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Metro columnist Eugene Kane visits JOUR 4953 to talk about Trayvon Martin, reporting, writing and his long career in journalism.
I had invited Eugene Kane, a metro columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to visit my JOUR 4953 seminar class last week in hopes of focusing on the Trayvon Martin case that is a national cause celebre. My students knew of the matter already, and Kane had written two related columns – Slinger Case Echoes National Furor Over Trayvon Martin and Hoodie Shouldn't Define Trayvon Martin, or Anyone – so I expected good discussion.

The students had each written blog posts about the Martin case after reading several media-related weblinks I had shared from Richard Prince's Journal-isms, the Poynter Institute and elsewhere before Kane's visit. And he did address the case with the surety one would expect of a metro columnist with 30 years of journalism experience.

"There are certain facts about Trayvon Martin that haven't really changed," Kane said, "even though all these stories are changing: He was unarmed. He was killed. The guy was chasing him. There's a record of a dispatcher who told him, 'You don't have to chase him. We'd rather you not chase him.'" Yet all about the case is so murky. "How can anyone at this point say with absolute certainty that they know what the hell happened?" he asked.

A former president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association, Kane also discussed how the media have progressed – and regressed – concerning newsroom diversity and sensitivity in coverage involving people of color.

However, I couldn't help noticing something: The students seemed more interested in Kane than Martin. For example, after he shared how he got into journalism and his perspective on blogging, a student asked how difficult it is to write three columns a week. "I always feel like I'm on a treadmill," he replied, before stressing the need for maintaining basic reporting: working the phones, developing sources, staying abreast of community concerns, etc.

Other questions focused on how Kane worked to find his voice. "If you read your stuff out loud, you hear your voice," he said, adding later, "If you're really interested in your voice, you have to keep trying." Beyond that, Kane said, he strives to emulate the legendary and hard-hitting columnists – Acel Moore and Chuck Stone, among them – whom he read as a child growing up in Philadelphia and as a student at Temple University.

Kane proudly states that he was among the first columnists to embrace Twitter as a tool for engaging readers. No doubt that he picked up a few more followers – and readers – from JOUR 4953 after his visit.
 


Comments

Ashley De La Torre
08/29/2012 11:32pm

I thought it was really interesting that the conversation ended up being more about Kane than the Martin case. However, that happened before when Chris Broussard came to class.

I love Kane's tweet.

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Jacob Born
08/30/2012 12:55am

I remember when this case came out. Everyone was trying to figure out who really did what and what really happened. Personally, I think that Twitter is slowly becoming the best way for news to get news out to the public. Especially with the right hashtag.

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Kevon Albright
08/30/2012 2:41pm

Seems like a very engaging seminar class. Im sure everyone was interested in learning more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist!

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Courtney Perry
09/04/2012 12:56pm

That must have been a great experience to have a speaker come and talk to the class. I'm certain everyone was interested in having Euguene Kane there.

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Courtney Perry
09/04/2012 12:58pm

My apologies, *Eugene Kane.

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Alexandra Whittaker
09/05/2012 11:51am

I love Kane's tweet, very funny! I think that Twitter is absolutely becoming the quickest way for news to reach the public, and I think that following people like Eugene Kane, who embraced Twitter so early on, can be beneficial.

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