Tommy Thomason, founding director and now director emeritus of the Texas Center for Community Journalism, speaks at the TCCJ welcome reception at Tarleton State University.
Tommy Thomason, journalism professor and founding director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University, retired from teaching Dec. 31.
Thompson taught journalism at five universities and had been with TCU since 1984. Among other career accolades, he was honored by the Poynter Institute of Media Studies with a National Teaching Award in Journalism Ethics.
He was the founding director of the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism within the Bob Scheiffer College of Communication and stepped down from that position in 2009 to found TCCJ.
Since 1998, Thomason worked with the Texas Newspaper Foundation to provide TCU workshops for journalists working at Texas community newspapers. In 2009, the relationship between the foundation and TCU was consolidated into the Texas Center for Community Journalism.
“TCCJ was founded as an investment in people,” Thomason wrote in his farewell column on the TCCJ blog. “It was a partnership of the Texas Newspaper Foundation and TCU with the goal of investing in the mid-career training of journalists. Our strategy was to conduct meaningful, practical training sessions in an atmosphere of laughter and fun, and to do it in a way that honored newspeople as professionals. And I believe we succeeded.”
Thompson began his career in journalism in the early 1970s with the Associated Press, working as a sportswriter in Arkadelphia and Little Rock, Ark. He also worked in public relations in Dallas and as a copy editor for several regional magazines.
He has been one of the nation’s most active researchers on the media’s treatment of crime victims. His research has been presented at both regional and national symposia and cited in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, Presstime and the Columbia Journalism Review. He was co-director of the first national symposium on crime victims and the news media, which was televised nationally on C-SPAN, and a symposium on coverage of sex crimes, “Sex in the Media: The Public’s Right to Know vs. the Victim’s Right to Privacy.”
In addition to “Writing for Media Audiences: A Handbook for Multi-Platform News, Advertising and Public Relations,” he is author of “You Might Want to Carry a Gun: Community Newspapers Expose Big Problems in Small Towns” and “Race, Gender, and Stereotypes in the Media: A Reader for Professional Communicators.”
In addition to his work with TCCJ, Thomason maintained an interest in writing at all academic levels, frequently speaking to elementary school teachers about writing workshops for children. He is the author of six books about teaching writing.
In an interview with TCU senior communications studies major Desaray Hickombottom, Thomason said his favorite memories “are thousands of interactions with students. Especially with students that come back after graduation and tell me how what we did in the classroom made a real impact on their lives.”
In his blog, Thomason noted his work with TCCJ was an extension of his love of teaching.
“These last 20 years of interactions with Texas journalists have certainly enriched my life,” he wrote. “And it’s especially gratifying to see folks who came to us two decades ago with the ink barely dry on their degrees who have now taken places of leadership at Texas newspapers.”
Thomason said newspapers will continue to be important to the communities they serve.
“Texas newspapers are the only institutions in their communities that exist to inform citizens and make sure the public’s business is done in public,” he wrote. “We’re the only ones providing an open marketplace of opinion and often speaking truth to power. If we weren’t there, there are no backup institutions to fill that community need.”
Thomason told his interviewer that he hasn’t made a lot of retirement plans other than traveling for a few months. Teaching part time or going back into the newspaper business are still options. “It’s really funny because I’ve been getting job offers from newspapers throughout Texas,” he said. “I’ve turned them all down, but told them to ask again in six months.”