Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN
December 1, 2011
Varied perspectives marked Chautauqua
Robert Cox Jr.
Greensburg Daily News
Greensburg — Ann Miller grew up on a little farm in North Sandusky, one of thirteen children and one of only two sisters.
Miller has come a long way since graduating from North Decatur Jr/Sr High School (NDHS) - both figuratively and literally.
Monday marked her first return to NDHS since leaving Decatur County to pursue a career in journalism.
Miller spoke at NDHS's eighth Chautauqua event, which focused on journalism.
She wasn't certain what specialty she might pursue after her departure. Nor was she positive she wanted to pursue journalism.
In college, she started taking journalism courses and found herself surrounded by both experienced and aspiring journalists, including Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer John H. Blair.
Those experiences set her on a path toward a career in photojournalism.
Miller's considerable experience and expertise in and passion for the field were on display during her Chautauqua presentation.
"Journalism," she said, opening her talk, "goes back to the very beginning of time, with the first cave-wall picto-grams."
Story-telling minstrels in the Middle Ages, she said, further evolved the form into a way of getting news to people.
The function of modern writers and reporters, she explained, is basically the same today as it was in the 1800's, during the early decades of American journalism.
One of the chief differences today is the modern emphasis on sports and entertainment, she noted. Such a focus was non-existent in early American journalism, Miller said.
Miller characterized modern American journalism as in a state of decline. She called that decline especially disconcerting due to journalism's fundamental connection to the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
She encouraged NDHS students interested in journalism to take classes. She added, too, that the most important considerations when pursuing a story are: who, what, when, where and why.
The one consideration that should override all others, however, Miller stressed, is "who cares?" Journalists, she said, should always consider their audience and the importance of a story before pursuing it. Who will want to read about this?
Terry Anderson, Diane Dimond and Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer Nick Ut, speaking in an adjoining room during Miller's presentation, echoed many of her pronouncements.
Anderson, as a Vietnam-era Marine veteran, a hostage in Lebanon from 1985 to 1991 and a current journalism professor at Syracuse University, brought his own unique perspective on the field.
He called journalism a difficult job and a "highly competitive field."
"It [the journalism profession] can screw with your head," he said, "but it's important."
Anderson noted, however, that journalists rarely walk away from a particular story being able to claim they directly helped any particular individual. In that way, the job can at times seem thankless.
"News," he said, "is what other people want to stop you from publishing; the rest is advertising. You're not doing your job if you're not ticking someone off."
Dimond and Ut agreed.
Dimond is a freelance investigative journalist with more than three decades experience in TV and print. She regaled the small NDHS student audience with stories of her most interesting and difficult cases, including the notorious JonBenet Ramsey murder case.
Ut's 1972 photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing from a napalm attack will be part of his epitaph. His presence lent the panel a quiet, humble voice of authority and expertise.
Following Miller's presentation in the school library, the day ended with a number of NDHS student presentations.
One of the most pointed of these came from Kyra Spears.
Spears spoke about fellow NDHS student Megan Ramp and her battle with Schizophrenia. With Ramp as her focus, Spears centered her presentation on dispelling the myths surrounding Schizophrenia.
Afterward, Ramp herself performed several songs, accompanying herself on the piano.
The next NDHS Chautauqua will be held in May.