates a Christian perspective into the coursework. According to Gilbert, "Journalists have a lot of opportunities to do the wrong thing." For this reason, he emphasizes the importance of truthful, upfront integrity — in interviews, in dealing with sources, in the work produced. This means treating people as Christ would and pursuing accuracy.
As people consume news, they tend to think about views and perspectives and can confuse opinions with news. "The role of a reporter is different from a commentator," said Gilbert. "You need to be able to separate yourself from the story and tell the facts."
For Gilbert, writing from a Christian perspective means being accurate, even if the truth hurts the side you're on. Journalism might be practical, but some of its theory can be hard to get across. It's a challenge Cedarville University considers vital for preparing students to engage their world with biblical truth.
One of Gilbert's roles will be serving as advisor to the student newspaper, Cedars. He hopes to start up a revamped publication next semester, one that remains relevant to students and the campus as a whole.
The revised Cedars will include a new format, something more in keeping with the direction today's journalism methods are heading. With that in mind, Gilbert wants to use the website as a daily news source and make the print publication more like a magazine with forward-looking, bigger stories. The next step in the process will be to hold an organizational meeting and hire newspaper staff before Christmas. Of course, this team will be made up of journalism students as much as possible.
Some Cedarville students have already seen success. Last summer, senior Brandon Smith wrote an investigative piece on "the most polluted place in Greene County" — a two-acre vacant lot in Beavercreek, Ohio. The article was published not only in the paper where he was working at the time but in four other area newspapers as well.
"It's important for our students to leave here with a body of work," Gilbert said. "And I've seen improvement from their first story to their second."
And that's only the beginning.
To learn more about the journalism program, visit www.cedarville.edu/journalism. You can also read some of the students' work from the introduction to reporting class.
E-mail Jeff Gilbert