100 years of journalism
Ohio State's journalism program has been covering the news for a century. Today, The Lantern regularly draws awards for the paper itself and for its student journalists. Learn about the experiences of Ohio State's journalism alumni, and where their have careers led them.
Steve Nidetz, '64
It was Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated in Dallas. Steve Nidetz recalled how the staff at The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper, swung into action to cover the story “with the deft skill of a city newspaper.”
“I learned invaluable lessons,” said Nidetz, who graduated the following year and went on to become a sports editor at the Chicago Tribune.
The following morning, Nidetz was driving from Columbus to Ann Arbor for the Michigan game when he heard on a Detroit radio station that Michigan Governor George W. Romney had postponed the game.
“It never occurred to me to simply take the report at face value,” Nidetz said. And when he called Ohio State’s sports information director to confirm, he was told that Woody Hayes was putting the team on the buses for Michigan Stadium.
“About 20 minutes later, he called and confirmed that the game was off. It would be played the following Saturday,” Nidetz said.
“As everyone in Chicago journalism knows, if your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
Mark Somerson, '89
“Journalism saved me,” said Mark Somerson, current assistant metro editor at The Columbus Dispatch.
He had begun his college years as a business major but quickly realized the field wasn’t for him. Then a co-worker who was a journalism major and writer for The Lantern showed him some stories he’d recently had published.
“That’s all I needed,” Somerson said. “The next day, I dropped business and declared myself a journalism major.”
Within two years, he was a Lantern editor and had interned at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. “The newsroom in the Journalism Building became a second home for me,” Somerson said. “I owe a lot to the professors who taught me how to report, edit and polish my writing.”
Len Downie, '64, '65
“[The journalism program’s] legendary director, George Kienzle, played a key role in my becoming a summer intern at The Washington Post in 1964, beginning my 44-year career [there],” he said.
Downie, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964 and a master’s in 1965, is now the Post’s vice president at large as well as a professor of journalism at Arizona State University. He received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Ohio State in 1993.
As deputy metro editor from 1972 to 1974, Downie helped supervise the Post’s Watergate coverage. He was executive editor from 1991 to 2008, during which time the paper won 25 Pulitzer Prizes.
Jim Schaefer, '88
Another Pulitzer winner, Jim Schaefer, was honored in 2009 for local reporting at the Detroit Free Press, where he is an investigative reporter. Schaefer was part of a team that uncovered scandals that led to the resignation and criminal conviction of the city’s mayor.
At Ohio State, Schaefer said, “the opportunity to do real-world journalism allowed me to take chances and to live and die with the results. We did a lot of living and dying!
“From the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger to setting up a photo sting that busted fraternity boys stealing our endorsement papers out of the racks on Undergraduate Student Government election day, we had all kinds of journalistic opportunities at The Lantern. Sometimes we failed; sometimes we succeeded. But we always learned lessons.
“That was the best kind of education, and it drove home to me that I was getting into the right line of work.”
Dan McDonald, School of Communication
With the explosion of digital technology, journalism is changing rapidly, said Dan McDonald, professor and director of the School of Communication. He expects continued innovation from the program and its students.
“While journalism has always been associated with communication media, never before has it been a part of so many forms, or had the potential for such global impact,” McDonald said. “The move to digital communication technologies has made it possible for journalists to have an immediate effect on our world.
“So we’ll remember how it was, but we want to show alumni and friends where we are headed.”
The Lantern Media Group now includes Lantern TV, formerly Buckeye TV, which joined the newspaper and its website to form a more comprehensive multimedia news organization in 2012.
Kimber Perfect, '85
Not all journalism majors end up in the profession, but the skills and experiences still serve them well. Kimber Perfect, senior vice president at Paul Werth Associates in Columbus, has worked for two governors as well as in corporate and nonprofit communications.
Recent encounters with students and alumni, she said, “[reminded me] how much I value and treasure my journalism degree from Ohio State — not only for the rewarding career my degree helped to launch nearly 30 years ago, but also for the manner in which I have been able to forge my own path in this world.”