SOC welcomes media diversity expert

By on September 26, 2007

An award-winning veteran columnist, Stan Simpson, brings his valuable journalism expertise to the Quinnipiac school of communications this fall, as he begins his first year as a professional in residence.

Simpson spent last year’s spring semester as an adjunct professor teaching courses in opinion journalism. He will continue to teach while organizing a number of lectures highlighting the issue of race and the media.

Simpson is the recipient of many honors, such as the Frederick Douglas Media Award. He was also named New England Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and Journalist of the Year by the Connecticut Small Business Administration.

Simpson said that he is excited to join Quinnipiac’s school of communications mostly because he feels that the program has a bright future.

“I’ve been impressed with the vision that they have here to establish the school of communications as a nationally prominent program,” Simpson said.

Simpson knew at a very young age that his future was in the media. Growing up, he expressed interest in radio, television, and newspapers.

“My goal was to be the black Larry King,” Simpson said. “I always wanted to be in media.”

Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Central Connecticut State University, and a master’s degree in public policy from Trinity College in Hartford.

Simpson worked at the Danbury News-Times as an intern, before taking on a full time position as a sports and local news reporter. He has also worked as a radio sportscaster for WREF, a station in Ridgefield, Connecticut. In 1989 he joined the Hartford Courant, where he specializes in writing opinion pieces.

Simpson said writing a good column can sometimes involve more work than in general news reporting, mainly because the accountability factor is amplified.

“You have to do your homework, because if you’re wrong on something, or if you make a mistake, your profile is higher,” Simpson said. “You’re exposed more. Your picture’s in the paper. You’re telling people, here’s what I think. You have the obligation to make sure you’re doing your homework, that you’re well prepared, that you’re accurate, because any mistake can get you magnified when you’re writing opinion.”

Simpson said that he decided to try teaching with hopes that he could inspire the next wave of professional journalists.

“I believe in a strong work ethic,” Simpson said. “And I think I can bring that to the students who aspire to be in journalism.”

Simpson also discussed issues of race in the media, and declining diversity in news professions, particularly in the realm of newspapers, due to declining circulation, ad revenue, and profits.

“I think the media has always struggled with diversity,” he said. “I think what you see now is diversity becoming less of a priority in media. As you see more downsizing, and more media consolidation, more and more journalists are leaving the industry. And as more journalists are leaving, you’re going to see a disproportionate amount of people of color also leaving. And that concerns me.”

Simpson said that newspaper staffs are more homogenous now than when arrived at the Courant in 1989. He attributes the decline in diversity to a lack of resources that was not present before.

“Back then, it wasn’t as pronounced,” said Simpson. “I think diversity took on a higher value. I think the resources were different and the commitment I think then was different. And the cash flow was different too.”

Simpson said that race has a never ending role in the media.

“Race is always in the room when you talk about media and news stories,” he said. “Whether it’s politics, education, the criminal justice system, sports, entertainment, immigration. There’s never a case when race is not in the room in a news story, in my opinion. I think it’s our job to make sure we don’t ignore it, and be able to articulate where it’s relevant.”

When asked about the most memorable moment of his long, prestigious career, Simpson recalled a trip he made in 2000 to South Africa, where he travelled with a 13-member media contingent to meet his personal hero, Nelson Mandela.

“We swiftly use the phrase, ‘honor to be in your presence, it has become sort of trite,” Simpson said. “You meet Nelson Mandela and you’re in the same room and you get to shake his hand. There’s a case where that really applies. You’re honored to be in that man’s presence.”


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