Filmed by Alexis Simmons. Edited by André Rowe, Jr.
Bill Cloud is a freelance editor for several trade publications. As an associate professor he taught writing and editing at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism for 29 years. He is a former reporter and copy editor for The Miami Herald and Newsday, and a long-time member of the American Copy Editors Society, which honored him with the annual Glamman Award in 2011 for his contributions to the society and the craft of editing. In this interview, conducted by email with NCSMA Assistant Katie Schanze, he discusses his time as director of NCSMA.
To what do you attribute NCSMA’s longevity?
Giving students recognition for the work they do, plus ongoing demand for media training for both teachers and students. NCSMA has always provided excellent training.
How did historical events/events of the day shape your tenure as director?
The Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision was handed down in 1988, just as the leadership of NCSPA was transitioning from me to Rich Beckman. The News & Observer supported the court decision, and Rich and I wrote a letter to the editor chastising the paper for doing so. I remember that the decision troubled teachers, but also many principals who felt they were being forced into a role as publisher they didn’t want.
How did your high school experience affect your role as director?
Oddly, I didn’t work for my high school’s paper. Frankly, it wasn’t very good, and my mother, who was also a teacher, wanted me to avoid it. My family owned the weekly newspaper in my community, and I think at the time that I was heading in a direction other than journalism. My interest rekindled in college.
What is one lesson or memory from the job that has always stayed with you?
The importance of the dedication of the teacher, above all else. Schools with good teachers produced publications that outshone those from schools with more resources and a higher-quality student body.
Why did you accept the job, and what were you expecting going into it?
Because I thought it would be interesting and worthwhile. It proved to be both. I don’t think I had any particular expectations going into it and don’t remember any big surprises, other than the amount of work involved. Jan Yopp was leaving the program, and she had it in good shape.
Please describe the community you found in scholastic media when you were director.
I found a bunch of dedicated teachers who appreciated what we were doing for them and their students, and they were willing to help in any way they could. I came to appreciate how hard their jobs were, teaching as many high school students as they did during the year and being responsible for the students they brought to the institute. It was also fun meeting young students who already were looking at the world through mature eyes.
When it was time to leave the job, what was the most difficult part?
Leaving behind the teachers who befriended me, and the instructors who provided such good instruction.
How did the Summer Institute evolve during your tenure?
One of my aims was to increase the amount of hands-on work we did in the newspaper division, and I was able to increase it by adding new instructors. We also introduced computers into the curriculum. I still remember providing every student a floppy disk for his or her work in return for a $1 deposit. To many students it was their first experience with computers.
Next came desktop publishing, which began with our teaching Pagemaker skills to the teachers. Those efforts paved the way for the time when advance students actually prepared a student newspaper, which started after I left.
Please share your thoughts on the value of scholastic journalism in North Carolina.
Even if our students never work in the media, they need to understand journalism’s values and the importance of the First Amendment. High school journalism helps prepare students to play important roles in government and society. It also teaches communication skills that serve well in all fields.
What is your hope for the future of NCSMA?
First of all, to celebrate 100th and 150th anniversaries, though I doubt I’ll be around for either. I hope the institute continues to evolve with the media, and I hope we help prepare leaders who can keep journalism vital in these troubled times for the press.