Some would agree that subscribing to and reading a daily newspaper seems to be waning with each passing day. Social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook quickly post links to stories and news apps on smart phones and iPads are literally at one’s fingertips.
But for Vickie Kennedy, newspapers still matter.
“I’ve always loved news and newspapers,” Kennedy said. “You can get more in-depth information by reading a well-reported, well-researched news or feature story. For me, a three-minute story on television or a brief few words on social media just isn’t the same. Both play an important role, but so do newspapers.”
Kennedy taught from 1983 to 2008 at Grace King High School in Metairie. While there, she was the adviser to the school’s monthly newspaper, Irish Eyes, from 1991 to 2007. Under her watch, the paper and its staff won dozens of local and state awards including the best student newspaper in the state for more than 15 years, several Silver Scribe competitions sponsored by Loyola University, the Columbia’s Scholastic Press Association and the Quill and Scroll competition.
Kennedy retired from Grace King in 2008, but her mentoring and advising of students isn’t over. As classes begin this month at the University of New Orleans, she resumes her second year as the adviser of the campus’ weekly newspaper, The Driftwood.
“What I missed when I retired from Grace King were the students, so being at UNO has really been great,” Kennedy said. “And what also has been interesting is there are members of our staff — both in editorial and in advertising — who are enrolled in various academic programs throughout the university such as business administration, marketing, film and theatre, political science, and hotel, restaurant and tourism. It’s a great cross section of people bringing new ideas.”
More than 20 people make up the staff of The Driftwood, and Kennedy said she is still recruiting members. She added that students who work on the paper do so as volunteers — it is not an elective or required class.
Kennedy said she’s had to adjust to the fact that she’s working with adults.
At Grace King, “my students were well, kids. It is still odd for me to hear the UNO students call me ‘Vickie’ instead of ‘Mrs. Kennedy,’ ” she said.
“As The Driftwood adviser, I’m working hard to make sure the staff is learning the importance of reporting the news fairly, what goes into publishing a paper, selling ads, how to use social media to our advantage and of course, the importance of good writing.”
Kennedy lives in Metairie with her husband Al. They have two children. A graduate of Archbishop Chapelle High School, Kennedy has a degree in communications with a minor in journalism from Loyola University. She also has a master’s in education from the University of New Orleans.
“The person who had the most profound influence on me as a student was Dr. Virginia Ziegler, my eighth grade teacher at St. Christopher School,” Kennedy recalled. “She had us read and write so much, and I loved it. It never occurred to me that I was good at it (writing), until she encouraged me.
“Also, my mother always subscribed to newspapers, both morning and evening editions, and we also maintained subscription to many magazines. I have always been a news hound and I still follow several news outlets.”
While at Loyola, Kennedy wrote for The Maroon, the campus newspaper. She also wrote for Loyola’s television and radio station, WLDC.
“I was managing editor and news director for WLDC,” Kennedy said. “I lived in the communications department. There were only a few females in the department in those days, so in addition to writing and producing news programming, I did on-air work for the radio and TV station.”
Kennedy said she encourages her students to “read everything and to treat topics you are writing about in depth.
“It has always been important to me to get students to become aware media consumers,” Kennedy said. “And what I mean by that is to not just take what you read online as the whole story. When you write a story, thoroughly research your subject and spend time talking to many sources. And listen hard to what people are saying.”
As the changes in the newspaper industry continue, Kennedy, 63, said “newspapers will still be influential.”
“In recent years, journalists have had to adjust to all sorts of changes,” she said. “The challenge may be in the platform.
“Because students rarely come to work on a newspaper thinking that they can influence their readers, one of my favorite experiences is observing them when something they have written makes a difference. I saw it happen dozens of times at Grace King and see it regularly at UNO. It is still a rush! And that’s the trick … get them to see they can make a difference.”