What does the 20th anniversary mean for ThreeSixty Journalism?
Chad Caruthers: “The 20th anniversary means this is a program that still matters, continues to grow and contributes to St. Thomas’ mission and our community. This program is a valuable contributor to students’ lives, our community and to the journalism industry.”
The program actually started 50 years ago as the Urban Journalism Workshop. How did the program arrive at St. Thomas?
Caruthers: “The program started in 1971 as a chapter of the Urban Journalism Workshop, which was a national initiative to diversify newsrooms. In 2001, it came to St. Thomas. The university was able to invest more resources in it. Several years after it moved to this university, the program got its first full-time employee, and it’s continued to evolve from there. Now, on average, we serve about 125 to 150 participants per year. We have programming year-round. It’s come a long way.”
What are the biggest contributions ThreeSixty has made to the community?
Caruthers: “A source of pride for me personally is that any and every student who comes to ThreeSixty Journalism walks away with skills they can use the rest of their life, and that is whether they end up being in the news business or in some sort of communication business or anything else. There are things students can take away from this program they can apply to their high school education to their college education to their professional lives. We’re offering students opportunities they may not have otherwise to continue their own personal, academic and professional growth.
Bigger picture, we offer the community an opportunity for students to feel their voices matter — that they have a story, they have a platform to share that story, and that people want to hear and care about their story. We empower youth, and that’s a valuable asset for our community.
We’re helping to diversify newsrooms, and that’s our mission here. Just in the last six months, we placed program alumni into full-time opportunities at Minnesota Public Radio, FOX-9 and a local PR agency as well. We have interns at the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. We are helping our students connect with opportunities and helping to diversify those various industries.”
What are your hopes for the next 20 years?
Caruthers: “That this program continues to have a deeper impact on our local newsrooms. And by that, I mean more of our students from a wider cross section of communities end up as employees and leaders of local newsrooms. I hope individuals who do end up in our local newsrooms stay in this market and become leaders. I see it, my staff see it, and volunteers see it: We have some of the brightest, most forward-thinking individuals I’ve come across in 15 years of working with young people.
I really hope our current leaders in this community, business and otherwise, recognize the power of having people from all walks of life as employees, as newsroom staff, because it makes for a richer environment, workplace and community. This is about equity. This is about everybody having equal opportunity to learn and participate to thrive. This community sorely needs that. We are a piece of that. And my hope is that we continue to become stronger part of this community’s evolution for the next 20 years and beyond.”