Ken Venit: Teaching from Anything but the Book
by Lindsay Khouri
Not many students can say that their professor has wrestled an eight-foot bear, eaten dog food and horse meat, and jumped off a truck into the snow to show how deep it was. Students who have had Adjunct Associate Professor Kenneth Venit can say their professor has done those things and much more.
Venit also teaches as an adjunct at Southern Connecticut State University and Albertus Magnus College. He conducts media training sessions at Quinnipiac. He is the editor of the monthly, States Most Wanted newspaper, and for the second time is the president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The lessons Venit teaches are not exactly “by the book.”
“It’s reality education, not theory,” Venit said. “I’ll teach you what’s wrong with the Associated Press style of writing while I’m teaching the lesson on it.”
He believes in telling students how it is, and preparing them for the field they are going into.
“They’ve got to be thick-skinned,” he said.
Venit said his favorite thing about teaching is “mentoring, and what I’m able to do once the students trust me.”
He gains the trust of his students early on by letting them know on the very first day of class their grade is his grade. He believes that if a student is doing poorly in the class “it’s a failure to communicate.”
A good way for the students to gain knowledge, according to Venit, is his ever popular, “Lightning Round.” Venit goes around the room at the end of each class and asks all the students to share what they learned that day, or something they found interesting or impossible to understand.
“Students know it’s coming after a few classes,” Venit said. “They catch me looking at the clock to check the time, making sure there’s just enough time for the Lightning Round.”
The most important topic taught, according to Venit, is ethics.
“It’s not just being honest. It’s about doing whatever is the right thing to do, even if it can send you to jail,” he said.
He believes in doing anything for a story, which is why he wrestled an eight-foot bear and “lost in 56 seconds. It’s all for news,” Venit said.
Venit teaches his students another one of his most important lessons of reality by showing them a video about a man named Budd Dwyer, who was about to face sentencing for a bribery charge. During the news conference Dwyer committed suicide on camera by shooting himself in the mouth.
“The reason this video is shown is because it’s reality. For some, this is the first time they have seen this kind of thing, but this happens,” Venit said.
Venit tells his students that Dwyer began to gain support for his innocence and this was his way of proving it.
Although he’s done a lot in his 40 years in the broadcasting teaching profession, Venit says the introduction to journalism course is his favorite. He likes being able to teach the basics in hopes that his students will fall in love with journalism, just as he did.
Originally appeared in: Quinnipiac Chronicle, (the independent student newspaper at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut) December 7, 2005, by Lindsay Khouri.
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