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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Honors David Nyhan

Former globe columnist and center on media and society fellow, David Nyhan hosts the center´s inaugural event last fall
Photo Courtesy of Ellen Humme
Former globe columnist and center on media and society fellow, David Nyhan hosts the center´s inaugural event last fall

In her classes, Communications Department Senior Research fellow Ellen Hume outlines the founding principles of good journalism. At the top of that list lies a civic responsibility to the reader, a loyalty to the community that relies on the journalist to provide citizens with the connections they need to navigate their lives.

This past Sunday yielded the passing of former Boston Globe columnist and UMB Center on Media and Society fellow David Nyhan, a force in the field of journalism who epitomized these community connections in both his professional and personal life.

In honor of Nyhan’s work at UMass Boston and beyond, Hume, director of the Center on Media and Society, has established the Nyhan Community Journalism Award. The annual $200 award will recognize journalists from small outlets that demonstrate high standards, ethics, sources, and fairness.

“As long as I’m at UMass Boston he will be part of what we’re doing here. His name will be on things, and he will be honored and remembered and enjoyed for what he contributed-and inspired,” says Hume of Nyhan, who became the first formal fellow to the Center on Media and Society last year. According to Hume, Nyhan has inspired much of the activity that has come out of the center. “David was in the heart of all the good stuff that went on here last year, that’s why it’s just an enormous loss. It’s hard to think of anything that I was doing that he didn’t touch in some positive way here at UMass Boston,” says Hume. Nyhan was on hand from the Center’s beginnings, spear-heading a field trip to the New Hampshire primaries, and even charming a van full of UMB students to abandon their packed lunches for Thai food at his expense. He also helped Hume strategize ways for one of her physically disabled students to find a job. When Hume set out to host the Center on Media and Society’s inaugural event last April she once again called on David Nyhan to moderate a conversation with Clinton aid turned broadcast journalist, George Stephanopoulos.

She spent the morning of the conference stalking the parking lot, nervous at the prospect of a $30,000 event, 200 breakfast guests, and a missing keynote speaker. “The first person I see is David Nyhan,” says Hume. “Then I knew I could relax, because I knew if Nyhan was there it didn’t even matter if anybody else showed up because he could weave his tales of the city, he could talk about journalism, he could talk about anything. Having him there with his big huge smile, I knew the day would be fine and it was,” she says. Nyhan’s pension for story-telling often emerged when he spoke to Hume’s classes. “When he came to the classroom he was not really the high-minded teacher, he was a story-teller,” says Hume. “I remember because I wanted him to talk about the role of the media. He didn’t want to talk about the role of the media -he wanted to tell war stories,” laughed Hume. “And that’s what he did, and he was very good at it.” Nyhan also played a key role in getting UMass Boston involved with Media Nation, a collaboration between the Harvard Neiman Foundation and UMB that culminated in the release of a student-driven newspaper distributed within the Boston Globe during the Democratic National Convention. Nyhan further aided Hume in the Center for Media and Society’s ongoing ethnic and community journalism project, introducing her to the people and communities within the city. “As a journalist for years he knew every neighborhood, he knew every cop. He came out of that wonderful Irish background that’s so famous in Boston. But he was much bigger than that,” says Hume.She continues, “He was such an important fixture in the community, and he knew everybody and everyone liked him.” Hume recalls returning with Nyhan to his old stomping grounds at the Globe where he introduced her to a mailroom clerk who ran his own community newspaper. Before even leaving the lobby Nyhan was flooded with greetings. “You know who he knew? He knew the little people,” smiled Hume. She continued citing his relationships with the security guards, mailroom workers, and the real people who made up the Globe and the city at large. “He was one of the tribe. He was of the cops, he was of the secretaries, he was of all the people who sell coffee out of carts,” says Hume. “David was definitely there at the ground-level, at the street-level with all the people of Boston…and I loved that about him.”Ellen Hume hopes that through the Nyhan Community Journalism Award the Center for Media and Society will continue David Nyhan’s legacy of good journalism, community ties, and generosity.She is funding the award through personal funds, however contributions will be accepted. “I’ll always remember his wonderful perspective,” says Hume of her friend and colleague. “It’s the ground-level where it matters, not at the top. It’s down where the people are that matters. He was right on the money on that.”