Journalism school hires Pulitzer Prize winner


Courtesy of KentWired

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and Kent State Professional in Residence Connie Schultz. Friday February 5, 2016.

Latisha Ellison

When one walks into 304b in Franklin Hall, the first items to be seen are two 1979 Daily Kent Stater staff photos and a large, metal sign that reads, “The Best Safety Device Is A Careful Man.”

This is the office of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and College of Communication and Information Professional in Residence Connie Schultz. That sentimental sign is from her father’s tool shed.

“It’s (the sign) a reminder, you know, it’s important to remember where you come from—always,” Schultz said.

A 1979 Kent State graduate, Schultz returns to Kent to teach Writing Across Platforms (WRAP) and Feature Writing in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC).

“I was a little overwhelmed at first because I was using other faculty members’ syllabi. Now, I’m really finding my own groove,” Schultz said.

Being back at Kent State to teach brings back a lot of memories for Schultz.

“It really does harken back to a time of great growth and insecurity in my life,” she said. “I am so moved by the experience of coming home, that’s how it feels. This changed my life. I was the first in my family to go to college and it was everything to go to Kent State.”

During her time as an undergrad, one valuable lesson she learned about journalism, which she is implementing in her classes is, “to be a stickler for detail.” She said Kent State got her excited and prepared to be a journalist.

Schultz wants her students to know who she is and where she comes from, but she also wants to know the same about them. On the first day of class, she asked her students to tell a story about themselves in 800 words to help her understand who they are. She said it made it her realize how hardworking her students are.

It’s not everyday that students are able to learn hands-on from a Pulitzer Prize winner, especially one that is still working in the industry.

“I think it’s good that I’m still working as a journalist because I can bring that into the classroom. I know what the standards are right now, I know what the expectations are for many editors because I write for various publications,” Schultz said.

Joanna Levin, a freshman public relations major, is a student in Schultz’s WRAP class and said she admires the real life experience Schultz brings to the classroom.

“She’s tailoring the class to what we need to become better writers … she edits work just like her editors do, so we have pretty real-life experiences as far as newswriting and what to expect,” Levin said.

From 1993-2011, Schultz worked for The Plain Dealer and wanted a way to engage with her readers through civil discussion. She knew that readers would not comment on posts because of offensive anonymous commenters.

“Who is ‘RedDogDaddy?’ is always my question,” Schultz said.

While hesitant, she created her Facebook page in hopes of being able to create and moderate discussion with her readers.

“I love it for a number of reasons: I really believe in journalism—good, strong journalism and I try to drive considerable traffic to legitimate news organizations,” Schultz said. “It also allows me to own, very publicly, my dual lives. I am a journalist, I am also married to a United States senator. I couldn’t be more transparent if I were Saran Wrap.”

Schultz’s social media presence is now a part of her ‘brand.’ She has generated a community of 148,302 ‘subscribers’ on her Facebook page. She has 15,700 followers on Twitter.

“Her most loyal followers on Facebook, when she’s not there to police it, they (her followers) do. They talk about being civil and their choice of language,” Thor Wasbotten, the director of JMC, said. “This is truly a unique perspective on how to use social media in probably the most positive community-building way.”

Schultz said she will talk about the use of social media with her classes because she believes it’s important for journalists to distinguish themselves and draw attention to their work.

“I want my students to feel a little more empowered by the time they leave my class,” Schultz said. “I want them to know how much I believe in them, and I hope that helps them believe in themselves.”

Latisha Ellison is the CCI reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]