IWU Alumnus Dave Kindred Reflects on Past, Present and Future of Journalism
Sports writer Dave Kindred conducting a May Term writing class with Matt McShane '13.
May 31, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Pulitzer Prize nominee Dave Kindred, ’63, returned to his alma
mater last month to share five decades of journalism experience with Illinois Wesleyan
students in the May Term course Editorial Writing and Reviewing.
An English major during his years at IWU, Kindred still recalls his days of sports
editing for The Argus and working his way through school at the local newspaper, The Pantagraph. He has since become a legend in the sports journalism world, writing for respected
newspapers The Louisville Courier-Journal and The Washington Post. Although Kindred received the 1991 Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement in
sports journalism and was elected to the 2006 National Sportscasters and Sportswriters
Association Hall of Fame, he regards his 1998 Illinois Wesleyan’s Distinguished Alumnus
Award as one of the highlights of his life.
Kindred lived through the journalism revolution, witnessing the highs and lows throughout
the years. “At The Washington Post, I wrote four or five times per week from everywhere in the world on every major
sporting event, every time trying to make the column the best one I ever wrote,” said
Kindred, a hopeless romantic for print journalism. “That era, the late '70s to the
late '80s, was the newspaper world's golden era, every newspaper flush with money
and ambition. It was a great, great ride, perhaps never to happen again.”
The author of eight books, Kindred describes how the paper has changed with the digital
age in his latest, “Morning Miracle: A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life,” which
provides an inside look at The Washington Post at the height of its glory.
“Journalism is in danger,” said Kindred. “If news organizations must continue to cut
costs, primarily by dumping staff, inevitably the quality of journalism will suffer
along with a debasement of its values and ideals.”
Kindred admitted he does not know how the industry will make it through the Internet
revolution. “Someone must find a way to make the kind of money that enables major
metropolitan newspapers and television networks to keep the full staffs of reporters,
editors, and producers necessary to do the demanding work of reporting the news,”
he said. “If the people of journalism's golden age perfected the craft, it's up to
the new generation of journalists to re-invent it for a digital age.”
Kindred’s class, which focused on column-writing styles and techniques, gave that
new generation access to the golden age experience by using Skype to connect students
with respected journalists like Mary Schmich of The Chicago Tribune, Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post and Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times and ESPN.
Aware of the challenge journalists now face to re-structure the industry, Kindred
emphasized how essential it is for students to adapt in an ever-changing field. “Certainly,
I embrace the full range of technological changes. No one should try to hold back
that tide,” said Kindred, who has a Twitter account and now writes for Golf Digest magazine, both in print and online, as well as online for the National Sports Journalism
Center. “If I were 20 years old again, I'd be mastering every fancy new tool in the
box: audio, video, podcasts, tweets and whatever is next.”
And while some say it is foolish for young people to enter a field rapidly approaching
its expiration date, Kindred believes the business is far from dead—after all, people
will always crave news. According to him, instead of clinging to hard-copy newspapers,
good journalists should abandon their fear of technological change and embrace new
developments that can work in their favor.
Kindred’s final words of advice reveal he remains a true English major at heart.
“Read everything, write all the time,” he said. “Remember the words of our fellow
Illinoisan, Abe Lincoln: ‘I will study and prepare myself, and when the time comes
I will be ready.’”
Contact: Courtney Keenan ‘12, (309) 556-3181