January 15, 2012
To avoid the sin of burying the lead to this story, let me state the unfortunate news. UGA professor Conrad Fink, a former vice president of the Associated Press, died Saturday.
Fink -- did anybody ever call him anything else? -- is the one professor I will always remember from my days at the University of Georgia. One of the reasons I wound up in a career anywhere near a newspaper is because the classes at which I excelled were some of his top-notch courses on such items as publication management. When your grades are hardly all A's and you get an A in a class about publication management from a former AP executive, you figure you might know something.
I can still remember the first time I saw Fink when he walked into my first class I had with him. Before class, people had muttered things about the legend. At first, he scared the bejeezus out of me. Well, maybe just intimidated. The first few weeks, I wondered what the heck I was doing in there. This guy was no slouch. He was there to teach you, and teach he did.
The amount of red ink this man left on students' papers throughout the years could probably fill the Pacific. Had he been into marketing, he could've cut a deal with the local bookstores and gotten some red ink pen endorsement. But no, he did this because he wanted to point out every little mistake so maybe, someday, you wouldn't make it again.
He constantly preached the importance of journalism in informing the world. I remember an anecdote Fink told about an Atlanta television affiliate coming to campus a year before. The recruiter said he didn't want to hear about how you were going to do great journalism. He wanted to hear how you would improve his ratings.
That's probably the one anecdote I remember best that has kept me from watching local TV news much since college. How in the heck are you going to inform viewers on everything that went on in 22 minutes? The truth is you can't. Maybe a reader or viewer doesn't care about literally everything that went on, but the print and digital versions of a newspaper are going to provide you much more depth on where you live.
I have hardly achieved the success of some of my fellow Finkites. Kyle Wingfield is a top columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Josh Katzowitz has been published in the New York Times and wrote a book on Cincinnati Bearcats football. The AP wire is flooded with Fink's former students. The Daily Post's own Will Hammock and Tyler Estep went through the Fink experience.
I'm glad I got to follow a few of his activities in the past couple of years thanks to Facebook. I still can't believe Fink used Facebook, but he did. When UGA honored him by making him a Grady Fellow, he posted,"Thanks to all rascals, present and past. Wish only that I was starting all over with each of you. Fink."
I think I have said all I can about the man. I saw a video in Katzowitz's blog that sums up what you got with Fink, and Wingfield wrote a nice column about him in the fall. The best I can say is rest in peace, Fink. You earned it.
In response to:
Conrad Fink, who taught generations of young journalists at the University of Georgia after a career as a foreign correspondent and executive for The Associated Press, died Saturday in Athens, Ga., at age 80.