Steele to Teach Another Generation to Ask Questions

“Bob Steele asks and answers lots of questions.” So reads one of the bios I’ve used in my role as a faculty member at Poynter. I’ve asked and answered many thousands of questions in my 18-plus years at Poynter –- in our seminars, on the phone, with e-mails and in workshops at newsrooms across the land.

Frankly, I believe the questions I ask are much more important and valuable than any answers I might give. I’m not without opinions, even some strong ones on occasion. But anytime I can pose questions to coach, guide and mentor journalists and newsroom leaders with their decision-making, it’s for the better.

I believe that also holds true when I work with the next generation of journalists, those who are studying and practicing journalism in college. I’ll be doing more of that in the next few years while still working with professional journalists.

I’ll continue to proudly carry the Poynter banner while also joining the faculty of my alma mater, DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

I’m honored to accept DePauw’s offer to become the Eugene S. Pulliam Visiting Professor of Journalism and also to be a Scholar in Residence at DePauw’s new Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics. This gives me a chance to ask lots of questions (and even offer a few answers) to some really bright and talented undergraduates.

DePauw has never had a major in journalism, and in fact there are few formal journalism courses. Yet the school has produced quite a few fine journalists over the years. The student newspaper, The DePauw, is one of the best in the land, and the student radio station, WGRE, and the student television operation offer strong hands-on experience in reporting, editing and producing news coverage. DePauw also has a wonderful Media Fellows program, built on an honors-quality, four-year curriculum.  

Many of these student journalists and Media Fellows will choose careers other than journalism. That’s OK, because they’ll be better news consumers and have greater respect for journalism’s role in democracy.

Ideally there will be a handful of graduating DePauw students each year who do go into journalism. I look forward to helping them become strong critical thinkers, committed professionals and skilled, knowledgeable practitioners.

My DePauw teaching will be influenced by my continuing connection with Poynter. As President Karen Dunlap announced, I’ll stay on as the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values. My wife, Carol, and I will be living in the Hoosier state, but I’ll return to St. Petersburg to co-lead The Poynter Ethics Fellows program and Poynter Critical Issues conferences with my Poynter colleague Kelly McBride. I’ll also continue to take phone calls and e-mails from journalists seeking guidance.

I have more questions to ask. Many more.

At both DePauw and Poynter.

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