Alums of The Dartmouth make their mark in journalism

by Ritika Nandkeolyar | 4/16/99 5:00am

Students frequently see The Dartmouth as a hotbed of controversy, or perhaps a forum for campus issues and little else.

But for many students, it has provided the first stepping stone to a career in journalism.

As a number of College alumni can attest, The Dartmouth served as an unofficial apprenticeship that helped shape their future careers in media and entertainment.

Former Dartmouth writers now work for newspapers and magazines across the country, including renowned organizations like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Roll Call and the Economist.

Journalism training ground

Trustee Susan Dentzer '77 wrote for The Dartmouth Spring term of her freshman year. Her experiences that term helped spark a lifelong interest in journalism.

She said she recalled interviewing an elderly alum who collected antiques.

"I loved learning about this interesting and quirky guy and then being able to construct a, hopefully, interesting story," she said. "I love reading a good feature story, so it was really exciting to be a part of creating one."

Dentzer also remembered covering an exciting faculty meeting "where President Kemeny and the faculty were having it out," Dentzer said. "The faculty were upset over the growing level of administrative fat at the College."

"At the meeting Kemeny said this is not the most efficiently-run institution of the country," Dentzer said.

This statement became the definitive quote of the meeting, and Dentzer said she loved the feeling of being the reporter that brought back the quote of the day.

Dentzer currently is the health care policy correspondent on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Until 1997, she was a contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report.

Covering controversy

Former Editor-in-Chief Jacques Steinberg '88, now an education reporter for The New York Times, got his first break with a story he wrote for The Dartmouth during his sophomore year.

In a protest against apartheid in South Africa many students had built a shanty-town on the Green.

According to Steinberg, one night, members of The Dartmouth Review knocked down the town. Steinberg covered the story for The Dartmouth the next day.

"A reporter for the Globe saw the story," he said. "And the story was picked up." Afterwards, Steinberg worked as a stringer for The Globe all through college.

After graduation, Steinberg was a clerk for legendary New York Times columnist James Reston, a position earlier held by other Dartmouth alumni including Jim Newton '85 and David Shipler '64.

Steinberg added that working for The Dartmouth has also defined his life.

The Dartmouth was an unofficial school of journalism.

"What I do today is very similar to what I did while working on The Dartmouth," Steinberg said. "The experience I had is absolutely relevant. Every day, I use what I learned at The D."

Sarah Jackson-Han '88, who served as The Dartmouth's executive editor at the same time as Steinberg, also has vivid memories of dealing with controversy during her tenure on The Dartmouth directorate.

Her fellow editors struggled for months to come up with a definitive editorial stance on a proposal to establish a women's resource center on campus.

"The word got out that we were going to publish an editorial against its establishment, and a group of women stormed the office," Jackson-Han said. "And all around campus there were posters protesting our editorial."

The posters protesting The D's editorial decision said, "Seven Men think they do know what's best for the women of Dartmouth." Jackson-Han had to remind people at public forums on the issue that she, a woman, was also on the Editorial Board.

After graduation, Jackson earned a master's degree in Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University and briefly considered a job in academia.

However, compared to journalism, academia is too lonely and the deadlines are too long, she said.

Jackson-Han is now working as the Asian Affairs correspondent for Agence France Presse's Washington Bureau.

The Dartmouth's influence

Numerous other alums have also succeeded in the journalism field after stints at The Dartmouth.

Morton Kondracke '60 served as president during his tenure at The Dartmouth. He now presides as executive editor of Roll Call, and is a regular panelist on NBC's The McLaughlin Group.

Former managing editor of The Dartmouth Larry Martz '54 is currently the vice-president of the Overseas Press of America, after serving as an editor for World Press Review and Newsweek.

Former Editor-in-Chief Paul Gigot '77 appointed the first female editor-in-chief at The Dartmouth, Anne Bagamery '78.

He is currently a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and contributes regularly to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Bagamery works for the Paris bureau of the International Herald Tribune.

Paul Martin '54 is the assistant managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

Author and former producer of the news show 20/20, Brock Brower '53 served as the managing editor for The Dartmouth during his years as an undergraduate.

Former Dartmouth film reviewer Buck Henry '52 later adapted "Catch-22" and "The Graduate" for the big screen.

Budd Schulberg '36, former editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth, also went on to write for the big screen. Schulberg co-wrote the screenplay for "Winter Carnival" with F. Scott Fitzgerald and went on to write films that featured Andy Griffith and young Marlon Brando.

Editor-in-Chief Frank Gilroy '50 won the 1956 Pulitzer for his play "The Subject was Roses," and Vincent Canby, Class of 1945, became a famous New York Times film critic.

Alternative paths to the papers

Although Dartmouth Trustee and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author David Shipler '64 never worked on The Dartmouth, college sparked his interest in journalism.

Shipler said he really developed an interest in journalism after taking a Creative Writing course with English professor Arthur Dewling.

"Dewling asked me if I wanted to go to journalism school," he said. "This had never occurred to me before."

After graduation, Shipler served two years in the Navy before joining the staff of The New York Times.

"The wonderful thing about being a reporter is that you get to see into both sides," Shipler said. "One day I had lunch with the President of Israel, and then I went to sit on a cold stone floor and talk to Palestinian refugees."

This visit also highlighted the wonderfully odd role of a reporter. "You glide in and out of misery," Shipler said.

He also covered the Vietnam War from 1973-75.

"In Vietnam every person you talked to had a story," he said. "The suffering of the people caught in this conflict makes a powerful story."

Shipler said he knew his reporting could involve people emotionally once they understood the impact the war had on the average Vietnamese.

"But on the other hand you were helpless to help them, so you were in a way using their tragedy," he added. "You wish that you could do something for them beyond exposing their plight."

However, one story that Shipler wrote about a beggar woman with two children resulted in a flood of cash donations and offers of aid.

Shipler also learned many of his interviewing skills through interviews for the College radio station with famous people including Martin Luther King when the famous civil rights leader came to campus. Shipler served as the Program Director for Dartmouth Radio during his senior year.

Another Dartmouth alumnus discovered his passion for journalism through leave-term internships.

David Rosenbaum '63, now a senior writer at the Washington bureau of The New York Times, first discovered journalism with several internships at The St. Petersburg Times.

Interns were assigned the beats of regular reporters who were on vacation. "I covered the police beat and wrote obituaries. It's the same things that first year reporters at the Times do," he said.

"Working on a small paper is amazing, you get to do everything," Rosenbaum said. "It is the best way to learn about journalism."

Rosenbaum, a government major while at Dartmouth, has covered Kosovo, Watergate, the Iran-Contra Affair as well as Monica Lewinsky.