USU journalism professor named one of 10 best in U.S.
the USU department of journalism and communication
LOGAN -- Utah State University journalism Professor Michael S. Sweeney has been named one of the top 10 journalism teachers in the country by the Freedom Forum, the world's largest foundation dedicated to journalism and press freedom issues.
Sweeney, a former newspaper editor who has been an assistant professor in the department of journalism and communication at USU since 1996, was among the 10 university professors honored in Washington, D.C., in August.
"Simply put, Mike Sweeney-a veteran newspaperman who swapped the newsroom for the classroom-is the go-to guy for his students, fellow faculty and press professionals," wrote his department chair, Ted Pease, in nominating Sweeney. "Mike leads and instructs by example, inspiring his students and colleagues alike to try to keep up with him, all with unfailing good humor and true compassion."
The Freedom Forum Journalism Teachers of the Year Awards "are designed to recognize, reinforce and reward outstanding journalism teachers who have demonstrated excellence on their own campuses and beyond," professors who have made significant differences in the lives of their students and so are improving the state of American journalism.
In Sweeney's case, 14 current and former students wrote letters that expressed their appreciation for the impact he has had on their education and careers. One of them, Heather Frederickson, a 2001 graduate now working for IBM in Texas, wrote, "I have taken classes from 38 professors on this campus, and not one has left an impression the way Dr. Sweeney has. He's not just my professor, he's my colleague, friend and mentor."
Lizzy Scully, a second-year master's student, wrote: "He is one of the most knowledgeable and exciting teachers I have had the privilege to learn from." Patrick Washburn, a former colleague at Ohio University, where Sweeney earned his Ph.D. degree in 1996, wrote: "To put it mildly, his student evaluations were stunning. The students loved him not only because he taught them a lot, but he made himself available to meet with them outside of class."
Joe Donatelli, now a reporter for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., recalls Sweeney from his days as a student journalist at the Ohio University Post, which Sweeney served as faculty advisor. "I learned more from him during those Post meetings than I did in most of my classes. Great guy."
That influence follows his students after they leave campus. Ann Bluemlein Herron, a reporter at the Logan Herald Journal who completed her master's degree at USU in 2000, wrote that Sweeney's lessons haunt her newsroom, where many of the reporters are USU graduates: "The remark is often made when a reporter has gone the extra mile on a story, 'Well, Sweeney's going to read this!' He inspires us to do our best and to make the next story even better."
In his letter supporting Sweeney's nomination, USU President Kermit L. Hall said, "The comments of his current and former students illustrate the kind of high standards and commitment to teaching that USU and quality institutions everywhere prize. Professor Sweeney clearly connects with his students in ways that make a lasting impression on them and a difference in their lives and careers."
"I am proud to have such an excellent teacher and colleague represent Utah State University among the best and brightest in the nation," Hall concluded.
Sweeney earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1980 and then spent 14 years in the newspaper business, mostly the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas. He then made the transition from the newsroom to the classroom, completing his doctorate at Ohio University in 1996, when he joined the faculty at USU. He has been a "Top Prof" at USU, awarded by students to their favorite faculty members, and was the 2001 teacher of the year in the journalism and communication department.
He is a top national expert on issues of press censorship during wartime, and was the USU College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences researcher of the year in 2001. His new book on U.S. press censorship during World War II has received widespread acclaim both among scholars and the popular press, including the Washington Post, which reviewed Sweeney's Secrets of Victory early this summer. Last year, he joined legendary TV newsman Walter Cronkite and former World War II correspondent Richard C. Hottelot in a program on wartime censorship that was broadcast from the Museum of TV and Radio in New York.
In anonymous end-of-semester student evaluations last year, one student wrote, "This class was awesome. What I really enjoyed is that Dr. Sweeney really cares about the students. He always gave us such good feedback to help us improve as writers." Wrote another student after completing JCOM 3220-Copy Editing and Publication Design, "Sweeney is a copy editing GOD!!"