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.