Gifts from the McLean family and others help UNH journalism students prepare to excel

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
UNH journalism students

UNH journalism students practice their digital reporting skills using cameras provided by the McLean Family Fund for Journalism Excellence.

The onset of the digital age has transformed the world of journalism, bringing with it a 24/7 news cycle, myriad ways to tell a story and the challenge of capturing people’s attention in a highly competitive media and information landscape.

As UNH’s journalism program prepares students to enter a profession that one New York Times reporter describes as “burning so bright and so hot right now,” key donors are ensuring those students have the tools they need — from technology and equipment to real-world experience — to become the next generation of truth-tellers.

“For a program like ours, which has such deep roots in the traditions of journalism, donor support has allowed us to be nimble and strategic about exposing today’s students to the realities of this quickly changing field,” says Tom Haines, associate professor of English and director of the UNH journalism program.

One such stream of support comes from The McLean Contributionship, the charitable organization created by the McLean family, longtime owners of newspapers in Pennsylvania and one-time owners and publishers of the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire.

The McLean Family Fund for Journalism Excellence provides financial support for digital journalism education at UNH. Recently, that’s meant the purchase of digital cameras and other equipment for students to hone their multimedia storytelling skills. The fund also has underwritten class projects like “Boston Moments,” when digital reporting students spent a day in Boston finding and reporting stories on camera, on the spot.

Maggie Haberman
Journalism students also benefit from donors Morgan ’84 and Tara Rutman, who in 2013 created the Rutman Distinguished Lecture Series on the American Presidency. This year’s speaker was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for the New York Times. During a class before the public event, Haberman fielded questions from UNH journalism students.

“We’re able to say to each student, ‘Here you go, here’s a digital SLR camera, a tripod, a LAV mic ... now go out and report,’” says Haines. “To know as a program that we can give the students the very best tools to learn these skills is so nice, and a great benefit to our students.”

Journalism students and faculty also benefit from the Donald Murray Visiting Journalist Fund at UNH, which pays homage to Donald Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who started the UNH journalism program in 1963. Terry Williams ’80, former publisher of the Nashua Telegraph, led the fundraising drive for the program, with primary support coming from The McLean Contributionship and from UNH journalism alumni. Visiting journalists have included Ella Nilsen ’13, politics and policy reporter for Vox; Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Sullivan ’81, Sunday and features editor for The Washington Post; and Natalie Jacobson ’65, well-known former reporter and anchor at Channel 5 News in Boston.

All that support is having real-world impact. Haines says he and fellow faculty often hear from graduates that they landed a job because of their advanced multimedia skills, and that they are able to contribute to a newsroom.

“These students are entering newsrooms helping to lead. We’re able to give them a chance to be part of the conversation, to be answering some of the big questions around what journalism has become and what it will continue to evolve to be,” says Haines.