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Comm Crew Reunion Draws Authors, Journalists, Friends

Best-selling author and ECU alumnus James Dodson challenged faculty and supporters of the ECU School of Communication to continue producing journalists steeped in traditional news values during the school’s first Comm Crew Reunion Banquet held on campus Oct. 6.

Dodson warned of blurring lines between serious news and entertainment, brought about by the explosion of new media and corporate ownership of news agencies, and expressed the need for journalists who can provide objective, balanced and relevant news.

Dodson was guest speaker for the Comm Crew reunion, which brought together ECU journalism, speech and broadcasting majors from the present through the past 50 years, along with alumni who worked for the ECU student newspaper, radio station or yearbook.

Tim Hudson, director of the School of Communication, said the Comm Crew membership also includes professionals with an interest in the school’s success, from such fields as advertising, public relations, film, television and radio. Membership extends to those who support the legacy, mission and growth of the school.

Dodson was himself an editor of the ECU student newspaper, then called “The Fountainhead.” Dodson graduated from ECU with a degree in English and has since produced several best- selling books, including “A Golfer’s Life – The Autobiography of Arnold Palmer,” “Final Rounds,” “Faithful Travelers, ” “The Dewsweepers,” and “The Road to Somewhere – Travels with a Young Boy through an Old World.” He has served for nearly 20 years as an award-winning, regular columnist for “Golf” magazine, and has just completed a new book, “Beautiful Madness – One Man’s Journey Through Other People’s Gardens.”

As part of the reunion activities, the School of Communication also welcomed Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers’ Middle East bureau chief, who spoke to students earlier in the day about her experiences in the region.

Allam arrived in Iraq just after the fall of Saddam Hussein. An Egyptian American, Allam had grown up in a Muslim household. Initially she did not feel threatened.

“It was actually really exciting in those early days,” she said. The work became increasingly dangerous, however. Car bombings and shootings became more frequent, often targeting Iraqis with American connections. Among those targeted was the family of Allam’s translator, who lost both her husband and daughter. Allam helped the translator and her newborn son gain political asylum in the United States, where they now live with Allam’s mother.

During the battle of Fallujah, when insurgents took over the city, Allam was among a group of about 60 reporters who were kidnapped and forced to hold a “press conference at gunpoint.”

That day was “one of the most terrifying days of my life,” she said.

Named Baghdad bureau chief at the age of 25, Allam also oversaw reporting on the formation of death squads and the Abu Ghraib prison. She has since been reassigned to the role of bureau chief in Cairo.

Allam was named Journalist of the Year 2004 by the National Association of Black Journalists. Knight Ridder Newspapers (now McClatchy) recognized her war coverage with a Journalism Excellence Award in 2004 and the John S. Knight Gold Medal in 2005. The Overseas Press Club awarded Allam and two colleagues from the Baghdad bureau with the Hal Boyle Award for best newspaper reporting from abroad in 2005.

Allam remained on campus after her presentation and attended the Comm Crew Reunion Banquet.

“Taken altogether, the events of the day exhibited a strong sense of mission and commitment at the ECU School of Communication, as well as deep support from its alumni, friends and area communication professionals,” Hudson said.

He noted that the school had matured from a series of smaller majors and minors dispersed throughout the university to a “large, comprehensive program, one of the biggest on campus.” The school is now home to nearly 1,100 students majoring in journalism, media production, communication studies and public relations.

“It is well on its way to becoming a world class School of Communication,” Hudson said.

4/23/07
This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.