I wonder if I’ve cited anyone in this blog more frequently (or been cited more frequently by anyone in another blog) than Tim McGuire.
Last week Dean Chris Callahan announced Tim’s plan to retire from the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, and I have to cite Tim again: To wish him well and to thank him for his contributions to journalism and journalism education. And especially to thank him for his friendship, advice and contributions to my blog. Update: Tim has written about his retirement on his own blog.
Tim was prominent in journalism when I was still obscure, and I knew of him for years before I actually met him. By the time we became friends, he had moved to the classroom from the newsroom (most notably the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he was editor). Back in my writing coach days, before we had met, I was citing his advice on tight writing in my first blog, Training Tracks, written for newsroom trainers.
Tim and I met in 2007, when I came to the Cronkite School to lead a Newspaper Next workshop for the American Press Institute. (We might have shaken hands earlier at a convention, but this was my first memorable interaction with Tim.)
He blogged about the workshop, with kind words for my presentation and some of the N2 concepts. He criticized API’s marketing, because of the light turnout at the workshop. I responded saying that API had actually probably saturated the newspaper-industry market by the time I reached the Cronkite School. I personally had done an earlier presentation in Arizona, and my colleagues and I had done several dozen more throughout the country, including others in Utah and Las Vegas.
Whether Tim was right or I was about the marketing, our conversation at the workshop and the ensuing exchange on the blog and by email started a friendship that I cherish. And, as with many close friendships, that wasn’t our last disagreement. I think we agree much more about journalism and the news biz than we disagree. But we likely both enjoy the good-natured give-and-take of our disputes more than we do our agreements (as good friends often do).
We probably haven’t met in person even a dozen times (and one of those was a surprising chance meeting in an elevator in Las Vegas when we both were on personal travel). But with candid and friendly conversations when we could connect face-to-face, and staying in touch in between the personal connections by email, phone, social media and blogs, we came to know each other well. I’m sure the fondness is mutual, because Tim doesn’t pull punches when he thinks I’m full of it, and he compliments and encourages me more than he admonishes me. I appreciate the full spectrum of our communication.
An email exchange a few years ago illustrates some of Tim’s personality and the encouragement he gives. I was interested in an academic position (which I did not end up getting). Tim said I would be a perfect fit and he had thought of me when the job came open. I noted that the job listing said the university preferred a graduate degree (I have only a bachelor’s).
Tim’s response: “You have a bleeping graduate degree.”
I replied, “Well, I do teach in two master’s programs …”
Tim: “No, I speak of your life experience.”
I didn’t get the job, but the encouragement meant the world to me as I explored other opportunities, including in academia, where I ended up working for our mutual friend, Jerry Ceppos, dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.
Beyond the encouragement, I was amused that Tim bleeped himself in an email to a friend. He would have dropped an f-bomb, with flair, if we were discussing my career options in person or on the phone. But Tim’s a writer and editor with long experience in newsrooms that produced family newspapers, and I guess he self-edits even a one-line email to a friend.
I never had the nerve to claim on my resumé that I had a bleeping graduate degree from the Tim McGuire School of Life Experience, but many a cover letter quoted one of the kindest compliments I ever received, from Tim’s blog:
I think Steve Buttry is to journalistic innovation what pre-steroid stars are to baseball —the real damn deal.
Out of nostalgia and appreciation for our friendship, after learning of Tim’s planned retirement, I reviewed our various interactions in person and on our blogs. I share some of them here, because I think they say a lot about Tim and the wisdom, experience and personality he has brought to journalism and education, and the breadth of topics on which he has contributed his expertise and experience to the journalism conversation:
API received a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation for seminars on digital journalism ethics, and the Arizona Newspapers Association brought me back to the Cronkite School (probably in 2008 or 2009) for a seminar and suggested that I collaborate with Tim. I jumped at the opportunity, and might have learned more from Tim than I taught to the journalists attending the seminar.
He also cited me in his 2013 analysis of Poynter’s new Guiding Principles for the Journalist.
— Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) September 3, 2014
1. Don’t waste your time on minor issues and process oriented meetings and, 2. think big, transformative change, not incremental change.
When a new adjunct journalism professor asked my advice a couple years ago, I called on Tim and some other more experienced professors. I was not surprised that Tim responded with valuable advice (on my blog and his):
I find that experimentation is the soul of effective teaching. This is my 15th semester of teaching and I’ve never used the same syllabus twice. Sure, I keep some elements from previous semesters but every semester I essentially redesign my courses.
Before I entered academia, Tim also invited me in 2009 to join a panel discussion he was leading for the Accreditation Council in Education in Journalism and Mass Communication on updating journalism curricula.
Twitter definitely has its own considerable value but I argue Twitter is not the canary in the coal mine for innovation. The failure to entertain and dance with the journalistic unknown is a far better indicator of whether journalists will innovate in time to save their hides.
When I compiled a 2009 list of helpful links for journalists using Twitter, Tim was one of the former editors on Twitter that I suggested following.
Tim is the Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at the Cronkite School, and we share an interest in helping future journalists understand (and innovate) the business they work for. I was honored that his syllabi linked frequently to my posts suggesting new revenue streams and business models to support journalism (that was the point of the Newspaper Next seminar where we met).
Before I blogged my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, a proposed business model for community media, I invited Tim’s feedback, which was helpful in the final edit. Tim shared C3 with his class and, if I recall correctly, he had me talk to the class by phone (this might have been pre-Skype, or before we were on Skype).
Similarly, I cited Tim’s blog in my reading resources for an entrepreneurial journalism class I taught at Georgetown University. I cited his class as a model for other schools to follow when my alma mater, TCU, asked me to consult on updating journalism-school curricula.
Tim’s “this I believe” post about journalism and the future of media (which mentioned me) prompted similar reflections here. When I was a keynote speaker for the Arizona Newspapers Association in 2012, Tim praised my call for media leaders to embrace discomfort.
A blogging coach
After I criticized the New York Times’ “Mubarak Out” headline as old news by the time the print edition came out, an interesting discussion ensued on Twitter. Tim suggested that I curate the discussion:
Thank you @stevebuttry for the excellent forward-looking head discussion. It is spot-on. Please memorialize in a blog.
— timmcguire (@timmcguire) February 13, 2011
Family and health
Friends learn and care about each others’ families and personal lives, and Tim and I both have blogged and talked about the trials and triumphs in our families and personal challenges with health and disability.
Tim never met my nephew Patrick, but grieved for him and blogged about how my tweets about Patrick’s leukemia treatment and eventually his death helped Tim know my nephew anyway and caused him to mourn Patrick’s death.
I never met Tim’s late wife, Jean, but felt I knew her through my conversations and digital exchanges with Tim, and expressed sympathy over her lung cancer and eventual death, then admiration for Tim’s personal blog, McGuire on Life, Disability and Grief. When I couldn’t sleep one night during my chemotherapy, I wrote a post that cited Jean’s disdain for the battle metaphors that cancer patients invariably hear.
Tim’s own book, “Some People Even Take Them Home,” (the cover is at the top of this post) tells the stories of Tim’s physical disability and his son, Jason’s, Down Syndrome “and our journey to acceptance.” I not only blogged about the book, but shared some tips on promoting a book (from authors Chuck Offenburger and Buffy Andrews as well as my own tips).
In his personal blog, Tim praised me as the “patron saint of transparency” for my CaringBridge blog about my lymphoma treatment (and made a donation to CaringBridge in my honor).
— timmcguire (@timmcguire) January 14, 2015