For the first time in many years, student journalists working at the University Daily Kansan will not have Malcolm Gibson to lean on this year. Or to lean on them.
Gibson, who retired earlier this year, had been a working journalist for 34 years when he came to Kansas University in 1996 as the lead editing teacher. That’s when he began training young journalists to work in a profession that was being revolutionized by digital technology.
“Yeah, in fact I put my class up on the Internet in ’97,” Gibson said during an interview in April. I haven’t printed a syllabus since ’97.”
In 2001, he was named general manager and news adviser of the student-operated newspaper, which is an independent organization, separate from the School of Journalism. By the time he retired earlier this year, students were learning how to write and distribute stories through a broad and new array of electronic and social media.
Despite those changes, Gibson said, there still are some things about journalism that have not changed.
“The ultimate foundations of journalism remain the same, and that’s asking good questions, having an insatiable curiosity and having a love of words. Whether you’re doing it in 140 characters or in 40 inches, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
During his tenure, Gibson worked with perhaps thousands of student journalists. Some went on to successful careers in the news business, while others eventually chose other professions. But Gibson declined to single out any one student as especially memorable, saying they were all equally important in his eyes.
“They all are unique in various ways, and obviously some are better than others,” he said.
In addition to his teaching duties, Gibson also has a license as an ordained minister and officiated at the weddings of several former UDK editors.
“You certainly develop close relationships with them that go well beyond the news advising and general managing of the product,” he said.
The Kansan is just one of many student-operated media outlets at KU. Students also have the opportunity to work at radio station KJHK-FM and the television station KUJH-TV.
Students also have the opportunity to work at KU’s Topeka bureau, which gives them the chance to work with The Associated Press, the Lawrence Journal-World and other newspapers covering Statehouse news. And the recently opened Media Crossroads facility in the Kansas Union provides a kind of incubator environment where students, faculty and the public can collaborate on new initiatives using a variety of media technologies.
Ann Brill, School of Journalism dean, said she expects the number of opportunities to continue growing in the future.
“There’s always something new,” she said. “Facebook didn’t even exist how many years ago, and now students are saying that’s what their parents do, and they’re more into Twitter and moving into Instagram. So who knows what’s next? But we have to keep up with the technology while still talking to our students about basic skills: ethics, and how you go about crafting a story, talking to people and presentation.”