Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times and Times Publishing Co., will speak at the 2018 undergraduate commencement ceremony. Tash is an Indiana native and a 1976 IU graduate.
A former chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Board, Tash told the Indiana Daily Student he can trace most good things that have happened in his life to his time at IU. His speech Saturday will offer advice to undergraduate students, as well as insight into the role of journalism as a civic service.
What were some of your most memorable experiences at IU?
I was editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student, which I think was a terrific experience for responsibility for journalism, for a newspaper. It made me a better reporter because I had seen the job from a more general perspective, and it certainly helped prepare me for broader responsibility when that came, too. We worked hard and had a good time at the IDS.
When I graduated in 1976, that was the year of the perfect season for the men’s basketball team. Scott May and Quinn Buckner and Bobby Wilkerson and that crowd won the NCAA Championship and went undefeated for the entire season, and I remember when they won that game, they beat Michigan in the final game that year and the campus erupted in celebration, but I actually felt a little sense of let down because I knew my own time at IU was coming to an end, as well, that the pursuit of the championship had been where the thrill was and that the season had ended, even though it ended in triumph, it was also a sign that my own time at IU was winding down and I would be moving on.
What advice do you have for students who are feeling that right now?
My observation is, one, it’s entirely natural. It’s entirely natural. There may have been days at IU that were less than what you would’ve liked, but overall these last four years have been a pretty good ride, and it’s a special time so there’s nothing at all wrong about feeling a little nostalgic about it even as you look ahead to what comes next.
[IDS columnist Neeta Patwari wrote about why it's OK to be nostalgic this time of year. Read more here.]
Nearing your graduation, what expectations did you have for entering your first job and the world beyond IU?
I was very lucky because I had been picked for a scholarship, the Marshall Scholarship, to study at a British university for a couple years immediately upon my graduation from IU. So, I left IU, I had a summer job back here at the newspaper, and then I went to Edinburgh in Scotland to begin a Marshall Scholarship for a couple of years. My entry into the real word was delayed a bit, so I didn’t go directly from IU into the working world. I would say my time at IU certainly prepared me for that well when I went into it.
What advice do you have for students as they look ahead? Any words of advice for the future?
I’m going to have a little advice as it related to journalism and democracy, which is sort of truth, justice and the American way, in my remarks Saturday morning. On the more general advice, I would say that the world from here on out does not have the rhythm of a semester or an academic year, and as a student you could kind of pace yourself for the crescendo of activity, the sprint of a semester, and then recharge and go back at it. So you are moving from a rhythm of life and a calendar that sort of resets itself every four months, to one that is a marathon. So you’re not going to get a grade every three months now, and it’s not that quick sense of completion and accomplishment. That can be a bit of an adjustment. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint.
What do you hope students are learning about journalism as they look to enter the real world?
Well, democracy depends on journalism and on an informed and enlightened citizenry, and journalism is an essential element of that, but, I will also say on Saturday, that the ultimate responsibility rests on us as Americans. Democracy depends on the ability to tell fact from fiction, and journalism can be a great civic asset in that, but it’s up to us to make sure we can tell.