SMPA looks ahead, celebrates its past

GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs is forging ahead in the wake of the June death of associate journalism professor and SMPA father figure Charles Puffenbarger.

“The administration has been very supportive,” SMPA Director Jean Folkerts said. “Instead of having to patch programs together to fill the space Puff left, they made it possible to hire a full-time professor of very recent professional experience.”

A.L. May will visit the department in a year-long full-time position beginning this fall. May is stepping into the classroom from a 23-year newspaper career, and worked most recently as government and public affairs editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Folkerts said.

“A.L. May is wonderful,” Folkerts said. “Puff really stood for a connection to working journalism, and I looked for somebody who could reflect that. I’m very happy, because I know that A.L. May does hold many of those values.”

May’s arrival is part of a larger reshuffling of the department’s professors.

Steve Roberts, columnist for The New York Daily News and former senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, will join the staff as the first J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Chair of Media and Public Affairs. Roberts has taught political communication as an adjunct professor since 1992.

Roberts will teach two courses in the fall.

The newly-christened electronic media program, formerly the radio and television program, will benefit from the professional experience of National Public Radio’s John O’Leary, who will join the SMPA faculty for a year-long stint.

Murray Seeger, special adviser to the curator of the Nieman Foundation for the Advancement of Journalism at Harvard University, also will be on hand as adjunct professor.

Former CBS Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Marvin Kalb will be on campus this year as GW Distinguished Visiting Scholar. He will moderate “The Kalb Report: Ethics in Journalism,” a series of broadcast panel discussions.

“Not only will it be an enriching opportunity for students, but it should provide insights as to where journalism is today,” said GW Director of Public Affairs Mike Freedman. Freedman serves as executive producer of the Kalb Report at GW.

“It should prove useful to working journalists and news executives. There is a need for this; the profession is at such a crossroads,” Freedman added.

“When it is broadcast it will be, `Brought to you by GW and the School of Media and Public Affairs,’ ” said Suzanne Clark, SMPA’s coordinator of external relations.

SMPA is anticipating a move out of its offices in the Academic Center and into its own building. The University hopes to break ground this fall in the parking lot behind the shops and offices at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave.

“We’re projecting two years before we move,” Folkerts said. “But it will be great, because it will put all of the programs – electronic media, journalism and political communication in the same place.”

The building also will house the graduate political management and public policy programs.

In the midst of developmental flurry, SMPA will pause in October to pay tribute to Puffenbarger with an evening of remembrance at the National Press Club.

“It will be a lot of people who knew him at various stages in his career,” Folkerts said. “That will be a big weekend for GW journalism.”

Speakers will include family members as well as former students and colleagues.

“We’ve been in close touch with his daughters on the phone to organize the tribute,” Clark said. “So the plans have really been moving quickly.”

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