Jandoli School alumnus establishes scholarship in honor of George Floyd

photo: Tony Lee

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication will award a new student scholarship beginning in 2021, with the creation of the George Floyd Memorial/The Intrepid Scholarship. 

Tony Lee, a 2013 Bona’s graduate and founder of The Intrepid, established the scholarship in response to Floyd’s death on May 25, and the movement that has resulted from it. 

“The date itself has a lasting impact on me,” Lee said. “I wanted to have a lasting impact and make this not just a moment in time that we remember in history, but have a profound impact.” 

The scholarship will be awarded based on academic merit and financial need, and will be received by a Jandoli student who is Black, indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC).

“I wanted to empower and provide effort to the next generation of journalists,” Lee said. “There is such an important need for communicators. People who can do it in an articulate and unbiased way, and also be able to report facts without any fear of retaliation or public outcry.”

Lee, who works at STARZ as its paid director of social, recalled some of the classes that he took during his time at SBU, and how the Jandoli school not only prepared him for a career in media, but shaped the way that he viewed the field.

“One of the most important things I learned at SBU is that you don’t need to have an established platform, you already have one on your phone,” Lee said. “Whatever type of message you want to share, don’t let fear stop you from doing that.”

Of the $5,250 donated (as a tribute to the day Floyd died), half will be awarded during the 2020-21 academic year in the form of an annual scholarship, and half will be awarded as an endowed scholarship that the school plans to give each year moving forward.

Aaron Chimbel, dean of the Jandoli school, said he was grateful for Lee’s desire to make an impact. He also stressed the importance of diversity among communicators.

“(Lee) reached out and said that this is something he could do that could really bring positive change for people, particularly those from underrepresented groups,” Chimbel said. “One of the challenges of systemic racism is educational opportunities. I think it’s really important that newsrooms and communication companies have a diverse pool of candidates to choose from, and a diverse workforce so that they can be inclusive of different viewpoints.” 

Chimbel stressed the importance of being able to help students afford the cost of higher education, which is a concern for many. This scholarship, he said, is just the latest example of Jandoli alumni giving back to their alma mater. 

“One of the things that distinguishes the Jandoli school is how passionate people are about it,” Chimbel said. “Some people have the financial means to give money, while others are able to mentor students and come to campus to speak. It’s really inspiring to me to see how much our alumni care about the school and want to give back, and also because a lot of them had the same done for them.”

Lee said that he was proud that he could contact SBU and quickly make the scholarship happen, and hopes that he can help a new generation of journalists get their voices heard. 

“Now is time more than ever to tell incredible stories with incredible details and historical significance,” Lee said. “I want the candidate to know that their voice not only can be heard, but should be heard.” 


“Spotlight” victory: J-School professors talk career milestones

By Bryce Spadafora

[Image courtesy of sbu.edu]

The 88th Academy Awards last week honored Spotlight with Best Picture, and it was a victory for journalists everywhere.

The movie, based on actual events, tells the story of a team of Boston Globe journalists who uncover a sexual abuse scandal involving Roman Catholic priests. The journalists who covered these stories went on to win the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Professors in the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University have spent years working in the journalism industry. During this time, they covered and witnessed stories that impacted and influenced their careers.

For professor Patrick Vecchio, the stories he covered helped reform a statewide system, as well as had historical significance.

Vecchio started his career at the Salamanca Press in 1979. The Salamanca Press was the second smallest daily newspaper at the time. Vecchio worked there until 1982 before moving to the Olean Times Herald, his hometown paper, where he worked his way up to editor.

In his first month at the Salamanca Press, Vecchio and a colleague received a tip about a sheriff’s son shooting a suspect. The sheriff’s son, along with a corrections officer, saw a car that had ran a red light and began to chase it. The car had crashed and the driver had tried to escape on foot when the sheriff’s son shot him.

A colleague and I worked on the story that whole morning and went to press that afternoon,” said Vecchio. “We beat everybody. We beat all the local and regional papers. We beat the Buffalo papers. It was an exclusive, and it was a huge story.”

During his time at the Salamanca Press, Vecchio also worked on a series about part-time police officers in Salamanca. According to Vecchio, his work led to part-time police officers throughout New York State being trained differently. The way they were being trained before exposed their municipalities to potential lawsuits, said Vecchio.

Vecchio also covered the first murder conviction in New York State where a body was never found. State police had asked Vecchio if he wanted to go along with them and cops from every agency in New York to search for the victim’s body.

The case eventually went to trial in Buffalo. The state investigator called Vecchio as soon as the verdict was released.

That meant a lot to me because I had built up a good enough relationship with him that he called me,” said Vecchio. “Again, we sweeped everybody. It was a historically significant story.”

In some cases, professors were able to uncover corruption in their community with the stories they covered. Richard Lee, director of the Integrated Marketing Communications Program, is one of these professors.

Lee worked at the Montclair Times for five years, The Aquarian Weekly for three years and The News Tribune in New Jersey for eight years.

One story Lee covered exposed irresponsible spending by The New Jersey Highway Authority. The highway authority had proposed to double the toll rates on the Garden State Parkway from 25 cents to 50 cents. According to Lee, nobody had ever closely covered the highway authority.

Lee and colleagues received tips that the group wasn’t spending its budget responsibly. After every project the highway authority worked on there would be money left over. This leftover money would go into a numbered account.

It appeared they were deliberately overestimating the cost of projects so they could bloat this account,” said Lee.

The extra money went towards building a local amphitheater. Lee’s story focused on how the highway authority wasn’t making the best use of the money they collected. Ultimately, the toll was only raised to 35 cents.

It’s not a life or death issue,” said Lee. “But I always joke with people that when you’re driving on the Parkway you’re paying a dime less because of what I did.”

For Dr. Dennis Wilkins, there are two stories during his career that he said were important for newspapers to play a role in.

Wilkins started working for The Recorder in Greenfield, Massachusetts as a sports writer in 1970. Wilkins worked there for 20 years, spending his last five years with the newspaper as the editorial page editor.

The first story involved the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986. The Recorder, along with its sister-paper The Concord Monitor, had shared resources to cover Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher and one of the astronauts aboard the shuttle.

“It led to the most intense 24 hours of my career along with some difficult ethical decisions,” said Wilkins. “I learned an awful lot about managing material, teamwork and how necessary it is for there to exist a group of people who keep their heads when everyone else is losing theirs.”

The other story involved the unidentified body of an infant found by a state department of highways crew. The crew had found the infant’s body while emptying barrels at a local rest area, said Wilkins.

After Wilkins’ newspaper ran the story, people from the community organized and paid for the infant’s funeral.

“It was amazing to report both a tragedy, but a story of hope,” said Wilkins. “When people who had no connection with this infant stepped up to pay for expenses and give the infant a joyous sending off to wherever the infant went.”

According to professor Anne Lee, her most memorable stories told the experiences of people who had gone through difficult times. Many of these people were Holocaust survivors.

“Not one of them had the same story,” said Lee. “What always struck me was that they were such optimistic people who were happy to be alive.”

According to Lee, one story involved local high school students working on an art exhibit in honor of a woman displaced during World War II. Lee attended an event at the school to hear the woman speak about her experiences.

The woman, after being separated from her family, would wander the forest near her home during the day. At night the woman would stop at houses and ask for food. Eventually, the woman was reunited with her sister who had also been surviving on her own.

“I learned then that everybody has a story, and some stories need to be told or they will be lost,” said Lee.

According to Lee, bone marrow drives were becoming more common during that time. She and other journalists worked on stories covering the drives, who needed bone marrow and what readers could do to help.

Those were the kind of stories that made me aware that newspapers, while holding to their standards of editorial content, could do a lot of good for people,” she said.

Burmese photographer showcases images of home country

By Kevin Smith, staff writer, @KevSmith88

 ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Oct. 19) – Throughout his life, Law Eh Soe struggled to comprehend the citizen/government struggle unfolding in his home country of Burma (also known as Myanmar), a small sovereign state in Southeast Asia. 

A citizen of Rangoon, Burma, Soe’s passion for photojournalism shines through in his photos that tell stories of struggle. Now exiled to America and living in Buffalo, N.Y., Soe visits different colleges across the country telling his stories of struggle.  

Soe has spent most of his life on the run, avoiding government officials due to risky photo taking during monk uprisings. He hid in friends’ houses before escaping to the U.S.

His latest venture brought him to the St. Bonaventure University campus on Tuesday afternoon where he showcased his dramatic images and small documentary titled “Click in Fear: Burma photography.”

Dean Pauline Hoffmann of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication introduced Soe and gave a brief overview of his works in photojournalism and the stories incorporated.

“It is difficult for us in the United States to understand that the freedoms and liberties we enjoy in this country are not universal,” said Hoffmann. “Law was essentially forced to flee his country because of his photographs. I am thrilled that we are able to bring a photojournalist of Law’s stature to SBU.”

Soe’s photos depict the struggles between the people of Burma and the government as they try to reform a repressive military government. His mini documentary sent a strong message about what he witnessed during the hardships of Burma’s struggle to compromise with its government.

“I thought it was powerful message and something more people should notice,” said Richard Lee, a journalism and mass communication professor. “I tell my students all the time this is what journalism is all about and what it’s made of: the ability to tell an inspiring story.”

Soe gave a brief speech on the video and the photos portrayed in “Click in fear,” especially the legendary monk screaming and raising his arm while holding a black oval shaped like a football.

“It’s like an iron curtain in Burma; they want to block the world from seeing the country,” Law said in an interview with the Democratic Voices of Burma website. “But for me, I decided, one day I will become a photojournalist. I didn’t become a photojournalist because I was hard-working; I became a photojournalist because my heart was burning for it.”

With a new and happy life in Buffalo, Soe said he is still haunted by the people he left behind in Burma.

“Not a day goes by where I don’t think of the people in Burma,” Soe added in his presentation. “I’m filled with guilt and the urge to help them any way I can, but I know it’s impossible.”

Even with the difficulty of not being in Burma, Soe cherishes his time in America and the opportunity he has been given to travel across the country presenting photos of his past life.

“His images are very eye-opening and hard to not feel sympathy for his work,” Lee added. “Photos should always tell a story, and in this instance, he’s telling of a historical event in his home country.”

Some of Soe’s photos will be on display in the rotunda at the Quick Arts Center until Nov. 19.


Meet the Professor: Pauline Hoffmann

Pauline Hoffmann has been named interim dean of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication over the summer. 

Hoffmann gave The Intrepid’s Mark Belcher an interview talking about her new appointed position. 

Mark Belcher: How did you get selected for the position?

Pauline Hoffmann: I don’t know the behind the scene details … but I did receive an email asking if I would be willing to come in and talk about it. And administration, as far as I knew, was aware I would be interested in an interim position if it came up. We sort of went from there.

Mark Belcher: So you accepted right away?

Pauline Hoffmann: Well yes. It’s definitely a challenge and it’s very exciting. Those are things I generally look for. It keeps life interesting. 

Mark Belcher:What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done so far?

Pauline Hoffmann: I haven’t done it yet. I’ll let you know when I’ve done it. 

Mark Belcher:Should students be afraid of you?

Pauline Hoffmann:I’m supposed to say yes right? I don’t want anyone to fear me. I would rather people respect me and respect what I have to say. My job isn’t to scare you. I want to get you out of here — and I say that in a good way. 

Mark Belcher:Right away, I noticed your office is a different color. Are there any other changes you are instituting?

Pauline Hoffmann:Well I have no personal life anymore. (I have a) new wardrobe. I could wear jeans to teach essentially, not really so much now though. I’ve got the strategic communications and digital media proposal. It’s a major proposal we’re trying to move forward, so that’s a huge push. Journalism education; do we need to make changes to the curriculum? And what needs to happen? Those are things we need to look at. Right away, also, we’re going to need to hire people because I came into this position and Br. Basil (Valente) went into the director position, that’s leaving two holes in IMC at least. Who knows what else is coming up? 

Mark Belcher: What’s the biggest change for you personally?

Pauline Hoffmann: Dealing with my colleagues in a new way. Commuting from Buffalo every day. Getting my hand on everything. Trying to figure out what needs to happen because ideally this transition could have happened at the end of last semester, but I just found out a few weeks ago. It certainly has its challenges.

Mark Belcher: Is it odd having to be in charge of your friends and colleagues? 

Pauline Hoffmann: It is. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges because they are colleagues, and they will continue to be colleagues. But now, I’m in a different position. It’s a bit of a shift. They have to see me a bit differently. And I have to see me differently — and see them a bit differently, too. Now it doesn’t mean we won’t be friends, but there is definitely a different role.

Mark Belcher: What will your direction for the J-School be?

Pauline Hoffmann: I hope forward and up. I want to be ahead of current, if that makes any sense. I want to not just fall behind I want to take a look at where trends are headed and get ahead of them. I think that when Russell Jandoli started the school, that’s the way he would have been headed. He started the school to put emphasis on the writing and the ethics and so on: so let’s keep going. Right in that same vein. I think that he would be forward thinking. 

Mark Belcher: Will you be hands on? 

Pauline Hoffmann: Absolutely. I’m going to get here early. I’m a morning person, so I’ll be here eight to five-ish. But if students stop by and I’m free, I’d love to talk to people. 

Mark Belcher: Have you made any mistakes as of yet?

Pauline Hoffmann: Oh good glory yes! I’m sure i’m going to make mistakes. Nothing too big though, I think. 

Mark Belcher: Could you give us an example of some you’ve made so far? 

Pauline Hoffmann: Actually no I can’t! I have made some minor ones; everyone is going to make them. I’m new, and I’ve asked for patience from everybody, which everybody has been great in giving me. But I say, “Well I didn’t kill anybody so let’s move on.”