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Professional in Residence: Education Reporter Visits From New York


Alan Finder chats in The Daily Iowan newsroom.
Alan Finder looked at home in The Daily Iowan newsroom with The DI in hand and chatting with the editor about a recent story. If it wasn't for the graying beard you could have mistaken him for a staff member. Finder visited The University of Iowa this fall in October as a visiting professional.

Finder writes for The New York Times education section. He was asked to be a professional-in-residence by Professor Judy Polumbaum, the associate director for academic affairs and head of undergraduate studies.

"He impressed me as being a really thoughtful, engaged journalist," Polumbaum said of why she nominated Finder for the program. Polumbaum said she learned Finder would be on assignment roaming the country to check on college campuses, so it seemed natural that he would make a good candidate.

Besides visiting The DI newsroom, The New York Times writer spent his three days in Iowa City speaking in journalism classes and appearing at student organization meetings.

"I think it's [J-MC School] a neat place," Finder said. He was impressed with the quality of the school's facilities and the sheer size of the journalism school.

During his visit Finder was able to sit in on one of The Daily Iowan's meetings. He was very complimentary about their organizational system and how the team worked as a whole.

"The best part is meeting students. I like their energy and attitude," Finder said.

The New York writer thinks the current state of higher education is a fascinating subject. Recently, he reported on the intense competition for prestige between colleges and how SAT scores are dropping nationwide. Finder said average scores stay the same and that he wouldn't make too much of the buzz about the education gap.

"The best thing you can do is educate people," Finder said about the present collegiate system. He mentioned that public schools are just trying to grow and overall there's a trend of improving the quality of students education. It took Finder nine months to land his first job in journalism. He admitted he never took a single journalism class. He was actually a history major. Finder got his start at the Bergen Record in New Jersey as a writer covering local towns.

As for advice for future journalists trying to get their foot in door, Finder had three words: persistence, resilience and flexibility.

"You have to be prepared for the new world--no one knows what it looks like."

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