Dwight Boyum On the Importance of Mass Communication and The Echo
Faculty member Dwight Boyum sees mass communication and The Echo school newspaper as avenues for him to not only teach journalism, but also improve the lives of his students and those on campus who may pick up the paper.
Teaching mass communication classes since 1990, just a year after he joined local newspaper the Post-Bulletin, and advising The Echo since 2011 (and an earlier stint for roughly two years), has allowed Boyum to deliver what he’s learned as an elder statesman of the media business.
But in return, The Echo has inspired him.
“The Echo’s fun because I never know what I’m going to get with students; they all come in with different backgrounds, (from) different walks of life,” Boyum begins.
One example of this immediately stands out to Boyum. Last year his Editor in Chief was a 41-year-old nontraditional student with a background in construction.
“It’s interesting when you have someone like that because they have so much life experience,” Boyum explains. “They just don’t sit there, nod, and agree. They’ll challenge you in a fun way.
“It forces you to explain why journalists do the things they do, and unfortunately a lot of people just don’t understand what the role of the media is, and who is a journalist,” Boyum continues candidly.
But a lot has changed in the journalism world.
“We’re living in such an interesting era,” Boyum concedes. “You’re bombarded with all sorts of types of media. Your clock alarm goes off and you have a radio station tuned; (while) eating breakfast you’ll log into your favorite website or blog or whatever. What we choose is really important.”
Just by reading one publication versus listening to another can shape perceptions: are you choosing a station with bias or something with credible sources?
Relying on biased media can stoke the political divisiveness that is so prominent in American culture these days, especially during the presidential election buildup, and Boyum hopes to give his students enough knowledge to avoid that.
“We all get frustrated and want to raise our voice now and again, but there’s so much of that now,” Boyum says. “When everybody’s shouting, nobody is listening.”
A punch of energy from class
Boyum has seen it all during his decades of service to the Post-Bulletin. It’s a tiring job, but class gives him a reboot.
“I get energized when I’m out here,” Boyum says sincerely.
He gives an example of a time in 2014 when he was involved in three interviews with politicians before having class in the afternoon. He arrived with five minutes to spare, but got on track and had one of the best classes he’s ever had, with about half of the students engaging in thoughtful conversation.
“I left class and thought, ‘Ah, this is why I do this!’” Boyum exclaims. “Students who take a journalism class, I think, are very curious about the world.”
Teaching students to be better learners of the world is similar to Boyum’s role at the Post-Bulletin, where he hopes to give community members just a little bit better of an understanding of Rochester’s happenings.
Boyum says that one of the best Echo pieces accomplished this. The piece was about what it’s like to be a transgender college student.
“That was a really good service to the community because how can you understand what a transgender person is going through, even if you’re uncomfortable and have some objections, try to at least understand where they’re coming from and why,” says Boyum. “That was a really dynamic, relevant edition.”
Relevance is key.
Things like how to pay for school, social issues on campus, and how to find a place to belong (Boyum then remembers a story about a student who felt lost and found his way after being convinced to join band). If it can improve a student’s life in some way, or teach them something new, The Echo wants to cover it.
The case for journalism
Boyum recommends a newswriting or mass communication class to every student. He believes being a better communicator and writer is essential for anyone in business or even history majors. At the very least, one class makes you more discerning the next time you open a newspaper.
Or you could just join The Echo staff.
“I tell people, even if you’re not going into journalism, I think working at a student newspaper is a good experience,” Boyum says. “It heightens those communication skills; you learn how to tighten your writing. I just want students to express themselves. Whether as a writer, a graphic designer, as a photographer. I want The Echo to be that venue where they can express themselves.”
RCTC Spotlight is a series highlighting students, faculty, staff, alumni, and various departments.