February 23, 2006

Speere elected president of national organization

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When thorny issues arise, college media advisers look to their own professional experience and values for guidance. Often, they also turn to each other for advice through a national organization now headed by the top manager at the Daily Egyptian at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

College Media Advisors Inc. recently elected Lance Speere as its new president. Speere, general manager of the award-winning, student-run campus newspaper at SIUC, will help guide the organization's professional services, training and workshops aimed at the specialized field of educators who manage, advise and teach students at various college media outlets around the country. The group, which also supports media students through training and other services, has about 900 members.

Speere, a former newspaper reporter and editor, joined the group in 1996 soon after becoming interim faculty managing editor at the Daily Egyptian. He became faculty managing editor in 1997 and in 2000 added the title of general manager, dropping his editing duties in 2004.

Speer served as national vice president of College Media Advisors Inc. in 2003, spending two years in that role before his election as president in November. His term lasts two years.

The new position puts Speere and the SIUC School of Journalism at the forefront of college media issues, which includes the convergence of print, broadcast and Web news, ethics and First Amendment legal cases among others.

Guiding, but not controlling, student media is a challenge, Speere said.

"We're teaching students to be independent journalists, and that means we let them stumble and fall sometimes," he said. "At the same time, we're part of a university. So we're dealing with a government agency that isn't always going to approve of what we publish.

"Part of the group's role is teaching administrators about the purpose of student media," he said. "We have to show why we're trying to instill those independent values in students, and that we realize we're responsible and students are accountable."

One recent example of a thorny issue involves the debate over publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The depictions sparked scores of riots around the world and set off a discussion among the Western media over whether to run the cartoons here. At least one university newspaper, the Daily Illini, published the cartoons, resulting in protests, the suspension of two editors and raging debate over the incident.

Speere said members of College Media Advisors Inc. are seeking input from their colleagues as they wrestle with the issue.

"This is the type of thing as an adviser you use as a teaching moment to help students understand the issues," Speere said. "But because this particular issue is relatively new, even advisers are working our way through it and turning to each other. We are always communicating with each other, trying to make some sense of it and see what there is to learn from that situation and how that would apply to our own newsrooms."

Speere said that communication also came into play when the Daily Egyptian last year learned it had been the victim of a hoax story. Speere said he immediately shared the paper's experience with members of the group in an effort to help them avoid similar problems.

"I got a lot of feedback, with many of them saying ‘thanks, that could have happened here,'" Speere said.

Speere said he hopes to use his term as president to explore the issues of converging media on campuses – that is, the trend toward combining print, broadcast and Web sites and Web logs into an evolving information format. The group also is monitoring several legal issues involving freedom of the college press and is planning new training programs for its members.

Walter B. Jaehnig, director of the School of Journalism at SIUC, said Speere's position helps the University in several ways.

"It helps the visibility for SIUC and the School of Journalism," Jaehnig said. "We've always felt our Daily Egyptian operation was one of the most progressive in the nation and Lance's election is recognition of this. SIUC has a tradition of providing service to journalism education groups."

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Lance Speere

Lance Speere
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