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SPJ selects Stephen G. Bloom, University of Iowa professor, for Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award


Matthew Kent, SPJ Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, mkent@spj.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, zberg@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has chosen Stephen G. Bloom as recipient of the Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award. Bloom is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa.

Each year, SPJ honors an outstanding journalism educator who has made an exceptional contribution to the profession and/or journalism education. Bloom won this year with 67 detailed letters of support from colleagues and students from more than three decades of teaching.

Bloom’s students described him as eminently approachable. Many students referred to Bloom as their unofficial adviser, and often visited his office to ask questions, get advice on courses and careers, discuss how to improve their writing or just chat. Many continued coming back years after they graduated. The letters described Bloom as tough but fair, running the classroom like a professional newsroom.

“Now a college professor myself, I often try to channel Professor Bloom’s approach to teaching by attempting to strike a balance between being demanding enough to push students toward greatness but supportive enough to help them get there,” Natalia Mielczarek, assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, said. “I still use some of the lesson plans I had learned from him 10 years ago. I mention him to my students as one of my most valuable teachers and mentors since elementary school days precisely because of his zero tolerance for mediocracy, his passion for reporting and writing and his eagerness to engage in the best kind of conversations, the ones that often border on philosophical musings about the world.”

Bloom is known to work with students to improve their writing and storytelling skills, walking them through their work line by line, even if it took four or five drafts. In their nomination letters students recounted specific lectures Bloom gave and some said they still look over the notes they took in his class years after graduating.

“Professor Bloom’s passion for storytelling really comes through in his teaching and he truly brings out the best in young journalists,” Rachel Webster, a 2010 SJMC graduate, said. “In a world where papers, tests and deadlines all seem to mold together and stress you out, Bloom has a way of engaging his students and creating work that inspires your curiosity. His assignments didn’t feel like a looming deadline, but rather an interesting project to tackle.”

Not only is Bloom a powerful educator, he is an experienced journalist and academic. In his nomination letter, Robert J. Konrardy said, “his teaching style reflected his love of writing and his love for his students.” As a journalist, Bloom wrote for The Sacramento Bee, The Los Angeles Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Dallas Morning News and the Latin America Daily Post. He has also published five nonfiction books.

“Let’s be real: A lot of journalism professors are academics. Bloom came to the school with impressive, real-world experience,” Lesley Kennedy, publishing and digital content group director at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “He didn’t just lecture to his students, but invited them to be curious, ask the right questions and dig a little deeper past the surface.”

Bloom has taught at California State University, Hayward; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Michigan. Bloom has worked in the SJMC for over 20 years. In that time, he has contributed greatly to journalism education. For example, he created the nation’s first university medical journalism course which paired journalism students with medical students on hospital rounds. He created the Iowa Journalists Oral History Project, the world’s first online database of video interviews with Iowa reporters and editors. And he created one of the nation’s first books about narrative journalism, “Inside the Writer’s Mind: Writing narrative journalism.”

“I have been privileged to be among the first to hear of Professor Bloom’s multiple projects on his vigorous publishing agenda. His writing and reporting will continue long after his years here at Iowa,” David Dowling, associate professor at SJMC at the University of Iowa, said. “Journalism is who he is and what he does. As such, he is a vital inspiration to his colleagues and students, making us better writers — and better people.”

Bloom’s former students now work for The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, Time Out and Fortune, and also for weekly newspapers, NPR stations, the Museum of Modern Art and the NFL. Some are attorneys, public-health scholars, magazine editors, physicians, professors, authors, political spokespersons, professional comedians and strategic communicators. Others are stay-at-home moms and dads.

Bloom will be recognized virtually during the SPJ2020 Journalism Conference.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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