What can I contribute to journalism?

What can I contribute to journalism?

It's a question I’ve been asking for years now.

My questioning has taken a variety of forms, including:

  • writing and editing for my high school and college newspapers,
  • hosting a weekly podcast with analysis of the local news,
  • blogging as a media critic,
  • serving on the local daily paper’s editorial board,
  • having letters to the editor accepted in local and national publications,
  • working professionally to advise and support some of the biggest news publishers on the web,
  • helping to organize a three-day national conference for publishers, and
  • researching business models for local journalism.

I’ve been rewarded and challenged in all of those things, and in most cases I’ve been told that I’ve made a positive difference. And yet...I feel more concerned than ever about the waning appreciation for journalism and pursuit of the truth in modern society. I also feel more drawn than ever to trying to do something (else) about it.

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The End of College?

I found this interview with author Kevin Carey about "The End of College" to be very much worthwhile. He talks about shifting understandings of the value of higher education, the ways in which college replicates privilege, why college is so expensive, and what college might look like in a few decades.

Carey's main prediction is that a handful of very expensive and elite schools will survive in the traditional model while the rest of higher education shifts to online tools and offline experiences that aren't concentrated in a specific location.

Some sort of major shift seems inevitable. As I watch my own alma mater Earlham College wrestle with increasing costs against the backdrop of a highly competitive admissions landscape, I have to wonder if I would spend the money to send my own children to a place like it.

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Educational attainment in Wayne County, Indiana

An article in today's Palladium-Item quotes the U.S. Census Bureau statistic that "7.9 percent of Wayne County residents have a four-year college degree. The state average is 14.6 percent."

I haven't been able to find the data that supports those statements. According to the Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates, the numbers are a little better than that: 16.8% of the Wayne County population over 18 have a bachelor's degree or higher. Other collections and analysis of data also suggest better numbers, e.g. 13.7% of people 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or higher or 17.1% of people 25 or older have a B.A. or higher degree.

I wholeheartedly agree with the article's point that the community needs to address 'brain drain' and improve our education situation. But I was troubled to read that the number of residents with a four-year college degree or better are that low, and at least with some initial research, it appears they may not be.

I'll reach out to the Palladium-Item to see if I can get more information about the source of the stats.

UPDATE on March 18th: Louise Ronald at the Palladium-Item helped clarify the discrepancy, noting that the original percentages in the article were from the EDC's strategic plan, and that

"The strategic plan numbers represent a % of the total population, whereas the quick facts is only taking into account the population ages 25 and older. Quick facts is also including bachelor's degree and higher into their 17%, whereas the strategic plan report has them separated between 4 year degree and graduate degree."

So, depending on whether you want to include people with graduate degrees in the stats of people who have a 4-year degree, or just want to identify people ONLY with a 4-year degree, the numbers are different.

A welcome to Earlham College's incoming class

(This article originally appeared in the August 16, 2013 edition of The Earlham Word, printed for new students beginning their first year at the college.)

Like many of you are doing now, I arrived as a new student on this campus not so many years ago, ready to see what college would be about. With too much luggage and an anxious but supportive parent in tow, I experienced the enthusiastic welcome as we drove up the main drive, the surveying of my dorm room, the slightly awkward and then quickly enjoyable meeting of my roommate, checking out the cafeteria, figuring out my mailbox, and breathing in the sights and sounds of the new place I would call home for a while.

These are moments and traditions that you'll all experience differently, but they're just a few in the many pieces of a journey that, across space and time, you're sharing with thousands of other Earlhamites who have also called this place home.

The adventure of that journey will almost certainly contain deep joy and exceptional challenges. There will almost certainly be love and loss, shocking moments of new perspective, and changes in course that you'd swear today could never happen to you. You will be changed by this place in ways you may not fully notice until months or years later, and you will change those around you both with your big ideas and with the quiet moments of understanding or kindness that you show them. You will undoubtedly screw up, maybe in a big and public way, maybe in a small way that only you feel, but you'll also learn new kinds of humility and forgiveness that will serve you well.

If I have regrets about my own time at Earlham, there are three worth holding up here in case they're helpful to you:

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