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David Arant

Interview by Mikhelle Taylor.

Audio Transcription

Mikhelle Taylor [00:00:00] Okay. This is Mikhelle Taylor interviewing Dr. David Arant in his office in Meeman at 3:30 p.m. on March 16, 2023. We will be speaking about his involvement with the Teen Appeal and the JRSM Department's involvement in the project.  Before we get started, this oral history will be archived in the library as part of the Teen Appeal Oral History Project. Do I have your permission to record you? 

 

David Arant [00:00:25] You do. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:00:26] Thank you. If you'd said no, I would have turned everything off. {laugh} 

 

David Arant [00:00:28] Do you want to close the door and keep the noise out? 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:00:30] Let’s do that, and let me set up my backup recorder, just in case.  My Tasco has never failed me - I have failed it! But we'll see. So that will give us another backup here. I'm going to put that a little closer. Okay. So, as a note, I'm going to be trying to keep my vocalization to a minimum – I hope I can do that. {All right.} So I'll mostly be smiling and nodding in response. And I've got some questions outlined for you, but please feel free to add in other things that come to mind as we talk. So first, so we can get to know you - can you tell us about your journalism background and your career? 

 

David Arant [00:01:14] Yes. I'm David Arant. I'm a professor of journalism here at the University of Memphis. I arrived at the University of Memphis in 1992 as a lowly assistant professor of journalism and almost immediately started teaching research methods…well, I did research methods through the graduate students and I taught public reporting, public issues, editing, media writing, and public interest reporting. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:01:47] Okay. And what is your position now at the university? 

 

David Arant [00:01:49] I'm now the chair of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media. I've been chair since 2008. Maybe a little bit too long, but I'm still chair, still having fun! In ‘94, ‘95 - when I was just a…I guess I was still an associate professor or assistant professor - a colleague of mine, a guy named Dan Lattimore, who was chair of the department then, decided that we needed to do some kind of initiative in the city's high schools. At that time, the City of Memphis Public Schools - which was an independent I mean, you know, the county -  had about 30 high schools. {(regarding recorder): Did something happen?}   We had about 30 high schools. And at that time when we did a survey of the high schools about whether they had any high school newspapers, there were only about four at most, maybe three or four or five, that had newspapers. You know, they were publishing high school newspapers. And many of these high schools at this time - and as they continued to be – were…very poorly resourced schools. They were in poor neighborhoods, and they didn't have a lot of extra activities for their students. Now, we had these excellent high schools in the city, like White Station. You know, at that time even Craigmont was extremely strong, and Ridgway was also a very strong school, and a couple of others. And they’re the ones, of course, the schools that had the better students and the richer neighborhoods…they had the greater resources, it seems, and they had the high school newspapers. It was the inner-city schools serving mostly minority students in less affluent neighborhoods that had no student media there. And so, we felt like it was our responsibility as the journalism department in the city, the University of Memphis, to go and try to find a way to address that deficiency. And so, Dr. Lattimore and my colleague, Dr. Elinor Grusin (who was the professor of Journalism in the department also at that time), and I kind of set out trying to reach out to the city schools, first of all, and also to a city newspaper - at that time, an extremely strong city newspaper called the Commercial Appeal, which still exists. It was at that time owned by Scripps Howard. And Scripps Howard had a very strong foundation. And you know, they had money to grant to journalism programs across the country - funds and various initiatives in the cities where their newspapers are located. You know, every year there's thousands and thousands of dollars and they, in fact, endowed the journalism school at Ohio University. And they also endowed their college there, too, for that matter. And some other places like that. But Memphis had really never gotten any big, big grants from the Scripps Howard Foundation, even though the Commercial Appeal that was probably making a lot of money for the Scripps Howard Corporation, and probably a lot of the money that came through the foundation was, you know, by the way, was partly because of Memphis' success. 

 

[00:05:50] Well, the editor of the Commercial Appeal at that time was a guy named Angus McEachran, and he went through the journalism program here, and he was a native of Memphis, but he was one of the very long standing and feared editors in the Scripps Howard chain. And also working at the newspaper that time was a managing editor whose name was Otis Sanford. Well, with their backing and our department chair’s leadership, we went to the Scripps Howard Foundation and asked if they would join a partnership with the Commercial Appeal, you know, the Scripps Howard local newspaper, and the Department of Journalism to establish a journalism program, reaching out to the high schools of the city of Memphis, where there were no media news, newspapers in operation at almost all the schools, except for just a handful of the richer schools in town. And after some persuasion - especially with the force of Angus McEachran, the big editor who most people feared - they agreed to begin funding our Scripps Howard partnership with the University of Memphis and the Commercial Appeal. And we managed to - Elinor Grusin and I - reach out to the city schools and meet with a superintendent. I think it was Janet House at that time. And Janet House did agree that she thought it was a great idea and that we would get access to the city high schools in order to reach, to recruit students from every high school in this city. That's our goal. And we were pretty much successful in doing that. But then to train those students and to actually doing a…basically, we started out with a summer boot camp for, you know, for these high school students to teach them journalism. 

 

[00:08:08] And then we would have them come and work and we would work with them throughout the year in having them report stories and all about their high school, what was going on there. And then the students would come together here on our campus, and they would work with our Teen Appeal coordinator, which was the, you know, the position that the Scripps Howard Foundation money was funding. And they would craft these stories together and then they would - the Teen Appeal coordinator and the students would - would design a newspaper. And the Commercial Appeal had agreed to print that newspaper and have their trucks distribute those papers to all the city high schools. And so, it was a monthly paper because, you see, that's a pretty big commitment for the Commercial Appeal to be cranking out papers and giving them away for free. But we had a printed newspaper going into every city of Memphis high school for the next, I think, uh, 18 years, written by the students of the city of Memphis high schools and edited, you know, in collaboration with this Teen Appeal coordinator and printed by the city's premier newspaper, the Commercial Appeal. And these kids were getting high school journalism throughout the city for 18 years. {Wow}

 

[00:09:37] Now, the linchpin for that, of course, was the fact that we got this…the funding of the coordinator's position. I guess it began, you know, in the range of about $50,000 a year we were getting from Scripps Howard for it, and it went up into 70 some…in the $70,000 range over the course of those 18 years. And then the department itself was providing support and the additional funding. There was another foundation account that was providing the funding for the summer workshop, you know, that boot camp that we did with the high school students every year. But it was a long process, because every year the Teen Appeal coordinator would go out to all the high schools and try to, you know, talk to the English teachers to recruit students to apply for this summer camp and become the Teen Appeal representatives from those high schools. And then, we also (as part of the grant) we had funds to buy, for those who needed them, bus passes to get on the buses to come to the camp as well as come to these meetings in the department. And they could come… if they wanted to, they could come weekly. You know, the students could come weekly here and meet with the Teen Appeal coordinator to work on their stories. So…and this was back in the day before all this Internet stuff and everybody had cell phones and stuff. So, it was a lot that had to be done, you know, paper to paper, you know, hand to hand. 

 

And so…it was an interesting project and one that touched a lot of students. You know, we've had students who have gone on from the Teen Appeal to do some amazing things. Katori Hall, was a Teen Appeal staff member, later became a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. And we've had quite a few who went on from our journalism program and, you know, working with Teen Appeal to our journalism programs in college. And many at the University of Memphis, but also at other places like Columbia and Missouri and other programs throughout the country. So, we tracked all these students because we had to demonstrate to Scripps Howard Foundation how much success our students were having. And it was a huge impact. And as I say, we got the support of Scripps Howard and the Commercial Appeal for all those 18 years. And that foundation money kept flowing; over the course of those 18 years, it was, you know, well over $1,000,000, a million point five, I guess, somewhere in that range that we…in terms of foundation gifts. But it ended when Scripps Howard, when they left Memphis…you know when they sold it, you know, divested themselves of the newspapers including the Commercial Appeal. That's when Scripps Howard finally said, “Well, you know, we can't fund this project anymore. You're no longer a Scripps city.” Oh, well….so I have answered a lot of your questions without you even asking them! But I’m going to let you backfill because I thought it’s just better to tell the story and tell the narrative. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:12:45] Well, I heard {Dr.} Otis..or Otis Sanford talk about his experience with the Teen Appeal and kind of the process that you went through. What was your experience with trying to bring it back or trying to pursue the funding?   

 

David Arant [00:12:59] Oh, well, yeah. And it was in actually 2015, you know…after 2014 Scripps said, “Oh, we’re cutting you off!” and we talked them into giving, extending us for another year. “Oh, let us … give us another year while we go out and beg and everything … see if we can find funding to keep it going.” And as I say, the funding was really for the coordinator position because that…because, you know, all the activity I told you involved with that, that position. It wasn't something we could just pull in-house because we didn't have any…you know, we're all busy, there was nothing we could do in-house. I thought about doing it without having a real coordinator and I realized how risky that would be not to have proper supervision when you're bringing high school kids on this campus. I said, “Hmm...probably not a good idea!” So I said, “Unless we can get somebody who's dedicated and focused on mentoring these students and working with the students and basically keeping an eye on these students, we don't need to be doing it.” But we went to quite a few local foundations, Otis Sanford .. it was the, you know, the Mutt & Jeff Band, real tall guy and short guy. We went around and we talked to everyone we could talk to and tried to find some local foundations, which we thought would be the best place to try to find that kind of support. And…we had a lot of people, “Oh, that's a great project, but…we don't do that now, it’s not what we want to do.” And we had a lot of courteous, “Oh, it's great project,”…but we never could find anybody really willing to write a check and, you know, it was a little discouraging. I'm sure Mr. Sanford has told you that, too.  I’m sure Professor Sanford told you that too, but it was not for lack of trying. We also tried to…we reached out to a, you know….I think we were trying to reach out to a couple of foundations beyond the city. But, you know, it was a time when newspaper was kind of getting a bad name. “Oh, newspaper…that's yesterday's news.” {[00:14:53] yeah} And we're not really… the Teen Appeal is, even though it is a printed product that the kids get, it's also online and and the kids are now doing so much of the work, you know, online and they're doing reporting with their cell phones, sending pictures on their cell phones. But we just couldn't find anyone to write that check so we could continue having a Teen Appeal coordinator and keep the program going. So, it was certainly disappointing.
 

[00:16:26] Now, as I say, it was a wonderful project. Why, it lasted, you know, 18 years. And actually… really in some ways probably Scripps Howard Foundation…We appreciate what they did because having a foundation support you for 18 years is pretty remarkable.  Unfortunately, of course, something like this is not going to be a revenue generating vehicle, obviously. And just like newspapers are having troubles continuing to exist…you know, there's no ad revenue that you could really speak of. We never even tried to do ad; we talked about it. But then you had to set up an ad sales unit and you'd had to have an accounting area, and that was more than you could do with a small publication like that and the kind of setup we had here. But every month during the school year, you got these 20,000 copies of the Teen Appeal bearing the University of Memphis name and our department's name going into every city high school. And…I said, this is an incredible resource! We didn't get into the city schools without a lot of effort. We had to talk our way in and talk our way past a lot of principals to get this out. Certainly, they had these kids snooping around in their high schools, writing stories about them. And although almost 99%, maybe more like 95%, were really positive stories about local things going on there. There were some pretty hard-hitting stories. We had stories about kids who were afraid to go to school, how they had to go through metal detectors, going to school, you know, you got the front door to school, things like that. And those kind of stories, too, occasionally - which were important stories, probably the most important stories, to get… bring awareness to the students perspective on what it meant to go to one of these inner city schools where they didn't feel safe. And this is decades ago when we were talking about - now and even then - and being afraid because of the level of violence, in particular guns being bought in the school, or other violent implements.  And so, we were making a difference, I think, and we certainly made a difference in the lives of those students who were part of the editorial team of the Teen Appeal. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:17:45] And so, do you think that the program benefited the department, though? And if so, what kind of benefits do you think have been lost since that end? 

 

David Arant [00:17:54] Oh, well, it definitely benefited the department by being a recruiting tool, for one thing. Now, we've tried to….for example, you know…it wasn’t a pipeline, but we had a handful of Teen Appeal students who ended up here every year, you know, as students in our journalism department, as they graduated high school and came to college. And we even had….Scripps Howard also provided a scholarship for students, you know, Teen Appeal graduates to come to the university. And they also could go to another, you know, journalism program, too. But hey, we wanted - and we would really never discourage them from going to Columbia University if they wanted to or wherever, Missouri. But because of connections with our faculty…because it wasn't just a Teen Appeal coordinator. At least one of our faculty members was deeply involved as kind of the director of the Teen Appeal project to the coordinator. And the director would be a faculty member. Elinor Grusin did it, Carrie Brown did it and, and Otis Sanford did it when he became the Chair of Excellence in our department. And I was very involved with it throughout, you know, especially as department chair. I took a real direct hand in it after… when Otis wasn’t in a position to - you know, schedule wise - to be involved with it. I was directly involved with the meetings, the meetings they had here and helping out Carrie when she was the coordinator, the last coordinator of the Teen Appeal with students who were coming in. So, it was a very meaningful project. I got a great deal out of it. And these students were affected by it.  

 

[00:19:37] What we’re missing, of course, is the opportunity to keep journalism alive in the high schools of the city and to introduce the possibility of a media career for all these students. Now, there are a few high schools that still have some strong media programs. You know, especially, again, a lot of these are the private schools or they’re the county schools, or the suburban city schools. Now, Arlington has a real strong broadcast media program out there, a film program. And they've, you know, White Station always had a pretty good program. And in Bartlett, some of these schools have…Now how we’ve tried to continue, you know, this outreach to the high schools…we tried to do a summer, you know, independent of the Teen Appeal with all that cool name and funding. We tried to do some summer high school camps, you know, a few days in the summer. And we've had limited success at that, because we just didn't have a mechanism. We.. you know, we lost our entry to the schools like we had before. {[00:20:41] right, okay} After this thing lies fallow over a couple of years, suddenly the principals change, nobody knows you and we don't know the teachers. And so we had some limited success, just a few schools participating in a couple of the summer camps, journalism boot camps we had.  We've also started hosting the meetings of the Tennessee High School Press Association on campus. We had a big, big group of students here in September. So, these are some alternatives we've done, but nothing like what this Teen Appeal did to bring journalism on a regular basis to all the high schools in the city of Memphis.

[00:21:27] And by the way, I didn't tell you this, but at the end, the last couple years, you know what? You had the city/county merger. Of course, we were then going throughout. We opened it up to everybody, all the high schools in Shelby County, including the private schools, if they wanted to send kids to this. So, we did have some participation from some of the county, what were county high schools and maybe Germantown, I think and maybe… I don't…I'm not quite sure about which ones they were, but a couple of them did participate in it toward the end, right before 2015 when things stopped. So, it was, it was a good run and impacted a lot of students. Just last year we had a national conference of the Journalism Historians Association, and they had a panel about the Teen Appeal because one of the leaders of that group was the former director, I mean, coordinator of Teen Appeal, Amy Edmondson, and, and another person, faculty member participating that was a former coordinator, Diane Bragg. And so, the two of them put on a panel here, and they brought a lot of the former Teen Appeal students to talk about it. And I was reminded about how much impact it had on these students. I hadn’t really…you know, out of sight, out of mind for about eight years now. I hadn't really thought about it for a while. But really, thousands of students have, you know, participated in this project over the years. And so, we're kind of proud of what we did and we're sorry that it wasn't sustained. But I guess that happens to a lot of these grant funded programs. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:23:29] So we've heard several people talk about how the decline of print media in general has really affected this and the prospect of bringing it back. And what do you think about the viability of print newspapers and how…how that has changed as the public, you know, appreciation of news is going to affect teens, you know, would-be future journalists in particular? 

 

David Arant [00:23:56] Well, I think two things. First of all, these students may not be as focused on news as they used to be or maybe care about it. Maybe the newspaper may be kind of like…pfft…you know, something that’s an anachronism. It's something that's yesterday and not today. They may not see newspapers in their home anymore, even though they may have just maybe ten years ago. And also, with the decline of readership of newspapers, we no longer have the financial strength of news organizations like we used to, especially print, you know, the legacy print media.  And they don't have the money, you know, I don't know if the Commercial Appeal -  I don't whether they would or not - but there may not be the viability of them supporting this project like they did. There was a lot of financial commitment to print up all these news, 20,000 copies of a newspaper, and distribute it to the city schools. And so I just…I don't know if it can be done. But we don't need printed newspapers anymore. We really need today.. it’s just…you've got the web page and you can print it there if you can produce the copy, and then you can if you can use the publicity of social media or even mouth to mouth publicity about, “This is a story about our school on this website, the Teen Appeal website,” -  which we still we have access to. But so I don't know it would take that printed newspaper anymore to get into schools. On the other hand, things have changed so much. Even our own University of Memphis Daily Helmsman newspaper, which is no longer, you know, a regular printed product. It is a DH.com news site now. But I'm not sure if we're getting the readership , viewership of this news product like we used to because it used to be just so readily available. People tended to pick up newspapers. But even the last years of its being a printed newspaper on this campus, I don't think it got the pickup like it used to.  Kids just don't even pick up newspapers and don't read…they look at their phones and if they don't see it on the phone or don't bother to look for it on their phone, they won't read it. And I think it's true about consumption of regular, you know, national and local news products, too. {[00:26:37] Yeah.} So I don't know where we go with that. And then part of the problem is that then we have the main news stream coming through, uh, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook…and who's selecting that news for them? It's almost self-selection, from what I understand. It depends.. what you look at, is what you get more of. And, if you look at sports, all you see is sports. And if you look at handyman repair stuff like I do, all I see is handyman repair stuff. And after a while you say, “oh, I'm not…this is getting kind of boring!”, at least, for me. But I, on the other hand, I'm an old school guy, so I, I still pick up my quote unquote digital Commercial Appeal, and look at it and see what they're reporting today and my digital Daily Memphian and see what they're telling me about the city that day and my New York Times and see what they're going to tell me about, and my Associated Press feed that I get and see what else is there. So, I'm kind of old school because I'm still trained to look for these vetted media news products. And that's how I get my news now. But I don't know what… I don't know where… I don't know how much news or what kind of news a lot of people are getting now if they don't have this,  what I call vetted and organized news presentation. {[00:28:05] Right.} Which is what a Commercial Appeal printed newspaper used to do for me. It made me read through a lot of things I wouldn't be looking for, or may not be deeply interested in. And so they're not feeding me what… just what I want; they give me a kind of a more balanced diet of news. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:28:27] Well, that's actually a really great point, because I remember from my high school journalism class, the thing that I took away from it wasn't a career in journalism, but it was media literacy. Yes, I learned about bias. I learned how to evaluate truth. I learned how to look at sources and do…especially, you know, with that aspect. Was that being part of what the teens were learning in this program as well? 

 

David Arant [00:28:52] Oh, definitely. Because we you know, we had the boot camp and also in the training they got, they got a little, you know… they got schooled along the way with the coordinator and Dr. Grusin and then Carrie Brown and others who through the years, they would be taught about how to report a story and how to get different points of view, the different sides of the story, in a balanced story when they..in creating their own stories. And so, there was not only, you know, we did, you know, the big…we had all the Commercial Appeal staff at our disposal at our Teen Appeal boot camps where they would come in and do the, you know, the big in-person talks and then we would break out in the labs, and they learned how to do new stories. You had to learn how to do photography. We learned how to do layout, you know, if you had the paper. So they were getting…they certainly were getting a good taste of what it means to be a journalist and how to write balanced news stories and so how to be a consumer of a news, too, and how to identify what is, you know, what was carefully crafted news or what’s just..who knows what coming through the…yeah, whatever.  I don't know….and that's a problem not just for our students, it’s a problem for our country, a problem for our world right now as we have… more and more people are finding clever ways to shape opinion. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:30:32] Exactly. So what do you see as the core mission of the Teen Appeal and its legacy that, you know, really… like in projects like this, should be preserved? 

 

David Arant [00:30:41] Well, of course, the core mission was to…I'll just be real straightforward. A lot of the core mission of the Teen Appeal was to recruit minority journalists. Because, you know, as I mentioned at the beginning of our discussion, you know, so many of these schools that were devoid of any kind of journalism, school newspaper were the schools that were 90 to 100% African-American or minority schools. And so…one of the goals we had was not just to serve the entire citywide high school newspaper, the high schools of the City of Memphis, but in particular, to serve the underserved schools in Memphis, in the inner city and schools that were majority minority. And because a large majority of the students in schools at this time were minorities, about 92%. And so, we were giving them an… opening a window to another professional opportunity, but also to make sure that they had this knowledge about what news was and some of this media literacy. They may be getting that in their high schools already, I'm not really sure. But it was a unique opportunity to not only train minorities, but to recruit minorities into the nation's newsrooms by introducing journalism during these high school years. So, I think that what we…the opportunity we had those 18 years, and now it’s sad that we, in a sense, we couldn't sustain it. You know, these didn't have the means to do that. I mean, you know, without the outside support for this full-time coordinator.  Because obviously we can't… the University of Memphis is a teacher for college university students, and we couldn't divert that kind of money to teach high school students. In a sense, that's not really the proper use of our reserves, of our finances. 

 

[00:33:02] So anyway, it was…we had a good run, and I do think there's still opportunity there. I'd love to see if we can't pull, you know, reinvent the Teen Appeal. Maybe it doesn’t need to be reinvented. I would love to see us continue to develop some strong training, you know, training programs for the high school students, whether it's through the Tennessee High School Press Association, or redeveloping our summer high school boot camps which were ended about time COVID hit.  Of course, we haven't really gotten out there for the high school boot camps in the summer since then. Or maybe just some workshops, you know, during the year when seniors were more available, maybe some Fridays or something. And I’ve mentioned that some of the teachers, English teachers in a couple of these schools, when they come to the High School Press Association meeting here, and they think maybe that's a better way because they say once the kids get out in the summer, it's hard to reel them back for things. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:34:04] That was kind of my next question. If somebody was to come in with an unlimited juicy grant here, you know - what would be your dream based on what you see as the needs that the department's here to serve? 

 

David Arant [00:34:17] Yeah, well, I mean, I might be…I don't know…I still might want to make a run at something like a, you know, some kind of citywide or county or countywide journalism initiative that might try to involve a student from all the high schools, because most schools don't have any journalism anymore. And it’s just a rare exception. At least, there are fewer now than it was when we started the Teen Appeal. And obviously, what I'd like to see is to try building in some…maybe a…maybe a summer program, because that's the only time we're going to get the kids for more than, you know, an afternoon or morning. During the year, that’s all you’d ever get, during the school year, where you could really do some serious journalism education. Because we covered a lot of ground these four or five days and these kids, they got pretty good at, you know, reporting and writing stories over the course of their training and their work with the Teen Appeal in the year, in the course of that year. Now, I'll have to confess this -  our students being recruited by their high schools and sent to the Teen Appeal tended to be among the top students of their high school. So it was kind of like, we're getting the cream of the cream. {[00:35:34] Mm hmm.} So that may be why they're so good. Oh, we got so many star students who ended up doing so many star things, like win Pulitzer Prizes or whatever. But still, it was a range of schools. It wasn't just a handful of great, you know, the top schools. And it was every school almost in the city. And they were all good students, they were all nice students. And we…in fact, one of the students, Marcus Matthew, started out, I think it was, in the first class of Teen Appealers, you know, and he ended up being the Teen Appeal coordinator in the 2000s, 2010, I guess it was when he was here. So in 2000 – eight, nine, ten, I think he was here somewhere in that range. And then he ended up being.. going back and being a teacher and principal in the public schools. {[00:36:25] Mm hmm, wow} So, you know, we had a good run, as I say. But I would like… I don't know exactly if that's something we could even do now, because the, you know, newspapers are such a foreign language for the current students. Now, maybe it would be something that would be…. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:36:44] Podcasts. 

 

David Arant [00:36:45] Podcast, broadcast. That's what I'm thinking. So maybe it'd be…it'd be social media something, or just a web-based something. But certainly, I think the visual word, the video…video is key to everything now. I mean, having good visuals. So, they might be telling stories in video for these students today because they're so visually oriented, I think. And getting them to write scripts, or at least to write good cut lines for that, teach them to write well. You can't tell stories without good language. {00:37:23] Right.} You know, you can…there's some nice pictures, but what do they mean? {00:37:26] Right.} Well, what's the context? So …and you have to have if you're going to do a…do a scripted video, you've got to have a…you’ve got to write that good script, you know, not just ad-libbing. I'll say that. Like I am now. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:37:40] But in a worst case scenario – Teen Appeal's done, the best we can do is just document and preserve its legacy. {Yeah.} What would be the important things that you would want to see done with it? Like, what would you want to see something like this project capture? 

 

David Arant [00:37:53] Oh, you know. Well, I think we have to have some of the voices of the students that have been Teen Appeal reporters, what impact it had on them. I was really moved when I heard a couple of these kids talk at this conference last September. and I said, “Wow, I guess it was worth all that time and effort!” And also just tell… And we've …we've not done this…we've not really told the story or documented the story of this. We've written a couple papers, I think I probably could drag a couple of papers out that we’ve written about the Teen Appeal and presented them at different programs along the way. But we haven't really sat down and, you know, given, you know, tracked some of this and  you know, a lot of the document that's, you know, or that’s there are scattered in folders along the way, but no one's really taken the time to really pull it together and talk about what exactly we did, you know, what Scripps Howard did and the Commercial Appeal, the Department of Journalism did in those 18 years. {Wow.} 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:39:07] What other kind of enduring memories do you have from those days? 

 

David Arant [00:39:11] Enduring memories. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:39:13] Kind of think back on. 

 

David Arant [00:39:18] Well, one thing it was always interesting…you remember, this is back in the heyday of the Commercial Appeal, too, and they had a BIG operation down on union, the building which is now shuttered. It's they… we would…every Friday, the last day of the camp, we would go down there for a tour of the newspaper, the Teen Appeal. We all went down there, and we would…the kids would…attend the budget meeting where they chose the stories that morning. You know, the editors of the Commercial Appeal would meet together and choose a story. And that was always an excellent kind of wrap up to see, you know, it wasn't just our little newspaper, Teen Appeal newspaper. This is the big major production of all these people working in this huge building. And, you know, with this huge printing press that was down in the basement of this massive building, which used to be, I think, started out as some Ford Motor plant of some sort or something like that. But anyway, it was a.. it was, I think that the students…and that's also the day we gave out awards, you know, for the different you know, we had awards for different, you know, best picture, best story, best whatever they'd done during the week. And that's the…and the picture at the end with all the Teen Appeal staff that we've got, there are pictures around here, everywhere of us as the images of the students and the Commercial Appeal folks and the Teen Appeal workers. There would be about…oh yeah, we'd always have about three or four faculty members who would work with that camp every year or two years. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:41:01] Great, And when..where were the pictures stored or... 

 

David Arant [00:41:04] Well, they’re around! The problem is they weren’t stored and organized, so they're just scattered around. And some of them may be lost by now, who knows? Because we don't have a particularly good archive. I was digging through some things, this and that other matter, wanting to talk about it on the podcast, but it's hard to keep stuff when you don't have it, you know, basically archived in a library. It gets on shelves and when somebody comes along and says “Oh, I don’t need that” and they tend to just toss it away. Not me! You look around my office, do you see anything that I've thrown away? It's all here. At least if I had my hands on it. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:41:40] So, I guess the last thing I have is - is there anything you'd like to add that I may not have asked or questions that you would like us to explore in oral history? 

 

David Arant [00:41:53] Don't think so. I think we've got… I think I’ve blathered on long enough and there are a lot of good memories to the Teen Appeal and I'm glad we got to do it. And maybe there are opportunities that we need to start exploring again that reach back to our high schools now that we’ve finally kind of, maybe gotten through COVID and we can get out in the world again in a more aggressive way. 

 

Mikhelle Taylor [00:42:20] Excellent. Well, thank you very much. 

 

David Arant [00:42:22] You're welcome. 

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