College's collaboration with The Day charts new course
New London — In the latest collaboration involving two of the city’s venerable institutions, Peter Huoppi, The Day’s multimedia director, has begun teaching a journalism course at Connecticut College.
Titled “Media Ethics in the Digital Age,” the class met for the first time Wednesday evening and promises to deal with issues Huoppi confronts nearly every day in producing and editing content for the newspaper and its website.
“I’m hoping these students are willing to have their ideas challenged — and be willing to challenge mine. I expect to learn, too,” said Huoppi, the college’s first Bodenwein Fellow, named for Theodore Bodenwein, The Day’s publisher from 1891 to 1939.
Conn President Katherine Bergeron said the Bodenwein Fellowship is designed “to create opportunities for The Day’s professionals to teach their craft to the growing number of students on our campus who are passionate about journalism.”
The program grew out of a meeting last year between Conn administrators and The Day’s Editorial Board as Conn was developing a new disciplinary “pathway” in media, rhetoric and communication, Bergeron said.
Other examples of the institutions’ newfound commitment include The Day’s establishment of an internship for Conn students and a series of open-to-the-public conversations about race.
Last November, in the first event in the series, the college hosted Richard A. Robinson, chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and Karen Florin, The Day’s courts reporter, who explored racial bias in the judicial system. Students, faculty, staff and community members filled Evans Hall for the event, which The Day streamed live.
Conn, The Day and the Coast Guard Academy, another New London institution, will jointly sponsor the second event in the series, an appearance by National Book Award for Nonfiction winner Ibram X. Kendi, who will speak Feb. 12 at the academy’s Leamy Hall Auditorium.
In honor of the new collaboration, Bergeron said Conn will host the first annual Bodenwein Lecture on Media in the spring, having lined up Frank Sesno, a former CNN correspondent and director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Sesno will speak March 26.
“We want to collaborate on things not only for our mutual benefit but the community’s benefit, as well,” said Jeffrey Cole, dean of faculty at Conn. “We’re thrilled that one of our students is interning at The Day, and the open conversations on race certainly benefit the public. The Bodenwein Fellow program is designed for all students interested in all aspects of journalism — opinion writing, reporting, layout. Our student editors at The College Voice are quite excited about it.”
Huoppi, 41, of Waterford joined The Day in 2007. He grew up in Pomfret and majored in environmental studies at Middlebury College, where he was a photographer for the student newspaper. He worked as a photographer in Vermont for seven years before returning to Connecticut.
In the spring of 2019, he received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. His thesis examined whether news photos in local newspapers accurately reflect the racial diversity of the communities the papers cover and whether those photos reinforce racial stereotypes.
Huoppi’s video work for The Day has won numerous awards. Judges in the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s 2019 “Better Newspaper Competition” called “Case Unsolved,” a crime podcast Huoppi co-produced and edited, “far and away the best, most compelling podcast submitted for consideration” and “everything newspaper podcasts strive to be.”
For the past five years, he’s been teaching students at Eastern Connecticut State University “how to write, take pictures, record audio, record video ... how to be a journalist on different platforms.”
"I thought it was important for me to give back," said Huoppi, who benefitted from internships at the start of his career.
In the Conn course he’s teaching, he will focus on ethical dilemmas facing modern journalists.
“News outlets don’t do a great job of being transparent about their day-to-day work procedures,” he said. “In the new media realm, we’re constantly running into scenarios that raise questions about accepted standards of ethics. I want students to consider whether existing ethical codes are sufficient. ... Should we publish only on paid platforms, or make (news) free on social media? If we do, are we scooping ourselves? Should we ever publish online before something’s been thoroughly edited?”
Huoppi said he could engage students with such real-life examples as the 2015 San Bernardino, Calif., shootings in which reporters swarmed the shooters’ home after they’d been killed, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in which media outlets broadcast the identity of a Brown University student who turned out to have been mistakenly linked to the bombing.
Later in the semester, Huoppi said, he’d like to talk about what happened in November at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where editors of the campus newspaper were sharply criticized after apologizing for the way the paper covered protests of a speech by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I look forward to that discussion,” Huoppi said.