East Carolina University hires permanent student media adviser

NORTH CAROLINA — In the last year, three different people have filled the position of student media director at East Carolina University. Now, a new adviser has been hired.

John Harvey, who started officially Feb. 4, has 17 years of experience as a journalist and 15 years experience advising student media. He comes to ECU from Georgia Southern University, where he oversaw The George-Anne.

Harvey says that he was immediately attracted to the ECU community.

“The University’s fantastic,” Harvey said. “I was really impressed with the people. It just felt good from my standpoint.”

The school has been searching for a permanent adviser ever since former adviser Paul Isom was fired in January 2012, just months after The East Carolinian published a controversial photo of a streaker at a football game on its front page. The position was posted in May, said Mary Schulken, a spokeswoman for the school.

Since Isom’s removal, two interim advisers have filled the position: Frank Barrows, a veteran journalist and a former managing editor at The Charlotte Observer and Seth Effron, the N.C. State Energy Office’s communications director. Placing people in interim positions until the school hired a permanent replacement was in an effort to give students a voice, Schulken said.

“It was a conscious directive so the students had a voice, a person, an advocate, a guide,” Schulken said.

Schulken participated in the search committee of six people that formed around June. In the end, it was Harvey’s vast experience that led the committee to recommend him for the position, she said.

“We wanted someone who had experience managing journalists in a newsroom, who had done that hands-on in a management and leadership capacity,” Schulken said. “One of the most important things for student media director is the ability to work with students, to manage talent and constantly train and retrain.”

Harvey says he was attracted to the vision at ECU and impressed that they wanted such a vigorous approach to improving the program. He said he was apprehensive at first about the position given Isom’s firing, but feels confident in the school’s support now.

“The fact that East Carolina wanted me meant a lot,” Harvey said. “I have a pretty strong reputation as a person who teaches and mentors young reporters to be aggressive and news-oriented.”

Before coming to Georgia Southern two years ago, Harvey was the news adviser for The Daily Collegian at Penn State University for 12 years.

At Penn State, Harvey helped run a recruiting and training program that he later brought to Georgia Southern. Harvey describes the program as somewhat of a “boot camp.” Students who wish to be on staff spend a semester in intensive, multi-faceted training as “candidates” and are then voted on by staff.

“It creates value for membership,” Harvey said. “You grab people off the street and they earn their way there. You want to get people young, and have them go through things together as a group.”

Harvey plans to implement the program at ECU, as well.

“I’m very proud of what we were able to do at Georgia Southern, and I think we can get it done at ECU,” Harvey said. “I’m doing my thing. This is what I do. This is who I am.”

Since his first day at ECU, Harvey said the students have been warm, accepting and ready to learn.

“The students are fantastic,” Harvey said. “They’re eager, smart. They want to do journalism. So I can’t complain.”

As for the streaker photo, Harvey says he’s never seen it. But he did offer some advice on controversial content and considering your audience.

“Community standards are important,” Harvey said. “And they’re different in college, rather than Omaha. You have to take that into consideration. Take the newsworthiness of the situation and you make the decision to run it or not. But it’s the student’s decision at the end of the day.”

By Christina Downs, SPLC staff writer. Contact Downs by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 126.