By Amanda Joerndt
As one door closes for three former Vindicator employees, another door opens. Whether that be retirement or a position at another media organization, new and invigorating opportunity is on the rise in Youngstown.
Although each opportunity may lead down new roads, there was one facet these three former “Vindy enthusiasts” all have in common: their passion for teaching students authentic journalism.
Richard Logan, Mark Sweetwood and Bill Lewis all grew stronger and wiser after dedicating years of their professional career to teaching students about the ever-changing and competitive field of journalism at Youngstown State University.
Logan, adjunct journalism professor at YSU and former news editor for The Vindicator, has taught various journalism classes, such as news reporting, editing and design, editorial writing and opinion writing. He has also taught freshman composition classes.
In Logan’s opinion, working at The Vindicator for 31 years and being a professor at YSU for 33 years went hand in hand.
“The two work together very well, particularly when I’m teaching journalism classes. It keeps my mind fresh and on the current trends and changes,” Logan said. “The skills you’ve needed in 1986 by and large are the same skills you need today except you need a whole other skill set in the technological trappings.”
Logan said although some people visualize journalism as a “dead art,” it is still alive and needed now more than ever.
“Staying on top of the trends in the professional world can be carried into the classroom very easily,” he said. “Oftentimes, I would bring in examples from that day’s publication. Keeping
students aware that journalism has evolved and continues to evolve is crucial.”
One aspect of journalism Logan has seen evolve while teaching has been the perspective of what it takes to be considered a “well-rounded journalist.”
“I admire students today,” he said. “They need to be not just focused on one area of the journalism profession. You’ve got to be skilled at narrative storytelling, print design publication, digital skills, videography and photography.”
Logan is grateful for the opportunity to guide students throughout their academic career and help them find satisfaction in the field of journalism.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship, and they both pull on one another and are mutually beneficial. So, I would consider myself blessed,” he said. “If you could find work that really satisfies you, that’s really hard to do. I wouldn’t change my world for a minute.”
Fortunately, Logan’s journey doesn’t end at the original Vindicator publication.
“I’m hoping the new Vindicator operated by the Tribune, which I will be starting [at on Sunday], does a great job in continuing that tradition.”
Lewis, former adjunct photojournalism professor at YSU and former photojournalist for The Vindicator, started at the newspaper in 1985 and has captured memorable moments throughout Youngstown’s history since.
From covering every presidential elections dating back to Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign to Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini as an amateur and professional boxer, Lewis is known for his monumental photography.
He began his teaching career at YSU in 2008 and ended in 2015 when he taught an introduction to photojournalism class in which he instructed students on how to capture compelling and meaningful photos.
“I was scared to death the first class, and after a few minutes I realized this was great fun,” he said. “I don’t think any of them went on to become award-winning photojournalists, but most of them were writers, and I was able to impart to them how important a good photo was to tell a story.”
Lewis said being able to share his knowledge and perspective on how to take the best photos possible was a joyful experience.
“It was just a wonderful experience, and I think I learned more from the students then they did from me,” he said. “It was very rewarding to be able to take the knowledge I’ve acquired from decades of working in the industry and share it with my students.”
Having a valuable news source such as The Vindicator in Youngstown helped students at YSU learn more about the city as a whole.
“I think having a newspaper right around the corner from campus was a great thing for all students learning more about the community and what’s happening daily,” Lewis said.
Lewis ended his photojournalism career after 34 years at The Vindicator with plans to retire. But, during his free time, he plans to go sailing regularly in Ashtabula Harbor and take snapshots of people and events throughout the community, thereby doing what he loves.
For Mark Sweetwood, adjunct journalism professor at YSU and former managing editor at The Vindicator, the journey has just begun as he hopes to continue his journalism and academic career after the original Vindicator has closed its doors.
Sweetwood started at The Vindicator in 2008 and began teaching at YSU as a journalism professor in 2013, guiding students through courses on news reporting, advanced reporting and magazine writing.
He said he taught his journalism classes at YSU with caution, knowing the end was approaching for The Vindicator.
“I taught the News Reporting 1 class as the managing editor, but very cautiously said, ‘Hey look, this is closing down.’ And now the next time I teach that course, I’m going to be the former managing editor,” he said. “I’ll be teaching it as, ‘Look what happened,’ because this journalism went away and it’s going to have an effect.”
Sweetwood noticed a transition in his approach when teaching his classes. He started with about 20 journalism students several years ago, and it changed to two or three majors with the rest consisting of anthropology, education and nursing students.
“I had to change my focus by being truthful to them, saying journalism is not going to be your future but being able to be the most educated person about gathering and fact-checking news,” he said. “At the end of the day, people need to know what journalism is, why it’s important and why it’s necessary for a thriving democracy.”
One lesson Sweetwood hopes the student body at YSU learns from watching the original Vindicator’s extinction is that journalism is a vital part of living in society.
“Too many college students assume newspapers are something their grandparents read and TV news is something mom and dad watches,” he said. “You can’t be an informed voter, informed citizens and can’t do much good to society if you’re in your own little news bubble.”
Sweetwood has yet to announce where he will be working next but is considering enrolling as a graduate student at YSU.
“I do plan to go back to YSU next semester, and I’m probably going to enroll as a grad student in the spring in communication,” he said. “I still feel that I have many things to share.”