I owe my success in journalism to Bob Cole and Kim Pearson, the yin and yang of the College’s journalism program. Naturally, replacing Cole will be like finding a new lead singer for Van Halen – how do you imitate the epitome of a journalistic rock star?
Class of 1991
It seemed to me that Dr. Cole would never retire, that he would always be there at the College to help eager would-be writers navigate the mysteries of journalism. It seems strange to me that the big bear of a man is not going to be in his paper-lined den of an office, lurking among towering stacks of file folders.
Cole encouraged me into The Signal, where I became one of the Monday night basement dwellers. He helped me get my first job as the Times of Trenton’s State House intern in 1988.
The skills he imparted in his classes supported me as I worked on the old State House Annex press row, and got me a full-time job as a municipal beat reporter at the Times when I graduated.
When I switched over to the copy desk after about five years, it was the copy editing class notes that I had retained that came to my rescue.
I left the newspaper in 1999 in search of a more regular schedule – most copy desk work is nights and weekends, and I was burning out. Although I edit trade magazines now, and have to deal with more PR people than I ever thought possible, deep down I am still the trained cynic Cole would be proud of.
Journalism is changing rapidly in the face of the Internet. Newspapers are shrinking coverage and consolidating offices. For example, the Times of Trenton’s copy desk is now at the Star-Ledger in Newark, and the presses that used to thunder every night for first edition at 11 o’clock are now mostly silent.
Although newspapers are faltering, the need for probing, clear-headed journalism still exists. The skills Cole taught – how to ask questions, how to access and use public records, understanding the legislative and judicial processes, and how to write clearly and understandably for readers – are still applicable in this new world.
Wherever we land, we must keep these skills alive.
This is an age where a piece of marketing fluff gets sent to me as an “article,” an age when every company describes itself as “unique,” every data application program is “robust,” and every business decision is “actionable.” Our leaders in politics and business speak in PowerPoint slides and stilted MBA-influenced jargon.
So, past and future graduates of the College’s journalism program, remember the Cole-isms and other words of wisdom. If you become half the kind of mentor to future journalists that Cole was to you, there is hope for the future yet.
Christiane Biamonte Truelove
Class of ’89