ONE ON ONE | Tony Atwater YSU provost keeps a knowing eye on the press
I'm assuming when you were a child, you didn't sit around thinking, "Wow, some day I want to be a provost." What is it that you wanted to be?
There were a number of things that I kind of thought about doing, something related to artistic expression in some form. I didn't have any particular musical skills. I did kind of take a liking to writing. So, I got involved in oratorical contests, writing poetry and essays and short stories. It came fairly natural. So, as I progressed through high school, it became quite clear that my strong suit was in communications. I went to broadcasting school. I ended up working part time at a radio station in Roanoke (Va.) covering news.
Were you an announcer or reporter or anchor?
News anchor for radio and television.
Are you still a news junkie?
Pretty much. I read a lot in terms of newspapers and watch a fair amount of television. I try to watch the news media as both a consumer and a critic. Very often it's not a matter of just what's reported that I respond to; it's how it's reported and what's being left out and what's not being reported.
So do you sit there and talk to your TV, "Why did you do this story this way, why didn't you do it that way"?
(Laughs) That does occur with some regularity.
Who do you prefer: Rather, Jennings or Brokaw?
All of them have strengths. I think overall, who has the best combinations of all of the skills -- journalistic, delivery, being able to analyze things on the spot -- I would say Peter Jennings.
You have done some research on how the press and broadcast media cover terrorism. How would you assess the news media's performance since Sept. 11?
There's been some very strong news coverage. I would have liked more investigative and analytical reports. I think it has gotten better. I'm a very strong proponent of enterprise reporting, when you're able to see something that's not so obvious and delve into it and present a certain side that is not so obvious. I don't see a lot of enterprise reporting generally in the media. That's one of my criticisms of the press. ... I think the press owes it to the American people to be very proactive and to dig and be somewhat hard-nosed even in the face of the challenges they face.
What do you like most about your job?
Playing a role for a university that is such a major player in the revitalization and the future growth and development of this Valley. It's an exciting challenge and an exciting opportunity. Here's a university in a community that's been hard hit by a declining manufacturing sector and it's coming back and rebounding, and the university is a key player in that rebound that everybody is looking to and it has to step up. The stakes are high.
What do you like least about your job?
And don't say doing interviews with reporters.
(Laughs) I guess it probably would be that there is not the support for higher education in the state of Ohio like there should be and how that has such significant implications for per capita income, quality of life and the economic future for not only Ohio but of the Mahoning Valley. There's a real disconnect in terms of some sectors of our population in the state, legislators and some other civic leaders about the critical importance of higher education and developing the human capital that is needed to help Ohio advance in the new economy.
You've been in Youngstown now about seven or eight months. What is it about Youngstown that you've seen or experienced that you didn't expect?
Well, a number of things. The friendliness and the very, very cordial and welcoming reception for my wife and myself. ... Also, I think the prospects of growth and development. As an outside person coming in, I see so many possibilities and opportunities for advancement and growth.
What do you like to do when you're not provosting?
I like to read, particularly books that relate to higher education administration and leadership development. ... I also enjoy writing as a hobby. I write poetry. I also like theater, in particular, musicals. And I also like music, in particular, classical music and jazz.
What are your favorite musicals?
"Les Miserables." "West Side Story." "South Pacific." "Phantom of the Opera."