Susan Kirkman Zake talked about photojournalism to my ethics class at Kent State Monday. But what see really talked about was character.
Susan is an adjunct faculty member at Kent, and she is completing her master’s degree. In another life (as the corporate suits love to say) she managed photography, multimedia and special projects at the Akron Beacon Journal.
What’s that have to do with basketball and character? C’mon. Give me a few sentences.
Susan is an example of why people turn to journalism as a career. She’s talented. She’s passionate about journalism. And she strikes me as someone with character.
Did the students respond to her? Yes. They are a lively group in most cases anyway. But her message about photojournalism resonated with them: don’t lie, don’t distort the truth and don’t intentionally harm anyone. And do it all under deadline pressure in an environment where everyone who sees your work is a potential (likely?) critic. Pass the Rolaids.
She is uncompromising in her belief that photojournalists (all journalists for that matter) have to do “the right thing.” Not just when it is convenient or easy. But all the time. Otherwise they lose the public’s trust.
Gee. Trust and character. I respect people like Susan Kirkman Zake. IMO (practicing in case Bill Sledzik talks me into using Twitter) they are fighting an uphill battle in this day of social media and entertainment journalism – but they are advocates for what journalism was and should be. And maybe somewhere the once-young Woodwards and Bernsteins of my generation who flooded the journalism schools in the early 1970s post-Watergate are smiling. It’s not all about technology, folks. Or convergence and being proficient on all platforms – or whatever. It’s still about having a passion for informing the public, being honest and telling the truth – and having character.
OK. Now we get to basketball.
I came home after that class and began reading The New York Times. I start with the business pages…then sports…then arts…then editorials and op-eds. And there on the sports page was a column by William C. Rhoden, “Not Everyone Wants a Coaching Change at Indiana.”
Long story short. Indiana University hired Kevin Sampson two years ago to restore IU to the basketball glory days of Bobby Knight. But Sampson came to Bloomington from the University of Oklahoma with some heavy NCAA baggage. He violated some NCAA rules at Oklahoma. Now even on a tight leash at Indiana, it’s possible that he has violated earlier this season some of the same rules. Ouch.
Rhoden argues that Sampson should be given a second (third?) chance because he is a winner and can take Indiana back to the top of college basketball. I’m sure many IU alumni and others agree. The ends justify the means. Wahoooo.
So here it goes. I think Sampson should be fired, if the allegations are true. First-year IU President Michael McRobbie is expected to make a decision by the end of this week. Beyond basketball, I guess we’ll see if McRobbie has any balls.
Why? If Susan Kirkman Zake would fire a photojournalist for altering a photograph and changing the truth – shouldn’t we expect at least the same ethical standards to apply to the CEO of a multimillion-dollar basketball program. I’ll bet if an IU journalism student cheated on a test or plagiarized an article she would be out the door and fast.
Journalists have character. Otherwise they are gone. Good.
And if IU needs a basketball coach. Well, Bobby Knight may be available. He did a lot of things wrong – but apparently violating NCAA rules wasn’t one of them.
I didn’t ask Susan if she had any interest in coaching basketball.