The Man Behind the Hurricane: 5 Tips from a Veteran College Media Adviser

For the past seven years, veteran journalist Bob Radziewicz has advised one heck of a student paper. Along with directing the print and online journalism program at the University of Miami and overseeing the school’s SPJ chapter, Radziewicz has helped students kick butt, break news and name names in The Miami Hurricane.

If the quality of a college media adviser can be at least partially measured by the awesomeness of the outlet they advise, than Radziewicz (pictured below) is an A-lister within collegemediatopia. Bottom line, if you can’t yet tell, I’m a big fan. He’s moving on from UM soon. As part of the upcoming transition, I asked if he had a moment to share some journalism and leadership advice for advisers, editors and others in charge or in love with college media. He kindly consented.

So below are five tips from the man behind the Hurricane.

By Bob Radziewicz

I thought it couldn’t get any better.

I spent 30 years at The Miami Herald, editing thousands of great stories, including four Pulitzer Prize-winning projects.

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But the last seven years at the University of Miami actually topped all that, working as the first full-time adviser for The Miami Hurricane and teaching classes that integrated the print and online editions as part of a hands-on learning experience.

I loved mentoring hundreds of bright student journalists who were eager to learn and brimming with commitment and passion. While the Herald job was fun, UM’s was way more fun thanks to “my kids,” who have won more than 200 ACP Pacemakers, CSPA Crown awards, SND and SSND design honors since I came in 2007.

Due to budget constraints, I’ll be leaving UM in a couple months. Yet, I feel my time here has been as much of an education for me as it has been for my students, many of whom are finding jobs in a tight market, including publications like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Fellow CMA member Dan Reimold asked me to share some of the lessons learned that helped improve the Hurricane. So here goes:

1) In my opinion, being a good teacher requires a willingness to learn and adapt to provide students with the best education and job prospects possible. I worked with new media at the Herald, but I really embraced digital journalism during my time at UM. It took attending workshops at ACP and CMA conventions, going to coding classes by Hacks and Hackers and other learning opportunities — including just asking other professors or students for help. While I’m hardly an expert in these areas, it helped me understand how they fit into the ever-changing journalism landscape.

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2) When I began as Hurricane adviser, I felt the paper didn’t fully reflect all facets of the university. So I started a campus beat system in my core reporting class, ensuring coverage of every school and college on three campuses, Greek and dorm life, student orgs and club sports and much more. The beat system has been a win-win — the students get clips for internship or job portfolios, and the Hurricane readers get a much broader look at life at the U. Whether you teach a similar class or someone else does, getting access to those varied types of stories can help fill in coverage holes, especially with a relatively small staff like ours.

3) In the last couple years, the Hurricane has led the way in partnering with other student media, getting video packages from the student TV station and podcasts from the radio station. We also share photos with the yearbook and student magazine. Breaking down silos has given our readers and viewers more content to choose from, and the students at other campus media another opportunity to showcase their work.

4) Many Hurricane staffers started by taking my reporting class, and then incorporated what they learned into making it a better publication. Two major assignments that proved invaluable included a public records scavenger hunt that requires students to go to federal, state and local government offices to background local residents, and a “storytelling across platforms” final project that includes writing another story off their campus, doing an NPR-style audio version of it and finally a visual version that can either be a video story or a photo slideshow with audio captioning. We also use Twitter and other major forms of social media in the class projects.

5) I recognize the importance of incorporating new media into my work as both an adviser and professor. At the same time, the words of CBS anchor Scott Pelley still resonate with me from his powerful keynote address at the CMA spring convention in March. He said the basic rules of storytelling — of good journalism — haven’t changed: Is it right? Is it fair? Is it honest? Only after addressing those questions should you begin thinking about what innovative “delivery” system is best for sharing that information with your audience. Well said, sir.

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