ICQ 2001/No. 1

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Report from the Schools -- Communications

Park Chairs Bring Expertise in Journalism and TV

Harper"My former students work at local newspapers, radio and television stations, ABC Sports, and CNN. One is even writing for a newspaper in the Czech Republic," says Park Distinguished Chair in Communications Christopher Harper. "That's an impressive list. I get a kick out of seeing a former student's byline or seeing one on television. All that makes teaching fun and worthwhile."

In 1996 the Park Foundation awarded a $10 million grant to the Park School to be used for undergraduate scholarships, a distinguished visitors series, and capital improvements, as well as funding two endowed Park Distinguished Chairs in Communications. In fall 1997 long-time journalist Harper was named the first Park chair; the second, television producer Jo Ann Caplin, arrived this past fall. The two bring an impressive list of credentials and a wealth of expertise to share with our students.

Harper majored in journalism and English literature at the University of Nebraska and received his master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He worked in print journalism for 8 years at the Idaho Statesman, the Miami Herald, and the Associated Press before being hired by Newsweek --- where he reported from Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Beirut. He then worked for 15 years in TV, including stints for ABC as Cairo and Rome bureau chief and as a producer for 20/20. He covered many major stories, including the Iran hostage crisis, the Iraq-Iran war, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro.

In 1994 Harper began teaching journalism at New York University. He stayed for three years, serving also as director of graduate studies in journalism. Harper is the author of four books: And That's the Way It Will Be: News and Information in a Digital World, What's Next in Mass Communication, Journalism 2001, and the recently published The New Mass Media.

Harper has given more than 40 guest lectures at Ithaca, including one in last spring's series about Islam hosted by the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. He has advised ICTV and Park Productions on various projects in addition to his teaching responsibilities. "I have found the Ithaca students to be as good as any at NYU," he says. "For the most part the students here come with an interest in the subject and a desire to succeed." They also usually arrive on time to class, he notes, "without the excuses I received at NYU that the subway was late or the line at Starbucks was too long to get their biscotti and café latte."

Harper and his family are spending this spring in Poland, where he has a Fulbright fellowship at Adam Mickiewicz University.

"I Can't Wait to Follow Their Careers"

CaplinCaplin, the second Park distinguished chair, has a roomful of Emmy Awards --- two of which she earned, along with a Peabody Award, during many years as a producer at ABC News and CBS News. Most recently Caplin was executive producer of Westinghouse's prime-time Philadelphia newsmagazine The Bulletin with Larry Kane, winning 14 Emmys in the process. She has written for the PBS series Dancing, worked on Adam Smith's Money Hour, and produced and directed specials for HBO. Caplin has also run her own production and media consulting company with clients that include Fidelity Investments and Union Carbide. She received a B.A. from the University of Michigan [Ann Arbor], an M.A.T. in English from Yale, and an M.A. in cinema studies from NYU.

Caplin says her life has changed considerably since arriving in Ithaca. "I have my first car," she laughs, "and my definition of 'outdoors' has changed. It's no longer from my house to the Metropolitan Museum. Here I have deer on my patio."

One thing that hasn't changed is Caplin's enthusiasm for energizing young people. "A surprise for me when I was producing The Bulletin was the pleasure I found in mentoring the younger members of the staff. There I was doing this big show, and the best part was watching the twenty-somethings go out and get a story and do a great job."

Caplin finds teaching at Ithaca College rewarding in much the same way. "The students are motivated, and I've [already] seen them grow tremendously," she says. "I can't wait to follow their careers." In her first year Caplin has taught History of Mass Media, Television Journalism, and Electronic Media Criticism. She hopes to add courses in business, arts, and science journalism to the school's curriculum.

Photo of Christopher Harper by George Sapio.
Photo of Jo Ann Caplin by Alex Morrison, courtesy of the Ithacan.

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