I am pleased to announce that Brian Charles will be joining me at LSU later this month as a Student Media adviser.
I think I first met Brian in 2013, when I was visiting the Pasadena Star-News for the opening of its “News Lounge,” a place in downtown Pasadena where the public would be welcome to come for events, using computers, accessing archives, etc. I was in charge of community engagement for Digital First Media, the parent company of the Star-News, and was chatting with an editor during the event, which attracted local dignitaries and residents. The editor pointed out that Brian was chatting amiably with the police chief and a police captain. What was remarkable, he said, was that Brian had been providing relentless coverage of various police department issues in the wake of an officer’s shooting of an unarmed man (this was a year-plus before Ferguson). I already was aware of his police coverage, but the scene across the room told me a lot about Brian: Not only is he an outstanding journalist, but he earns respect, even in difficult and potentially contentious situations.
I ran the DFM editorial awards program and a few weeks later, I got to hear judges discuss and praise Brian’s work when they chose him as our Journalist of the Year for mid-sized daily newsrooms.
After excelling for DFM in California, he joined the New Haven Register, where he developed a poverty beat. I spent several weeks in New Haven last year during Project Unbolt, and had several discussions with Brian about his work and more broadly about journalism and the changes that were happening. My admiration for him grew with each conversation.
I was pleased when he applied to be an adviser. On his visit to campus last week for an interview, I saw another conversation that said a lot about Brian and why I think he’s a good fit for this job. I had him scheduled to meet with student leaders of our various media operations from 2 to 3 p.m. Then he had a free hour to check email, call home or catch his breath during a long day of interviews. I broke into the student discussion at 3, saying they didn’t have to cut it off right then, but this was Brian’s free hour if he wanted. The discussion was still going on when the people scheduled for 4 p.m. arrived, and they just joined the discussion. At 5, I finally cut the discussion off, with some of the students who had arrived at 2 still discussing issues with Brian.
I caught only slices of the discussion, but from what I heard (and from the writing on the whiteboard in the conference room), I could tell that they were discussing the important challenges facing our Student Media operation. While most response to Brian’s interview last week was strongly positive, the critical remarks I received indicated he was already starting the difficult conversations we need to have to lead the students through the changes that lie ahead. I’ve long argued that journalists and media leaders need to embrace discomfort to innovate successfully.
Beyond his range of journalism skills, data analysis experience and digital skills, I’m glad to be adding Brian’s conversational skills. I want a teacher who will help me lead our students in some important and difficult conversations about changes we need to make in student media to pursue a prosperous future.
I’ve admired Brian’s work as a journalist since before I met him. I enjoyed working with him as a colleague in DFM newsrooms. I look forward to working together with him as we lead LSU Student Media.
Other Student Media leadership notes
Tad Odell, an instructor in the Manship School of Mass Communication and head of our journalism area, has agreed to take on a part-time role advising student media as well. I’ve enjoyed working with Tad the past year as we’ve been colleagues on the Manship faculty. He was one of the colleagues who pitched in earlier this year when chemotherapy interfered with my teaching duties, for which I’m deeply grateful. I look forward to working more closely with Tad.
We hope to fill out our Student Media staff soon by hiring someone to lead our student advertising team. If you are (or know) an outstanding advertising professional with strong leadership skills, please check our listing for the position and get in touch with me right away.