Tom Cheatham

T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor, Fall 2002

Pollner Professor Tom CheathamABOUT: Tom Cheatham spent years as a foreign correspondent for United Press International before becoming a producer and foreign bureau chief for NBC. He taught a course on war correspondence in the fall of 2002. His Pollner lecture explored the role of the press during wartime. 


"My Pollner Experience" by Tom Cheatham

Where to begin?

This semester at the School of Journalism as the visiting Pollner professor has been such a wonderful experience, with so many rewards and laughs, that it's difficult to pack up and go home.

I'll miss the friendships - the dean and the faculty make it special - but most of all, I'll miss the students.

For what is this place all about if not the students?

This school is blessed with an abundance of young people dedicated to becoming reporters, writers, photographers, designers, producers and editors ready to compete in today's world of journalism, both print and broadcast.

Look closely at the Kaimin, the student newspaper, and you'll get an idea how good they can be - and, sometimes, how much they have to learn.

One of the pleasures of my tenure was watching the Kaimin kids grow up and grow good. They did that by learning from their mistakes, supporting one another and, most important, having fun together.

Jessie Childress is an editor with a deep sense of responsibility and abundant patience, graceful under pressure but not to be trifled with - the zookeeper, as it were.

Courtney Lowery has the courage and the talent as a columnist to bare her heart and touch yours, too.

Kellyn Brown, a tenacious reporter, has a wonderful way with words, unusual in one so young.

News editors Paul Queneau, Liam Gallagher and Bryan O'Connor, serious gentlemen all, are dedicated to helping reporters get stories and present them clearly and concisely.

Nathaniel Cerf, Bryan Ganno and Lucas Tanglen edit the copy, write the heads and keep the slip-ups out of print. Big slip-ups.

Kristin Inbody and Tiffany Aldinger have a sense of humor that brings laughter to their readers and joy to those around them. Tiffany, a page designer, makes the paper look good, too.

Candy Buster has turned the arts section into a lively page filled with interesting stories, from ballet to hip hop. She's an entrepreneur with Griz tickets as well.

Chris Rodkey hit a home run with his my-life-as-Monte interview and may have led the league in lessons learned. They'll serve him well in the future.

Natalie Storey showed a natural talent for finding stories and writing them well. And she's only a sophomore - what potential!

Kat Sather has a brilliant eye for detail and the ability to make it come alive for her readers.

Jeff Windmueller stopped wearing his pajamas and slippers to the Kaimin office and  presto – his reporting and writing started showing how good he can be.

Bryan Haines and his sports crew – Brittany Hageman, Marina Mackrow and Chelsi Moy – made huge gains with some touching in-depth profiles, but coverage lapses denied them an undefeated season.

Luke Johnson's brilliant first-person account of trying to get on MTV's "Real World" was one of the highlights of the semester – a self-acknowledged "smart ass" hiding behind that shy façade.

Flashes of brilliance and evidence of potential came from Casey Trang and Ramey Corn late in the game.

Will Cleveland showed up as a shy volunteer and emerged into an extroverted reporter-in-the-rough.

And where would the Kaimin be without those wonderful pictures from Josh Parker, Lido Vizzutti, Olivia Nisbet, Lisa Hornstein, Colin Blakley, Macall McGillis and Nick Wolcott? Great eyes for a picture, all.

Cartoonists Luke Childress and Cort Arlint combine "funny" with "insightful."

And it isn't just the Kaimin kids. Some students are too busy or otherwise engaged to work on the paper. Some support families. Some work five nights a week to support themselves. Many of them leave me with great memories as well.

In my seminar on the history of American war correspondence, each student was assigned a former war correspondent to profile. Keila Szpaller got Gloria Emerson, formerly of the New York Times and now a novelist.

Emerson put Keila to the test. Why me? Why now? Get someone else, why don't you. Well, OK. Start by reading my books. An interview, you want an interview?

Keila read the books, persevered with a sense of humor and will never forget her "semester with Gloria."

Yoshi Nohara was assigned to profile Jim Pringle. Pringle, a former Reuters correspondent in Vietnam who now works for the Times of London, is a gentle Scotsman who nurtured and inspired Yoshi. A gentle soul himself, Yoshi now aspires to follow in Pringle's footsteps.

We had visitors: Gwen Florio of the Denver Post, who's reported from Somalia and Afghanistan, and Mauri Moore, an NBC producer who covered the Latin American turmoil of the ‘80s and the Gulf War of the early ‘90s. They became profile subjects for Randa Alteneder and Jessica Hamner.

Don Oliver, that cantankerous and witty UM grad of NBC News fame, became the subject of Jenny Kuglin's profile.

Dan D'Ambrosio, a graduate student/family man who just won one of 22 national AP fellowships, profiled Joe Galloway, the former UPI war correspondent who wrote the book that became the movie "We Were Soldiers Once."

And Malcolm Brooks was rewarded by profiling Peter Maass, the former Washington Post correspondent and author of "Love Thy Neighbor," the definitive book on the atrocities in Bosnia.

Into the world these students and others will take our ambitions and hopes for them: that they seek the truth, expose injustice and hypocrisy and, just maybe, brighten people's lives along the way.

They've brightened mine already.