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Cover of the spring 2003 SFSU magazine. Geography Professor Max Kirkeberg and students tour of San Francisco's Western Addition.

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.
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Alumni & FriendsA head shot of Eric Newton wearing a suit and tie.

 

Newton's Law:
Education+Training=Good Journalism

In the spring of 1979, just a few weeks shy of an SF State journalism degree, Eric Newton (B.A., Journalism, '79) applied for a reporting job at the Oakland Tribune. With freelance and stringer work under his belt, Newton thought he had a good shot at the job. An editor thought otherwise, telling Newton to come back after he had paid his dues at smaller papers.

Newton proved his mettle at papers in Mill Valley and Richmond. In 1984, he finally got his job at the Tribune. Driven and deeply committed to journalism, Newton distinguished himself first as a copy editor and reporter and later as a formidable newsroom leader. Under Newton's steady hand as managing editor, the paper won more than 150 major awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in photography for coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Following the Tribune's sale in 1992, Newton went to work for the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va., where he designed the content plan for the Newseum, the media foundation's innovative museum of news. But even years later, that editor's glib brush-off back in 1979 stuck in Newton's craw.

"It seemed there wasn't anything that happened to me [in Mill Valley and Richmond] that a good training program couldn't have taught me," he said. "Since then, I've been an advocate of newspaper training and education."

Today, Newton is ideally situated to promote his twin journalistic passions. For the past two years, he has been director of journalism initiatives for the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the leading funder of journalism education and training programs in the country.

Among foundation grantees is San Francisco State's Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism. Founded in 1990, the Center sponsors programs that promote ethnic diversity in the nation's newsrooms and balanced coverage of communities of color.

Knight Foundation awards totaling $1,065,000 have helped support two of the Center's most successful initiatives: a summer boot camp for Bay Area high school journalists -- many of them students of color -- and a coaching and mentoring program that matches professional reporters and photographers with journalism students in the California State University and Community College systems.

-- Anne Burke

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