Christopher Callahan is a news junkie.
The Romenesko media news Web site is the home page on his computer. National Public Radio hums from his radio as he drives to work and his channel-flipping tendencies during nightly newscasts feed his appetite for learning more about the issues brewing in his new hometown.
"I think of this as part of my job," Callahan said, pushing his hands through long gray bangs after taking a look at the Poynter Web site, catching up on fellow journalists and journalism educators shaping America’s media, from television and newspapers to the Internet.
Whether it’s part of his job or not, Callahan still gets a thrill from knowing everything that’s going on in his world, just as when he was a journalist for The Associated Press almost 20 years ago.
Recently named dean of the Arizona State University journalism school, Callahan has swept in and already sketched out plans for the school’s future.
As with his boss, ASU President Michael Crow, Callahan is full of ambition and enthusiasm, outlining ideas that could take the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in a new direction, building a stronger rapport with news agencies and communities.
His Long Island accent is choppy and crisp as he describes his vision. Some of his ideas, he knows, can be achieved within a few months.
To give students experience in political reporting, Callahan is setting up a Capitol bureau where students can work on stories about the Arizona Legislature and politics for Arizona newspapers. It’s similar to the bureau he ran for the University of Maryland, where he also was an assistant dean and associate dean before coming to ASU.
Other ideas will take more time and more money. He wants to build closer relations with the Hispanic and American Indian communities and see improved coverage of minority issues.
"I think we cover Latino issues pretty abysmally in general," Callahan said. He hopes that a course on Latino border issues would help address that problem.
Unlike some journalism schools, where students get an earful of communications theory, Callahan is determined to focus on providing students with hands-on experience. He wants students to craft stories, produce news footage and tapes that will put them ahead of the competition they will face in their careers.
He faces several challenges, though. Television news stations and newspapers are reporting declines in viewers and readers. If they’re going to stay in business, something has to change — and future journalists need to be prepared.
"It’s a different planet now," Callahan said, noting that the Internet has become a leading news medium. "The kinds of values that a journalism school can instill in students is more important now than it’s ever been before."
Position: Dean of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Family: Wife Jean, sons Casey and Cody
Experience: Assistant dean of University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism (1993), Director of Maryland’s Capitol News Service (1990), senior editor of American Journalism Review, former writer for The Associated Press