At the 90th annual spring convention of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, held last month at Columbia University, Wagner College journalism professor Claire Regan ’80 was given the Charles R. O’Malley Award for Excellence in Teaching. Here is the citation that was read to introduce her:
“I share in the classroom what I experience every day in the newsroom. The reality, the rewards, the challenges, the difficult decisions. Journalism skills are life skills.”
Claire M. Regan has devoted her working life to learning, practicing and teaching those life skills. First as college student editor, then professional journalist, editor and designer, she also served as a college faculty member and active adviser. In short, she has lived most aspects of journalism and journalism education. The daughter of New York City high school teachers, she majored in education at Wagner College in her native Staten Island, intending to take up teaching as her profession. But joining the student newspaper changed her thinking and her goals.
Regan currently serves as associate managing editor at the Staten Island Advance, where she has worked since 1980, serving in a variety of progressively more senior reporting and editing positions. Today she oversees content and design of the newspaper and establishes design policy. She is a member of the core team leading the current transition of the Advance to a “digital first” platform.
Since 1984, she has served as an adjunct faculty member at Wagner College, teaching undergraduate courses in news writing, public relations, page design, editing, ethics, new media and war reporting. Regan also serves as adviser to the student newspaper at Wagner. The college awarded her its Adjunct Exceptional Performance Award in 2009.
Her professional achievements show a wide variety of interests and skills, including active participation at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida as one of their Ethics Fellows as well as seminars in Advanced Design and Art Direction and Effective Visual Leadership. She was also a visiting faculty member for one of their six-week fellowship programs for new journalists. The International Women’s Media Foundation also invited her to participate in a leadership institute, only to invite her back as a program speaker the following year.
Regan has served in an impressive variety of leadership positions, such as a member and past president of the Board of Directors of the New York State Associated Press Association and as a member of the Executive Council, the Deadline Club, New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her many professional awards, chiefly for design and spot news presentation, have come from major news competitions including the Society of News Design and the Society of Professional Journalists. She has also served as a judging facilitator for the SND’s annual news design competition at Syracuse University since 2009.
She has steadily contributed her time and talent to presentations by the CSPA, serving as a presenter at this convention since 2004 and at the Garden State Scholastic Press Association in New Jersey since 2007.
For her distinguished professional service above and beyond her actual daily duties and for her quiet but persistent efforts to advance the causes of many supporting journalism organizations, both professional and educational, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association is proud to honor Claire M. Regan with its Charles R. O’Malley Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Here are Claire Regan’s acceptance remarks:
The best journalism classroom mirrors the newsroom, where the harshness, the vibrancy and sometimes the sadness of life pour in, unfiltered, 24 hours a day.
It could be the rescue of a distraught man from the cables of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Or the welcome-home celebration for a Staten Island soldier wounded in Afghanistan.
Or the struggles of a family whose home was washed away by Hurricane Sandy.
I share in the classroom what I experience every day in the newsroom. The painful realities, the difficult decisions, the good news and the bad.
I teach my students that journalism is more than strong leads and clean copy.
It’s about best practices.
It’s about making mistakes, admitting them and learning from them.
Journalism skills … are life skills.
As an undergraduate student at Wagner College, I majored in education, expecting to follow the career paths of my parents, who were high school teachers in the New York City school system.
I was a quiet sophomore when I joined the student newspaper, the Wagnerian. Working on the staff broadened my horizons, pushed me out of my comfort zone, made me curious and aware, articulate and confident.
The experience taught me life skills.
After graduation, I was working as a substitute teacher in the city school system when I heard about a part-time job at my hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance. I applied and got the job — of wedding writer.
I fit right in to the fabric of the newsroom. I loved the pace, the personalities, the pressure.
And I loved writing weddings. Thousands of weddings. It was the perfect job to launch the career of this accidental journalist because it demanded such precision and accuracy.
All those names: bridesmaids, ushers, ring bearers, priests, rabbis.
I was obsessed with getting them right.
That obsession paid off. Soon I was assigned engagement stories. Golden jubilee announcements. Birth announcements. Obituaries.
The life cycle of Staten Island.
The families often thanked me for my careful reporting and the details I included. I learned quickly that good journalism can have a positive impact.
Thirty-three years later, I’m associate managing editor of the Advance and part of a core team leading the transition to a digitally focused newsroom.
But I still make time to write an occasional wedding story or obituary.
At Wagner College, I teach most of the courses in the journalism minor program and advise the Wagnerian — the same newspaper that taught me how to be a journalist.
My goal as a teacher is to share my passion for the profession and everything I’ve learned since that first job as wedding writer.
It’s not easy fitting it all into a semester, but I try.
Two of my Wagner College students are here today and I’d like you to meet them.
Alexandria Greco and Alyssa Brown are finishing their second year as co-editors of the Wagnerian and getting ready to graduate this May.
Alex is fearless and focused, an ethical journalist who tackles the topics administrators don’t want to discuss. This semester, she’s interning at “CBS This Morning.”
Alyssa is a skilled page designer with outstanding social media skills. Her internships have included Oprah Magazine and several blogs.
I’m proud of you both. You inspire me.
Thank you, Columbia Scholastic Press Association, for the good work you do to grow young journalists and inspire their advisers.
I accept this award with gratitude.