Richard Campbell is at home in the classroom sharing his passion for journalism.
Richard Campbell is at home in the classroom sharing his passion for journalism. Photo: Jeff Sabo

Richard Campbell receives 2019 Benjamin Harrison Medallion

The Benjamin Harrison Medallion

The Benjamin Harrison Medallion Award is one of the most significant recognitions Miami offers faculty for contributions attesting to qualities of teaching, research and/or service.

Richard Campbell will be honored at the University Awards Reception 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in Marcum Conference Center.

Benjamin Harrison is an 1852 Miami graduate and was 23rd president of the United States, serving from 1889-1893.

By Carole Johnson, university news and communications

Richard Campbell, professor of journalism, is the 2019 recipient of Miami University’s prestigious Benjamin Harrison Medallion.

The Benjamin Harrison Medallion, named for the Miami alumnus and 23rd president of the United States, has the inscription of “For Outstanding Contribution to the Education of the Nation.”

Campbell’s nominators all agree that this inscription describes him.

His visionary scholarship, compassionate teaching, and forward-thinking leadership is rooted within his “fascination with storytelling in the public life,” his nominators wrote.

Campbell joined Miami in 2004 as director of the newly created journalism program.

The former journalist led the effort to create the new department of media, journalism and film, for which he served as chair from its implementation in 2013 through 2018.

He saw journalism and mass communication in a way that many experts couldn’t see, said one nominator.

Among his scholarly works, Campbell took a hard look at media covearge in Cracked Coverage: Television News, the Anti-Cocaine Crusade, and the Reagan Legacy,1994 (co-authored with J. Reeves) and "60 Minutes" and the News: A Mythology for Middle America, 1991.

He received numerous accolades for his widely used textbook, Media and Culture, An Introduction to Mass Communication, 1997. It is now in its 11th edition, subtitled Mass Communication in a Digital Age and co-authored by former student Bettina Fabos and student and colleague, Christopher R. Martin.

This work, updated every two years to meet the rapidly changing field, encourages critical engagement with media, offering students a practical, step-by-step process for interacting with media and popular culture – (1) describe, (2) analyze, (3) interpret, (4) evaluate, (5) engage.

Richard Campbell and Wil Haygood, journalist, author and Miami's Boadway Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, share a moment during a recent event. Campbell and his colleagues bring journalists to campus to interact with students.

Writing is essential to storytelling

“Many Miami graduates name Campbell as the professor who had the greatest impact on their careers,” according to his nominators. Campbell has “persuaded many students that their own love of media can be enriched and deepened by critical analysis,” his nominators wrote.

Campbell was adamant that the study of journalism be embedded in the study of liberal arts, and because of his insistence, all Miami journalism majors double-major in a second field.

He also argued that “writing remain a core component to journalism, bucking a national trend of moving away from the skill giving way to the “technological flood that on some campuses has trumped the centrality of language,” his nominators wrote. Campbell is co-founder of Miami’s Writing Scholars program.

In addition to writing, Campbell understands the importance of data and statistical analysis and is a champion of quantitative literacy at Miami.

His course “News and Numbers,” co-taught with statistics professor John Bailer, was “one of the most unique and engaging classes I took while at Miami,” a former student said.

That course led to a new partnership between Bailer and Campbell and the creation of  Stats+Stories, a podcast with featured guests and a moderator chatting about the “statistics behind the stories and the stories behind the statistics.” Stats+Stories has gained national attention and recently received financial support from the American Statistical Association.

His leadership led to the opportunity to serve on the steering committee of the Dayton Peace Accords 20th Anniversary Conference, keynoted by former President Bill Clinton. It was an opportunity to be a part of the news and to provide ample story material to share with his students.

It’s all about telling stories

One external nominator commended Campbell for not giving up on journalism as the current field struggles to maintain its viability. Campbell and James Tobin, also a professor of journalism, launched Report for Ohio in 2018. The project is modeled after AmeriCorps’ Teach for America. Report for Ohio aims to provide assistance to shrinking regional news organizations to hire young journalists.

“It’s a smart and thoughtful vision at every level,” said an external nominator. “I think it may well prove to be a national model.”

In an attempt to revitalize local news reporting, Campbell and colleagues founded the Oxford Observer, a digital newspaper covering Oxford and the township. Miami’s journalism students report on local affairs, guided by editor David Wells, a Miami visiting instructor and former professional journalist.

This summer, Campbell will make his documentary debut. After six years in the making, “Training for Freedom: How Ordinary People In An Unusual Time & Unlikely Place Made Extraordinary History,” will air on Cincinnati and Dayton’s public broadcasting stations. Campbell helped produce the documentary with Kathy Conkwright, a former Miami faculty member and Mary Makley, both of MakeWright Films, LLC.

It’s the story of Freedom Summer, a 1964 voter registration drive aimed at increasing black voter registration in Mississippi. Freedom Summer workers, predominately white volunteers, trained on the campus of then-Western College for Women, now part of Miami University.

Later this spring, Campbell plans to retire from academia. However, to those who know him, there’s no telling how many more stories he’ll find ways to champion.

View a tribute video by Campbell's former students, edited by alumnus and former student JM Rieger.