By Andrew Hesner
INDIANA — Print news may not be so profitable as it was in the recent past. But the future of journalism is bright, a 1985 Indiana University of Pennsylvania alum and First Amendment activist told a standing-room-only campus crowd at the Hadley Union Building on Monday.
Robert “Rob” Boston, 49, a senior policy analyst at Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a 1985 IUP journalism alumnus, spoke to about 80 students, largely journalism majors, about job prospects and career opportunities at an afternoon event sponsored by the IUP chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
“More outlets [are] spreading news, spreading positions and advocating,” said Boston, in a tie and navy blazer. “But not all of them have figured out ways to make money. And that certainly is affecting writers.”
Kari Andren, a 2008 IUP journalism graduate and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter, also spoke at the annual SPJ Journalism Jobs Boot Camp held 5-6:15 p.m. in the HUB Monongahela Room. Discussion covered journalism internships, writing samples, social media, employer expectations and other career advice.
“My biggest tip is to be persistent and not rely on email,” said Andren, in a black-and-white patterned dress. “I am not joking when I say I got my job at the Tribune-Review because it became cheaper to just hire me than to continue to take my phone calls.”
“If you want to write for a living,” Boston added, “you have to be writing right now. If you want to be a writer and you have no samples to show, you’re going nowhere.”
Students posed questions for much of the last half of the program.
“Do you recommend having clips that are focused on the particular field that you’re going into?” asked IUP journalism major Fred Speaker. Speaker also asked about the rise of citizen journalism and a revival of yellow journalism.
Audience and organizer reaction was mostly positive.
“It’s a great way for majors to learn firsthand about how to get ahead in the field,” said SPJ Vice President Jacob “Jake” Williams.
“I thought the turnout was great,” said SJP outreach coordinator and IUP journalism senior Danielle K. Bashore. “The speakers had a lot of wonderful and useful information for everyone.”
“It was our biggest turnout yet,” said SPJ faculty advisor and journalism professor David O. Loomis, Ph.D. “It was a good mix of speakers. Boston is involved in public relations and Andren is involved in daily journalism.”
Andrew Hesner is a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is from Blairstown, N.J.
Sidebar: Church-state expert critiques Santorum, Romney
INDIANA — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum could pose a threat to the constitutional separation of church and state mandated by the First Amendment, an expert said following a talk at IUP on Monday.
Robert “Rob” Boston, book author, public speaker, news commentator and senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, addressed the religiosity of Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, a Catholic.
Boston said his non-profit organization takes no partisan political stands. But he addressed the constitutional issue as it relates to two prominent Catholic politicians.
“The mistake he makes, especially with his criticism of former President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech on separation of church and state, is failing to appreciate the way that speech made it possible for people like Rick Santorum to be involved in political life,” Boston said.
Boston said Kennedy defused concerns about a Catholic president, and this opened the door to Catholic politicians and leaders.
“I think it’s a shame that Rick Santorum doesn’t respect that or understand that,” Boston said.
Boston also addressed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon.
“He can use a JFK moment,” said Boston. “He can get up and say, ‘I support separation of church and state, and I’m not going to impose my Mormon faith on you.’ But he won’t do it because he is afraid to take that stand and alienate fellow conservatives.”
Boston added that a president can single-handedly alter the separation of religion and public policy, including judicial nominations.
“We saw this during the Reagan and Bush years,” Boston said. “The president has the power to do a number of things that don’t even require Congress to sign off on, such as federal abortion policy and the faith-based initiative.”