My aspirations don’t measure up
The biannual confirmation that members of my profession are basking in the glow of professional achievement arrived in the mail this week. As usual, mine name wasn’t among them.I’m always eager to pore over the pages of the University of Wisconsin journalism school alumni newsletter, beer in hand, and find out what my former J-School colleagues are up to in the way of proving themselves the best and brightest of their generation, and then sending The Wisconsin Journalist (as the publication’s named) a little note to brag about it. Weenies.And there’s inevitably a photo and/or mention of a professor I had some 25 years ago, which always invokes an outburst like: “Jesus H! Is he still there?” It’s sort of like when Lady Bird Johnson died last month and everyone said, ‘You mean she was still alive?'”Anyway, the current issue includes a feature on Chris Rose, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism the same year that I did. Nonetheless, I can’t for the life of me remember him. It’s a big school, though, and quite possible that we never crossed paths.He, along with his co-workers at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, won a Pulitzer for their coverage of Katrina. He’s now a regular commentator on PBS’s “News Hour” with Jim Lehrer and on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” not to mention a finalist for an individual Pulitzer and a Scripps Howard Foundation national journalism award. According to the article, “he credits the UW as the place he matured as a writer.” Yeah, right. I wrote more copy in my first month as a cub reporter at a small daily paper than I wrote in four years of J-school.Sounds to me like somebody’s bucking for one of the university’s Distinguished Service Awards for professional contributions in journalism – a prize that has inexplicably eluded me.But the real highlights in my J-School newsletter are the alumni updates provided by the alumni themselves. There’s always a few pages of these brief synopses, which I quickly scan for news of graduates I actually knew. I almost never find a familiar name. Apparently, I hung with the underachievers.But, I do catch up on fellow grads whose career aspirations clearly involve more than skiing a double-black with grace before lunch.Scott Cohn, who graduated a year before I did, was nominated for two national Emmy Awards for Best Investigative Reporting of a Business Story in a Regularly Scheduled Newcast.OK, I’ve never even won the Aspen Times Best Of … readers poll for favorite local columnist. In fact, I think the only time I ever collected a single vote was when I filled out the ballot myself.A 1969 grad, Allee Willis, somehow parlayed her journalism training into songsmithing. She’s a Grammy-winning composer “whose hit songs have sold over 50 million records.” She also has a musical hit on Broadway, “The Color Purple,” according to her blurb.Willis graduated well before I arrived at college, but I was intrigued enough to Google this chick. Turns out she wrote the theme song from “Friends” and “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire among other stuff. Wow.Yeah, but has she ever made sense of an Aspen City Council meeting on deadline?Then there’s a ’96 grad who has been promoted to senior political producer for CNN.com.The real eye-openers, though, are the “kids” who graduated just a few years ago, but lay claim to jobs like the e-campaign director for Rudy Giuliani’s Presidential Exploratory Committee, reporter for The New York Times and director of communications for the Florida Department of Health.The newsletter always includes a little “Update Us” form that one can fill out and send in, for inclusion in the next issue of alumni updates. I’m working one up now:Janet Urquhart, Web editor and non-award-winning columnist for The Aspen Times, recently landed a role as utility infielder on the Times’ beer-swilling softball team, a possible precursor to her inaugural ski descent of Highland Bowl. Her in-depth coverage of local fly-fishing conditions has earned her a set of leaky waders.OK, it’s a work in progress, much like my career.Janet Urquhart would rather win the PowerBall than a Pulitzer. She thinks she has her priorities in order. E-mail her at email@example.com.
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