University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Guiding Next-Gen Journalists

Chris Evans advising students over their layouts at the Cynic office
Photograph by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist '09


Guiding Next-Gen Journalists

STUDENT LIFE | It’s equal parts critique, lesson, and conversation as UVM student media adviser Chris Evans sits down with the Vermont Cynic’s editor-in-chief, Erika Lewy ’18, and managing editor, Olivia Bowman ’20, for their weekly review of the university’s student newspaper. Evans, who also advises WRUV radio and UVMtv, is well-prepared and rapid-fire, a teacher determined to maximize this hour on a quiet Friday morning in the Davis Center.

A chunk of the meeting is devoted to discussing leadership, driven by a reading list ranging from Lao Tzu to Machiavelli to Martin Luther King, Jr. Later, they drill down on a page-by-page look over the previous week’s Cynic, addressing questions as major as the choice of story on 1A and minor as stray commas.

As the editors and staff put together the next week’s issue, they’ll do it with Evans’s lessons and critique of past issues in mind, but with full control over the new editorial content and presentation. “That’s Chris’s thing—support, but from a distance—which is really good,” Bowman says.

Today’s Cynic staffers are the latest in a proud legacy, “Vermont’s independent student voice since 1883.” The paper’s alumni include two-time Pulitzer winner Eric Lipton ’87 of The New York Times; Laura Bernardini ’95, CNN’s director of coverage in Washington, DC; and Robert Rosenthal ’70, longtime editor at top American papers and now executive director of the pioneering Center for Investigative Reporting; among scores of others in journalism and multiple fields.

Evans’s hire in 2006 introduced a new era for UVM student media. The organizations would be guided by a full-time adviser with deep expertise as a communicator. Long involved as a national leader in his field, Evans recently became president of the College Media Association.

The Cynic has earned numerous honors during the past decade, including prestigious Pacemaker Awards from the Associated Collegiate Press and “Diversity Story of the Year” in 2016 for an examination of UVM’s past Kake Walk tradition.   

Reflecting on the current political and cultural landscape, Evans says, “We need journalists now more than ever. There is more misinformation out there than ever.
It is right to be concerned about the state of facts. That seems like a ridiculous statement to say, but we need to be concerned about the state of facts.

Based on multiple recent alumni success stories, Evans is optimistic this generation of UVM journalists possesses the innovation and initiative required to make an impact.

“It takes creativity, which I think we’re good for here,” he says. “We’re not creating a whole bunch of middle managers who are going to go out and sit at a desk and just be the hands of someone else’s mind. I think our students are going out, and they are the minds and the hearts of the organizations that they are working for. That’s what I want for them. I want them to be steering their own path. That’s what a journalist needs to do today.” 

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