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Otis Sanford

Interview by Robby Byrd.

Audio Transcription

0:00:00.5 Robby Byrd: 
This is Robby Byrd interviewing Otis Sanford in his office at the University of Memphis on February 20th, 2023. 

0:00:07.8 Otis Sanford: 


0:00:08.2 Robby Byrd: 
Okay, first I just want to... This is the oral history, so the oral history will be saved in the library and then we'll also use parts of it in the podcast. Just want to make sure it's okay for  you that we record it and then we would use it potentially for the podcast. 


0:00:20.0 Otis Sanford: 
Oh, absolutely. 


0:00:21.8 Robby Byrd: 
Appreciate it. So, I talked a little bit about this. What we want to kind of talk about is basically your part in all of this. We're going to talk a lot about your time at The Teen Appeal or with The Teen Appeal. First, would you mind telling us a little bit about you and your career as it  led up to that point? 


0:00:39.5 Otis Sanford: 
Oh, okay. Well, my career professionally started after college at the Clarion Ledger newspaper in Jackson. Where I spent a little less than two years covering everything from police to suburban government and even some legislature. And then I wrote feature stories for them. Then I came to Memphis two years later in 1977 and I was a general assignment reporter, became a federal court reporter. I covered some politics, state courts, and then I became an editor, frontline editor, assistant metro editor.And in 1987 I left to go to Pittsburgh where I was the assistant city editor for politics for the Pittsburgh press. And then I went over to Detroit after that in 1992 to be deputy city editor of the Free Press. Pretty much running the day - to-day city desk operation. And then I came back to Memphis in '94 as deputy managing editor of the paper. Eventually became managing editor. And  then editorial page editor where I started writing a column. 

0:01:56.6 Robby Byrd:

I know throughout your career just from knowing a little bit about you that... All of a sudden you're the first African American person to be in some of these roles. Can you talk a little  bit about that? 

0:02:07.0 Otis Sanford:

Yeah, I was. I was the first African American male to ever be hired as a reporter at  The Clarion Ledger. My classmate, a woman named Linda Buford, she's Linda Buford Burks now,  she was the first ever African American. And she came a semester, she was a semester ahead of me. And they hired her first and then they hired me three or four months later. And yeah, I was the very  first African American male. I was the first African American reporter to ever cover federal court  for The Commercial Appeal. And I was certainly later on the first African American to be  managing editor of The Commercial Appeal, or editorial page editor of The Commercial Appeal. So yeah, I mean I've sort of helped to break some of those barriers along the way. 

0:03:01.4 Robby Byrd:

So with that, talk a little... Well we'll get next time. 

0:03:05.2 Otis Sanford:


0:03:06.1 Robby Byrd:

So tell me a little bit about your role in The Teen Appeal. How it kind of came to  you, how all of it just kind of started off. 

0:03:13.1 Otis Sanford:

Okay, yeah. Well I'll tell you how it came to me. My boss, my editor at that time,  this was in the late '90s, now 1996, '97, Angus McEachran was the editor and president of The  Commercial Appeal. And he brought the project to me because as I understand it, the chair of the  Department of Journalism here at that time and one of the other faculty members, they had  approached the Scripps Company, which owned The Commercial Appeal, about some kind of a  citywide newspaper project for high school students as a way to recruit more, especially more  diversity here at the journalism department here, but not just here, just to improve journalism in the  public schools. Well, the Scripps people gave the idea to Angus McEachran. And of course, Angus  McEachran [chuckle] gave it to me. He said, you take care of this. But when I heard what was being proposed, I thought it was a great idea. I mean, I had been going to schools before then. I had been  going to schools all the way back to when I was a reporter. But certainly after I came back and became a senior editor, I had spoken to schools alot. And I did know that very few high schools in Memphis had a newspaper. And this was the 1990s. So I was interested in doing this. So I started working with the people here. At that time, it would have been Jim Redmond, who was the chair, and Elinor Grusin, and maybe a couple of other faculty members. I worked with the school. This was just Memphis City Schools back then this was before the merger. And so, I contacted and worked with the superintendent of schools at that time. I think her name was Gerry House then. I participated in a luncheon with all of the principals  because the superintendent thought it was a good idea. And so, the principals met, and I met with them to tell them what we were trying to  do. There were some concerns at first that maybe this was just an attempt to find out what was  going on at schools by The Commercial Appeal, sort of an underhanded way. But no, I mean, once  we explained what we were trying to do, we were trying to introduce students to journalism,  possibly as a career. And in addition to that, Scripps was willing, once we got it off the ground,  Scripps was willing to provide at least four scholarships a year for students to go to college, two  here at the University of Memphis, and two anywhere else they wanted to go. And so we started it  in 1997 is when we started. 

0:06:21.3 Robby Byrd:

So, over the years, your role kind of changed, though. So can you tell me about the  different roles you played with the Teen Appeals? 

0:06:27.1 Otis Sanford:

Sure. Well, early on, when I was still at the paper, after it started, I was basically the  liaison at the paper. I would arrange... Because the paper... The Teen Appeal was printed at The  Commercial Appeal. We used our printing presses, we had a designated day, and then we used our  circulation department to distribute the papers to all the high schools. I mean, it was a flawless  operation, and I do take credit for organizing that and getting the buy­in. That was the best thing,  Robby. Our circulation director, our director of operations, which is in charge of the press room,  they were solidly on board with this, and they were willing to do anything it took to get those  papers printed and distributed to every high school in the city. 


0:07:24.2 Otis Sanford:

Even though sometimes we even had, there was one time where one of the  principals, seized the papers, because I don't think that that person liked what was on the front page, but that was few and far between. That was my role. I was the liaison between the university and  The Commercial Appeal and everything that we did there. I was also responsible working with the  faculty here to put together the summer journalism workshop every year, and we did that every year here at the university in our department. It was a week­long workshop where we taught the new, we sort of trained and oriented the new staff every year to journalism, and we'd had speakers come in.  We even had the mayor and the police director come in and talk to students about journalism and  how they see journalism and all of that. The people from Scripps came at that time, and this was  Scripps Foundation. They were the ones that were putting the money in. And so the head of the Scripps  Foundation, a woman named Judy Clabes, and her assistant Sue Porter, they came a few times to  the workshop. They were so impressed with what we were doing, because they had done another  project in Cincinnati that just used, I think, one school, and it didn't turn out well. And so they were  somewhat skeptical early on, but when they saw what we were doing here and the buy­in we got  from everybody involved and the eagerness from the students, and they came to that first workshop, and we had like 100 students there, and then those students then came down to The Commercial  Appeal on the last day, and they sat in on a news meeting. We gave out awards and t­shirts and all  of that, and we took a picture of the staff on the front lawn on Commercial Appeal, and then they  were ready to go for the next semester in school. And we printed, and everything was done here in the building, right over here in this room, there was a Teen Appeal rooms, and they would meet here at least once a week, maybe  sometimes more than that, and the paper was published every month. 

0:09:39.3 Robby Byrd:

So when you left The Commercial Appeal and came to the University, I don't know if there was a gap there, but how did your role with the... 

0:09:48.0 Otis Sanford:

Yeah. It was a slight gap in that when I first got here, I was still connected to The  Commercial Appeal because I still wrote a column for them. So I was still in contact with the  people in production and the people in the press room and all of that, even though I was out here at  the time. And eventually I became, early on after I got here, I became the faculty advisor to The  Teen Appeal. I wasn't the coordinator. I wasn't Elle Perry or I wasn't Dianne Bragg. I was just sort of  the faculty's person that sort of oversaw it all. That's how my role sort of changed. But I still kept a  close eye on what The Teen Appeal was doing and was still involved in the workshops, obviously,  here. 

0:10:53.5 Robby Byrd:

Do you have any idea how many were published... Printed? 

0:10:56.9 Otis Sanford:

How many? Yeah. Oh, you mean each time? 

0:11:00.5 Robby Byrd:


0:11:00.8 Otis Sanford:

Oh, yeah. We printed about, as I recall, we printed about 19,000 to 20,000. I believe I'm right about that. Yeah, we printed about 19,000 to 20,000, and we had divided them up into  certain numbers that would go to each school. Yeah, I mean, it was amazing how they did that,  because the production people, I mean, the delivery people, circulation people, on the days that the  paper was printed, it was printed right after the last run of the final edition of the paper. And so that  minute was printed like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. And the people who were designated to take  those papers to the schools, they picked up The Teen Appeal when they picked up their regular  Commercial Appeal. And when they got through delivering their routes, they took the papers on to  their respective high schools. I mean, again, it's amazing to think that it worked as well as it did. But those papers got to, there were some glitches sometimes where somebody would call up and say, "Hey, I didn't get The Teen Appeal this time". And so, we'd have to go back and  work that out. But it was a tremendous operation with that many people involved in getting it done.  But, yeah, my role was, you know, once I got here to the university, still working with The  Commercial Appeal and also working with whoever the coordinator was. It was Marcus Matthews  at first when I first got here, and then it became Elle Perry after Marcus left. 

0:12:45.7 Robby Byrd:

So, I mean, this was something that was a big operation, obviously, which almost  every school's through. How... Can you tell me about the impact of it? Like, the operation's big, but what impact did you see, immediately, I guess and throughout?


0:13:01.4 Otis Sanford:

Yeah, and throughout. I think the biggest impact was from what I was hearing from  The Teen Appeal staff and what I was hearing from some of the people at the schools was that  people were paying attention to what was in The Teen Appeal. It wasn't just something that was  thrown in the trash every time it got there. There was visible evidence that students were reading  The Teen Appeal. They were especially reading it to see, "Well, is my school in it this time?" And  we tried to be representative of pretty much every school in some way. I mean, we had, on the back  page, we would have like a fashion design where we had kids who, you know, were showing off  their fashions and we tried to make that as broad as we possibly could to try to catch every school,  maybe not every time, but different schools every time. Or sometimes one story would reflect what  was going on at four or five different schools in one story.  Let's say there was a story about the cafeteria problems. Well, it might start at one  school, but then we had other staffers at another school would check to see what was going on  there. It was the same problem happening, so it was a broad­based single article. It had tremendous  impact. Again, some of the principals got mad every now and then, but in terms of the buy­in from  the administration, the superintendent and other people in charge at the central office, they thought  it was fine. They had no problem with it because it was always designed to improve literacy and to  acquaint high school kids with writing, interviewing skills, sort of being self­-confident about  yourselves and thinking about what you're going to do when you go to college. And you can use the skills that we teach you for writing and reporting and  interviewing. You can use those skills for a lot of different things. And people were vying for those  scholarships. So, it had tremendous impact throughout the whole time. It's one of the best projects  that I think I've ever worked on or being a part of in my career that really impacted young people.  Bar None, it's the best one that I've ever been involved in. 

0:15:31.0 Robby Byrd:

Can you talk a little bit more about that? I mean, because you've been involved in a  lot of projects. 

0:15:33.0 Otis Sanford:

I have, I have. 

0:15:37.1 Robby Byrd:

So what is it about this one that seems to make it stand out? 

0:15:41.9 Otis Sanford:

Well, because of where we were doing it. Yeah, I was involved in high school  projects in Detroit because we were a bigger operation, and we had people dedicated to helping  various students in Detroit. I did a little of it in Pittsburgh. But the reason this was so different for  me was that it was just so huge, and it impacted so many different people. Now, we would have at  the workshop that we generally held that workshop here for a week just before the start of the fall  semester. And we would start out with about, we had 100 at one point. It started to go down a little  later, but we never got less than like 80 students. Now, all of them didn't stick with it. It would wind up being a core group, I'd say, of about 25 or 30. That was your core group that was going to stick with it. And I think the reason I say that it's the most significant one for me is that we're doing it in Memphis. We're doing it in a place  that has a challenge with literacy. We're doing it in a place that certainly at that time, when  newspapers were still kind of ruling the roost, that there were no high school newspapers except  maybe at three or four schools. The more privileged schools like White Station would have one.  Maybe Central had one. But for the most part, these other schools, Germantown, Westwood, I mean not Germantown, Melrose and Westwood and Hamilton and Northside before it closed, they didn't  have any newspapers. And so this was putting journalism into those schools in ways that had never  been done before. So I say without hesitation that this is the most impressive the most significant  journalism endeavor that I've ever been involved in where it impacts high school students, no  question about it. And the kids who went on to go to college and major in journalism, and then some  of them went on to be professionals, reporters. We had a photographer in Jackson. We had one of  the students went to the Treasure Coast in Florida and worked for Scripps papers down there at the  Treasure Coast. We had two or three who worked at The Commercial Appeal. So we were putting  people in jobs that they never would have even thought about getting had it not been for The Teen  Appeal. 

0:18:21.0 Robby Byrd:

Well that kind of brings me back to originally you talking about a lot of you being  the first in a lot of these positions. 

0:18:26.0 Otis Sanford:

Yeah. Yeah. 

0:18:27.0 Robby Byrd:

So let's tie that back into what you saw kind of see as the legacy I guess of The Teen Appeal. Do you see it as... Did it meet the mission, right? Did it succeed on that? And can you tell  me about that? I guess you know how it did that? 

0:18:42.6 Otis Sanford:

I think it absolutely met the mission, Robby. Because, the mission first of all was just to acquaint and introduce high school students in this community primarily African­American  but not exclusively. This was a very... It was very diverse in a lot of ways. But to introduce  journalism to that group, it definitely met that mission. The other mission was to, for those who  were interested to go on to a college career maybe majoring in journalism. It met that mission. Now  obviously the students who worked on The Teen Appeal they were already top drawer students in  their own schools. Now they were stars because they... You wouldn't be interested in this if you didn't have some kind of proficiency in  English, grammar, spelling, which means that you are a pretty good student anyway, right? So if  that's the case, then these students, and I said this many times over the years, when I was directly  involved, I said, "Our students probably would've gone on to college anyway. But I'm sure that a lot of them would not have gone on to major in journalism had it not been for The Teen Appeal,  because they did." And they went to a lot of different places. The woman I was talking about who  worked at the Treasure Coast, she went to University of Missouri. Now, this is a kid from the inner  cities of Memphis who didn't really have much at all, wound up getting a scholarship to go to the  University of Missouri, which is one of the top journalism schools in the country. And she parlayed that education into getting a job at the Treasure Coast where she  stayed for many years. She just left about a couple of years ago to take another job in Colorado.  And so, when we talk about meeting the mission and the legacy of The Teen Appeal, it met every  benchmark that I certainly set forward. The benchmark of increasing diversity within this  department, the benchmark of getting journalism, introducing journalism to this next group of  students and maybe creating a pipeline to work at newspapers near and far. And it just met the  mission of just improving literacy in our public schools anyway. I mean the Memphis city schools  has always been racked by a less than honorable reputation that goes all the way back to the '60s or  late '60s. And so anything that we felt we could do to improve literacy, improve academic  performance, The Teen Appeal was there to help. 

0:21:34.1 Robby Byrd:

So, you mentioned this a little bit, and we'll go back to it. You talked a little bit  about how some of the school principals would kind of get ruffled every now and then,  administration was pretty supportive. Can you talk just a little bit more about that 'cause like, as  someone who was an education reporter for a little while, I know schools aren't always easiest to  get anything out of. 

0:21:51.6 Otis Sanford:


0:21:52.3 Robby Byrd:

So yeah, talk about that a little bit and just kind of the experiences you had there. If  you ever had a moment where a principal was so upset they came to you or went to somebody. 

0:22:01.1 Otis Sanford:


0:22:01.6 Robby Byrd:


0:22:02.0 Otis Sanford:

I don't remember any principal actually coming to me directly. And that was  probably because at that very first meeting, I was so vociferous about how I believed in it that they felt, well, ain't no point in going to him. But I do know and I can't remember all the specifics, been a long time ago now. But I do know that there were some occasions where some stories were written  that the principles didn't like. And I think one of them may have had to do with the story I  mentioned earlier about food in the cafeteria, that tends to ruffle feathers. And the blame that the  story may have cast on the leadership at the school, I think the principal took on bridge with. And  so, I do remember that one. And there were some other times, I don't remember the specific details,  but they were few and far between, honestly, because the students... I mean, well they talked about  some serious issues, they talked about things going on in society as it was impacted in the schools,  but they also made... They covered other things. They covered sports, they covered fashion, they covered entertainment. And so they  gave the student body a... Just like a regular newspaper, they gave them a variety of topics to choose to read. And I'm, like I said earlier, the fashion page became one of the most popular parts of the  paper, because everybody wanted to show off their fashion, their 1990s and early 2000 fashions,  [chuckle] which is probably different from what it is now. But everybody was happy to be on that.  So they wanted to be in that, and they liked seeing it. And it was one of the more impressive  features. There was also, we did, the students did their own movie reviews and things of that nature. So it wasn't all just hard news gotcha journalism. There was some of that, but for the most part, it  was telling life from a student's point of view. And that's another legacy that I think that we met  there. So, but yeah, I mean, there were some times when principals and assistant principals got a  little frosty, but they also knew that the administration supported it, and so they couldn't fight back  too much. They did, sometimes they did some things like hide the papers or something like that.  But we kind of, we worked with that and dealt with that and still got the papers back to where they  needed to be. 


0:24:41.8 Robby Byrd:

So thinking about now, if this was something that could start again, do you think  that something The Teen Appeal could still reach students at the same, in the same kind of way that  it did from '97 to 2015? Do you? 

0:24:56.0 Otis Sanford:

Wow, Robby you want me to be honest about that, don't you? [laughter] My heart  says yes, but my head says no. We are in a different time right now, Robby. I mean, think about,  and you can even think about where you were in 1997. It was a different time for journalism,  newspapers, and even in 1997 were still in their heyday. We were still... Again, we were still the big kahuna in town. And it was the printed product that people liked and wanted to see. And that  translated down... Once it got into the schools, it translated down to the student body. They wanted  to see the printed product, wanted to see if their pictures were in it or their school was in it.  Somebody that they knew, maybe wrote it. And the writers became the stars at their campuses. Today, with so much emphasis on social media, no interest at all in a print product. I think it would be a major miracle if something that we did starting in 1997, could be replicated. It's  one of the reasons why after Scripps sold The Commercial Appeal, they got out of The Teen Appeal business. They said, "We are no longer going to fund you. We don't have a property in Memphis, so 

bye". And David Arant and I went out feverishly to try to get a replacement funding source from  foundations in this community, large and medium sized, people who could afford it. We weren't  talking about a lot of money, I mean, I think the money that Scripps provided was only like $74,000 or $72,000 per school year. That's a drop in the bucket for some of these foundations. But everywhere we went, Robby, even though we were pushing literacy, we were pushing, this was an  education tool for our students in the city of Memphis. Nobody wanted to get involved because they saw newspapers as a dying industry.  And this was in 2016 and 2017. And so we had no choice but to close it down. So I guess, again,  my answer to your question is I wish it were so, but I don't think so. I would be surprised if a  venture like that to the level that we did it, well, first of all, we can't do it the way we did it  anymore. Commercial Appeal doesn't even have its own presses, so they can't print it. And there's  no other place in town, certainly not a place that has its own presses, like the Flyer or, and of  course, the Daily Memphian doesn't even have any presses. So, it cannot be done the way we did it  because that model doesn't exist anymore. So that's, I think it answers itself to me. 

0:28:21.2 Robby Byrd:

So, do you think that because of having it for so long, do you think there's a void left by not having something? 

0:28:27.8 Otis Sanford:

Oh, yeah. Oh, there's a huge void. We no longer as a department, we don't have that  level of enrolls into the high schools the way we did. When we had The Teen Appeal coordinator,  whether it was Marcus or Dianne Bragg, or even going back to the very beginning with Tara  Milligan and Chuck Holliday, and Amy Edmondson when she was working with it. And then later  on with Elle Perry, all of those folks got into the schools and they had relationships within the  schools. And so they... And we had relationships with the students. We don't have that to any  degree that we did now. And so, yes, that's a huge void. I don't know that it is totally impacted our  enrollment numbers here. I mean, we still do, well, we're going down a little bit now. But prior to  COVID, we were doing pretty well with enrollment. But it wasn't because of The Teen Appeal, I  mean, The Teen Appeal was gone and that relationship was gone as a result of it. And there is a  void as a result of that. 

0:29:42.1 Robby Byrd:

Yes. I guess and this not necessarily directly related to Teen Appeal. It's just me just  asking for an opinion. But if we still think about the issue of diversity in newsrooms, which is still  an issue, right?


0:29:53.6 Otis Sanford:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

0:29:54.2 Robby Byrd:

How do you solve an issue like that without programs like this where you... 

0:29:58.2 Otis Sanford:

I don't know that you can, especially in today's climate, fewer jobs, fewer  opportunities. I don't know that you really can unless our faculty, and we do a great job of this  because we have a diverse student body within this department. And we do everything we can to get our students ready for those jobs. And it's paying off to some degree. We have a diverse group that  graduates from here. And some of those folks are getting the jobs. And matter of fact Rebecca  Butcher comes to mind a young broadcast student here, who went on to work in Tupelo and then  came to Memphis and was working at the ABC24. And today, I think I can say this now because she just got... It was announced today,  she's gone on to Dallas to work in the Dallas market. That's a big deal. [laughter] And she's African American. So, I mean, I think we still do what we can in behalf of diversity, but let's be honest,  without programs like The Teen Appeal it's much more difficult. Now we have other things. I mean, we have... We do a really good job with broadcast journalism in this department. We do a good job  with doing radio in this department. And so, we have students who are interested in all of that. But  that was a program that I don't think will ever be matched in terms of its broader impact. And I  think diversity suffers because it's no longer there. 

0:31:52.6 Robby Byrd:

Yeah. That's me. Honestly, a big part of what I want us to delve into in this project is this idea of how do you improve diversity If everything stays the same. So you mentioned a little bit about yours and David's tour of trying to find funding sources. I mean, could you talk a little bit  more about what that was like and who all maybe you went to... You said... Talked a little bit about  why they gave NOs as answers, but can you talk just a little bit more about that? 

0:32:21.9 Otis Sanford:

Well, I remember we went to the Hyde Foundation. We went to another, and the  name escapes me right now, another foundation. And actually, we met with a guy who used to be at  the city schools. His name is Vince McCaskill. He was very respectful. He listened to our proposal.  Same thing at the Hyde Foundation and at least one other one that I knew about. Basically again, they looked at what we were doing. We had a printed proposal  there. But they just said that they didn't think that this was something that had long­term viability,  because they were looking at the printed product and they saw, even then, again, this was 2016,  right in there, seven years ago. Things have changed, gotten even worse in seven years. But they  saw back then that the news, the printed paper was suffering and losing its influence. And there was no need to put foundation dollars into something, even though it was helping students. And they  like helping students. They just didn't see that as the avenue to do it. And that's what they told us,  and it was disappointing. But we came to our realization that we are not gonna be able to do this,  and we had to shut it down. It was terrible, but we had to, we had no other choice. We didn't have  any other funding source to that level. The university didn't have the funds to do it. We certainly  didn't have the funds on our own. And the new... I even reached out to Gannet, which bought The  Commercial Appeal, they had no interest in this. And I don't remember what they said. They just  said, "Nah, we're not interested". 

0:34:34.9 Robby Byrd:

Yeah, I know that The Teen Appeal can't take credit for people like Katori Hall or  Marcus Matthews or all these people that have done really well that have gone through the program, but it is still a really impressive list of alumni, right? 

0:34:49.7 Otis Sanford:

I would argue that The Teen Appeal can take credit for Katori Hall and Marcus  Matthews and a Keona Gardner, and a Kenneth Cummings, and a Tony... I can't remember Tony's  last name. I contend that The Teen Appeal should take credit for it. Now, granted, these were smart  kids. Katori especially, she was marked for greatness already. But The Teen Appeal gave her an  avenue, Robby, to explore her creativity, to explore her the artist in her. And she did a good job at  The Teen Appeal. She had a lot of bylines. I don't remember any one specific story. I just remember her name. And she impressed us enough that we, she worked as an intern at The Commercial  Appeal. I would argue that the The Teen Appeal can take credit for Katori, for Marcus, for Keona. And for all countless others who went on to do other things. There was even a young woman named Alisha Tillery that I recall, that worked on at Teen Appeal. I think she even went to  Southern University as I recall. But she came back and she was doing public relations in, and I think she was working at one point with the food bank in public relations. And she then, I think she was  over at KQ Communications, The Teen Appeal takes credit for her because we gave an her an  avenue to be creative and improve her writing skills. That translates into all the jobs that she had  and the photography with Kenneth Cummings. He was in Jackson for many years. And Tony, Tony  Reed is the name. Tony was in Jackson. He worked at the Jackson Sun. I think he went to work for  the government, local government there, maybe working for the mayor. And now he's doing other  kind of content generating stuff in Jackson. I mean this... Yeah. The Teen Appeal should be front  and center taking credit for some of the success of these students, even though they were probably  marked for some success early on anyway. 

0:37:15.3 Robby Byrd:

Do you know, has anyone ever sat down and really made a list of alumni and kind of where they are now? I mean, I know... 

0:37:23.3 Otis Sanford:

No. Yeah. 

0:37:23.9 Robby Byrd:

Hundreds if not thousands of students that were reached by... But... 

0:37:28.3 Otis Sanford:

No, I don't know. We, at one point in some of our early reports, and again, Elinor  Grusin would know this more than I did, but early on when we were submitting a paperwork for  continued funding at Scripps, I recall that we did list past students and what they were doing. I don't know where that list is right now, Robby. I'm gonna scour my desk, 'cause I gotta clean it out,  anyway. [laughter] And I'll see if I can find it. But actually, Elinor would know more about that  than anybody. 'Cause she was the one, before I got here, she was the one that was pretty much  helping to run The Teen Appeal from a faculty perspective. And we did have a list, and it was an  impressive list of students who went on to college, including out here, but also in other places. And  some of them who didn't major in journalism but we did sort of keep track. I don't know that we did that at the very end. Elle Perry would even know that. But I don't know where those lists are,  honestly. 


0:38:44.3 Robby Byrd:

I think David did mention that he had some old proposals that they had written from  over the years. I think it was like every three years it had to be renewed. 

0:38:53.5 Otis Sanford:

I think it was something like that every three years. 

0:38:57.4 Robby Byrd:

And I noticed one of the, in that job description you gave, one of the job descriptions was to track students. 


0:39:03.8 Otis Sanford:


0:39:03.8 Robby Byrd:

I assume that meant after they... 

0:39:06.4 Otis Sanford:

After they left. Yeah. So I know we did that for a while. I just don't know where that  tracking document is right now. I guarantee you somebody's got it. Elinor might know where it is if we haven't thrown it away. 

0:39:21.0 Robby Byrd:

Well, We've talked about a lot. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that  I'm missing that I just don't know about that you wanna share? Or any stories, any remembrances,  anything, the memories that just pop up that you want to share? 

0:39:34.3 Otis Sanford:

Well, for my memories, and that's a good question, I always ask. [laughter] That's  the journalism in you there. [laughter] I can tell [laughter] it's there. Well, When you think about  memories for me. 

0:39:49.6 Otis Sanford:

I think about, first of all, I think about that one video that I told you about earlier that wound up being played at the Freedom Forum, First Amendment Center in Washington DC. And I  even saw it there, although... And I got a copy of it from the guy who did it. But how he explained  the impact of The Teen Appeal was so memorable because at the very end of that little piece, show  the newspaper actually being printed. And one of the reporters who had a byline in that first edition, she looked at the paper and saw her byline and she said, "I'm gonna cry". [laughter] I mean, she did. She said, "I'm gonna cry". I never will forget that, because that was the impact that I know that The  Teen Appeal had. The other enduring memories are the workshops, the week long bootcamp for the  students and how everybody at the newspaper would volunteer to come out and help with reporting, copy editing, photography, all the things that go on in a newspaper where we had people from the  paper who came to those workshops and we had at least 10 or 15 people. And then the community, people in politics. The mayor came one time, Willie  Herenton, the police director came, and they... I think even Steve Cohen came at one point and  talked to the kids as I recall. And so, I remember that. And I remember them coming to The  Commercial Appeal that Friday and sitting in on a news planning meeting and everybody who was  running that meeting, asked the students, if you have any questions. We stayed there an extra 45  minutes answering questions for students about how we do things at the paper. I never will forget  those kind of things, and I won't forget the ones who did go on to journalism. And I'm most fond of  Keona, Keona Gardner, who took everything that she learned from The Teen Appeal and applied it in college. And then she applied it at her job on the Treasure Coast working and was covering the  Sheriff's department there. Broke a lot of stories, affected change within the department about  procedures and things. And she would report back about what she was doing all the time. Those are  the things that I will remember fondly about The Teen Appeal and just how impactful it was. 

0:42:54.0 Robby Byrd:

Anything else? 

0:42:54.9 Otis Sanford:

I can't think of anything else. [laughter] 

0:42:55.8 Robby Byrd:

Well, thank you so much. 

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