Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Dave Adams gave JEA a home and student journalism a voice

Dave Adams served as JEA’s first executive secretary.

Although his time as executive secretary was short, Dave Adams changed the face of JEA.

When JEA was looking for its first permanent home in 1987, it was Dave Adams who put together the proposal to bring it to Kansas State University. He negotiated with university administrators to create the package that outshined 12 other contenders.

Dave Adams

In addition to the space to house JEA Headquarters and the Bookstore, the five-year proposal covered the salary of the executive secretary, 50% of the salary of an administrative assistant and fulltime salary for an additional JEA employee. The organization was allowed to use other resources of the university including legal services.

“It was a generous package,” Ken Siver, then JEA president, said. “We were struggling financially and it was clear we needed a permanent headquarters so the package was attractive, but another major consideration was Kedzie Hall and the people. When we walked in the door, K-State printing was there, the School of Journalism was there and the student media was housed there. It just felt like the perfect place for us to be.

“Dave introduced us to Carol Oukrop who was the director of the School of Journalism. She was impressive — smart, savvy and down to earth. The combination of Dave’s energy and enthusiasm and Carol’s serious but fun leadership sealed the deal.”

Shortly after the contract was signed and JEA was assured a new home, Adams took a sabbatical to teach and do research in Hawaii. After the sabbatical, he accepted a position as director of the student media at Indiana University and put Connie Fulkerson, administrative assistant, in charge of the day-to-day operations of JEA while he continued as executive secretary until a new executive secretary could be hired.

A long-time advocate of student journalism, Adams started his teaching career at a small Kansas high school, moved to Fort Hays (Kansas) State University, then K-State and in 1989 he moved to Indiana University. In each case the publications he advised received top ratings and the programs grew. So did his passion for student press freedom.

“He was clearly a national leader in student press freedom,” said Brad Hamm, dean of the IU School of Journalism at the time of Adams’ death in 2007. “He traveled widely and was well respected in that area.”

In 1988, the Supreme Court passed a ruling in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier that allowed high-school administrators to review student articles before they went to press. Adams spoke before the House of Representatives Education Committee and sent letters to schools in an effort to override the ruling. He wasn’t successful, but his perseverance was notable.

“Dave is (was) one of the three or four people in this country who most supported student press freedom,” Mark Goodman, then executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “Dave was known for his contagious excitement about journalism. Whenever he talked about it, friends and colleagues could see that it lit a fire underneath.”

That was especially true the day the Hazelwood decision came down.

“Dave called me from Washington, D.C., to tell me the news. It was like he had lost a friend,” Laura Widmer, executive director of NSPA/ACP said. “By the end of the call he knew we just had to fight even harder to protect the rights of student journalists. The fire was back and his enthusiasm was contagious.”

Adams was president of SPLC from 2003 until his death in 2007. He was also president of College Media Association, faculty adviser on the Indiana Collegiate Press Association board, NSPA board of directors. He was one of the first members of the College Media Association’s Hall of Fame, and also received the Gold Key from CSPA. JEA established the David Adams Award, recognizing scholastic journalism programs that promote First Amendment freedoms within the school and community.

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