Gatepost Interview: Desmond McCarthy, Professor of English and Gatepost advisor

By Shanleigh Reardon

Staff Writer

What is your educational background and resume?

I’m an alumnus of Framingham State. I was very fortunate to have access to low-cost, high-quality, public higher education, which made it possible for me to earn a scholarship to a Ph.D. program at Brandeis University in English. I’m a specialist in 20th and 21st century American fiction and I have also directed Framingham State’s journalism program for the last 25 years. Currently, I’m chair of the English department. It’s been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as the advisor of our independent student newspaper, The Gatepost, for a quarter century. Gatepost editors are among Framingham State’s most civic-minded and passionate student leaders. There’s an extraordinary network of very accomplished alumni who spent their formative college years in a newspaper office on the fourth floor of the college center.

What classes do you teach?

I teach many of the journalism courses. I teach American survey courses, including American Ethnic Literature, and I teach upper-level courses in American fiction, including Contemporary American Fiction and Modern American Fiction.

What do you think The Gatepost’s role is at the University?

The Gatepost plays a central role in the life of Framingham State University. In part because the caliber of the reporting is so often excellent. The Gatepost really provides a sense of the range and vitality, and vividness of our University. Campus personalities, events on campus, major academic initiatives, the achievements of sports teams – all of these are covered by The Gatepost and foster the sense of community that we all enjoy on this campus. … Our student newspaper has been extraordinarily successful over the last decade. The Gatepost has earned over a dozen prestigious awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. This is especially remarkable because no one at The Gatepost is being paid. Everyone volunteers on a campus where many students have to work part time to support themselves and pay for their education. So, The Gatepost is winning awards in categories where they are competing against students at Ivy League schools and at universities with undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism.

How has the paper evolved over the last 25 years?

Some things have changed considerably. The technology of producing a student newspaper has evolved dramatically over the last 25 years. When I first started advising The Gatepost, there was a glue machine in the office and copy would be pasted onto boards, which would then be shipped to a printing company for publication. Today, layout happens online and the paper is transmitted electronically. Some things, however, remain the same. The camaraderie of some of our campus’ best students working late into the night every week to produce a quality newspaper for the extended Framingham State community remains the same. The opportunities for co-curricular learning and leadership are the same. The skills students learn at The Gatepost, which are transferrable to a wide range of fields- not just journalism, but public relations and marketing and a whole range of business endeavors- are still the same. The ability to write clearly, and accurately, on deadline, and to be responsible for one’s words and work are skills that are always going to be highly marketable and that is one of the reasons Gatepost alumni have been so astonishingly successful in the workplace after graduation. I can’t say enough about this year’s editorial board. The Gatepost has had an extraordinarily successful year thanks to Alexandra Gomes and her team. I’m also very grateful for the assistance of Liz Banks, who has served as assistant advisor for the last two years, which has been enormously helpful to me given my responsibilities as a department chair. Liz and I have been the journalism program for nearly two decades now. We share a common vision for what journalism education should be. We’re both focused on the basics of reporting, accuracy, good writing and learning how to tell a story. No matter how journalism evolves, these elements will never go out of style, nor will a focus on the mission of journalism and the importance of ethics. That’s what our program focuses on and its why our alumni are so successful in the workplace after graduation.

Do you have a memorable moment from The Gatepost?

One of the most bizarre events during my advisory history took place in the spring of 2007, because a group of women thought a feature photo of them made one of them look fat. Unfortunately, this became international news. This one photo was reprinted thousands of times all over the world. There were articles about this incident in languages I didn’t even recognize. It was on French Morning T.V., it was in Pravda and The Tonight Show. It’s a sign of what’s wrong with today’s media culture, that such a trivial event would make international news when you think about the serious challenges our country and the world faces. At the time this happened, we were at two wars in the Middle East and certainly we faced extraordinary challenges as a world community, including climate change. The idea that a college newspaper being stolen for a silly reason deserved international attention is absurd.

What advice would you give to students?

Every student should get involved in a co-curricular activities during their time in college. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to meet people, develop social and leadership skills, build your resume and contribute to our community. Co-curricular experiences can bring you in touch with students you might never meet otherwise who are going to be friends for life and professional contacts and colleagues. They offer an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills you learn in the classroom to real life occasions.

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