New Times founder Steve Moss had a way with words. He had a way with people. But he especially had a way with people who had a way with words.
After his death in 2005, his friends and family wanted to ensure that he would keep having his way with young writers—no, that’s not right. The people who loved him wanted to ensure that his influence, his emphasis on brilliant reporting that focused on fairness and justice, would continue, and not just via the newspapers he launched.
Thus began the Stephen Donnellan Moss Memorial Scholarship in Journalism, awarded each year (for the last few years, anyway) to a Cal Poly journalism student who demonstrates a commitment to the industry and the community.
Dylan Honea-Baumann took the 2012 award, while the 2011 recipient was Amber M. Diller. This year’s award went to Sean McMinn, a Mustang Daily writer and USA Today collegiate correspondent.
In the opening lines of his application essay, McMinn acknowledged the foolishness of his passion—a sentiment that echoed Moss’ own thoughts on the business, the world, and life.
“Despite my family’s concern when I told them I planned to major in journalism three years ago, I never so much as considered going into another field,” McMinn wrote. “I knew the industry’s future was uncertain, but I couldn’t—and still can’t—imagine doing anything else with my life. So I decided at 17 that if journalism was a sinking ship, I was going down with it.
“Still,” he added, “I committed to stay afloat as long as possible.”
This month, he’s starting a three-month internship at USA Today’s Virginia headquarters. When he comes back in the fall for his senior year of Cal Poly journalism, he’ll be overseeing a shift in the department’s organization, he said. He’ll be editor of a new endeavor called Mustang Media, which aims to bring the various student outlets—newspaper, radio, TV, PR, and web efforts—under one umbrella to create a more realistic experience of the post-graduation industry. McMinn explained that the disparate Cal Poly media have been disconnected, and sometimes even needlessly competitive; the organizers behind the new, unified effort hope the collaboration will more closely mirror modern news organizations and effectively get information out to the public.
After graduating, McMinn ultimately hopes to land a reporting gig in Washington, D.C.
McMinn received the $1,500 award in early June and was celebrated at Cal Poly’s annual Journalism Banquet.
Visit sloccf.org and click on “Apply for a Scholarship” to learn more about the Stephen Donnellan Moss Memorial Scholarship in Journalism (and other awards).