THE PROFESSOR GETS A D+

by Steve Clem on December 14, 2011

I really need to stop in and see my old buddy, Steve Bloom.

Bloom was one of three professors who served on my Master’s Project Committee when I got my M.A. in Journalism at the University of Iowa in the early 90s.

My feelings toward Professor Bloom have never been positive.

He was very pompous, and loved to share copies of articles he’d done for the Sacramento Bee and other publications with his students. He tended to talk in first person more than any other prof I had while at Iowa.

And don’t get me started on my defense of my M.A. project – starting an alternative weekly newspaper in Iowa City. Yeah, I basically co-founded a business that outlasted me by a good 5-7 years while in grad school. And he attacked me for it.

Why? Because my summary of how we went about starting the newspaper didn’t divulge enough of the conflict I had with my co-founder. He wanted the juicy rumors and details. I wanted to say, “Hey buddy, the details are in the in-depth articles we’re doing every week about local issues…not about the battle over whether or not we should be renting a copy machine for $120/month.”

But I bit my tongue. Even when he told me “I don’t think you have what it takes to be a journalist.”

Fast forward a few months after my defense of my M.A. project, and I ran into Bloom in front of the J-School building one afternoon.

I didn’t want to talk to him, but he saw me, and started up a conversation. “Hey, Steve, I saw that piece you did in The New York Times about the horrible kidnapping and murder in Southeast Iowa. Do you have contacts you can share from the Times?”

“I’ll have to look and see,” I replied. “But you know I’m not much of a journalist.” And I walked away.

So I was not at all surprised when I learned the ol’ Professor penned a piece for The Atlantic this week that has many Iowans ready to say “GOSH DARN IT!” Read his article here.

Now I’m not going to dissect the Professor’s article item by item, other than to say after living my first 29 years in Iowa (other than a 6 month stint in London), I’d really like to know what he’s smoking.

Also, I’m disappointed in his writing. Poor construction, and too wordy.

Read the article and draw your own conclusions on whether he accurately depicts Iowans.

But I’ll give you this, Bloom, you got the controversy you seek in your journalism. Every native or current Iowan I know is up in arms about this article.

So I guess you’re right after all. If controversy is what journalism is about, you’ve got what it takes, even if it is at the expense of the truth.

And I don’t.

So I propose we trade. You come sell steaks in Minnesota, and I’ll come teach journalism to the students at the U of I.

After all, you only told me I didn’t have what it took to BE a journalist. You didn’t mention anything about TEACHING it.

You get a D+, Bloom.

See me after class.

* * * *

Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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