July 24, 2014
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Winter is here University Magazine

Hopefully you’ve received a copy of the Winter 2008-09 issue of RIT: The University Magazine. It came out almost three weeks ago, but I am happy to take this opportunity to talk it up.

The cover features photos by Bruce Davidson ’54, Pete Turner ’56 and Carl Chiarenza ’57. More than five decades after graduating, these three “Legends of the Lens” are still shooting. I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Turner and Chiarenza. Turner lives on Long Island, so we talked—and talked—via telephone. I had lots of questions, and he was very generous with his time. Chiarenza, who lives in Rochester, showed me his workshop, explained his unique technique, and gave me a feel for an extraordinary era in the history of RIT’s School of Photography. I had a wonderful afternoon with him.

When he’s not traveling, Davidson lives in Manhattan. When I learned that he doesn’t grant phone interviews, I thought I might have a good excuse for a trip to the Big Apple. That wasn’t practical, but it occurred to me that I could press a dear friend into service. Jan Fitzpatrick, former PR director of the University of Rochester, now lives in Manhattan and was willing—on very short notice—to meet with Davidson. He was fascinating, she enjoyed the assignment very much and I think that shows through in her story.

Also in this issue is Kelly Downs’ outstanding story, “Found in Space,” about RIT grads who work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Downs traveled to Texas to cover the experience of a team of RIT students who got to ride NASA’s “Vomit Comet” as part of the agency’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. Downs wasn’t allowed to fly with the team, but she did spent time with them at the center, and also met many of the grads who work there.

I’ll mention just one other story that I particularly enjoyed doing. It’s the piece on Bob Loce ’83 (imaging science), RIT’s first Ph.D. recipient, a principal scientist at Xerox who has more than 100 patents to his credit. He’s brilliant (obviously), enthusiastic and generous and I had such a great time visiting him at Xerox.

Face-to-face interviews are something of a luxury for writers, whether you work in PR or in the print or online media. Even when working with someone here on campus, it’s easy to forego the personal interview in favor of a phone call or—more likely—an e-mail exchange. E-mail is certainly convenient and expeditious, but not very personal.

But the examples I mentioned above remind me that old-fashioned, in-person reporting leads to the best stories. Plus, it’s just way more fun.

 

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