After reminding his audience that “the growth of new media does not mean the death of traditional journalistic values,” Dean Stephen B. Shepard awarded Master of Arts in Journalism degrees to 45 members of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s second class. Associate Dean and Emcee Judith Watson joked that the Class of 2008 now joins one of New York’s most exclusive clubs: CUNY J-School alumni.
Shepard thanked students for taking a chance “on a new school that had not yet graduated its first class when you started here 16 months ago.” Acknowledging that “it was–and is–a time of profound and wrenching transition to the digital age,” he went on to say that “this is actually a fascinating time of opportunity, a chance for you and your generation to re-imagine journalism, to put your own stamp, your own ideas, on our noble profession.”
The Dec. 16 commencement ceremony at The Times Center auditorium, followed by a reception at the J-School next door, also featured addresses by Joshua Cinelli of the Class of 2008 and broadcast journalist Bill Moyers, as well as a welcome by Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s senior vice chancellor for university relations.
Cinelli, chosen by his fellow students to speak on their behalf, noted that there were plenty of firsts in the Class of 2008: It was the first to be offered a course in international journalism, it started a Society of Professional Journalists chapter, and it was first to cover a presidential election. “And what a historic election it was,” said Cinelli, who brought national attention to the J-School during the New Hampshire Democratic primary when he caught footage of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly tussling with an security guard at a Barack Obama rally.
Moyers, whose career as an investigative journalist, commentator, and documentary producer spans 40 years, accepted the Dean’s Award for Lifetime Excellence in Journalism before delivering his remarks.
Stating that he came from an age when “digital media meant counting on your fingers,” he admitted to having sleepless nights over what’s happening to journalism. “Everything that’s tied down is coming loose,” he said. “Newspapers are crashing and burning, circulation is in a freefall, television and cable seem to follow the dictum that nobody reports, we decide, and no one has figured out yet how to make real money from old-line content.”
Against this dreary backdrop, he had this uplifting message for the J-School students: “I want you to know that on this very important day in your lives, some of us from the past think you are very brave for still believing journalism is a calling worthy of your utmost,” he said. “So when you’re struggling to find a job that pays the bills, never lose sight of why you wanted to be a journalist in the first place. Never forget that it matters.”