URBANA — Richard and Leslie Frank hark again to a time when there was a transparent line between information and commentary, and it was a lot simpler for folks to inform the distinction.
And whereas they lament the information trade’s adjustments for the more serious, the Franks are additionally making a large funding in Richard Frank’s beloved alma mater to assist foster good journalism at its roots — mainly, what journalism college students are taught within the classroom.
The College of Illinois introduced this previous week that Richard Frank, a former leisure govt, and his spouse, Leslie, a former award-winning broadcast journalist, have made a $7.5 million present to the UI’s Faculty of Media.
In an interview Wednesday with The Information-Gazette, the Franks — who now function Frnak Household Vineyards in Calistoga, Calif. — spoke about why they wish to give again to the UI, their hopes for using the cash and their views on right now’s information trade.
“I imagine there are only a few folks within the journalism enterprise right now who can truly outline the phrase journalism,” Richard Frank mentioned. “I imagine it’s a morphing definition, and I believe we see it day-after-day.”
A New York native who recalled by no means venturing farther west than Chicago earlier than coming to the UI to get a bachelor’s diploma in advertising and marketing — learning structure and engineering alongside the way in which — Richard Frank mentioned he’s nonetheless grateful to the college.
“It was a college that allowed me to search out myself,” he mentioned.
He went on to work in promoting and later to develop into president of Paramount Tv Group after which Disney Studios, additionally overseeing the launch of the Disney Channel.
His management spawned the creation of such memorable TV exhibits and applications as “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “Household Ties,” “The Golden Ladies” and “Leisure Tonight,” and such films as “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Lifeless Poets Society” and “The Lion King.”
Canadian-born Leslie Frank labored in among the largest U.S. tv markets, overlaying occasions now etched within the nation’s collective reminiscence — amongst them 9/11, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Michael Jackson trial. She gained an Emmy for her work as a information anchor at KCPQ in Seattle.
The Franks’ present to the UI comes at a time when information shops and journalists are referred to as upon to cowl a ravaging pandemic, civil unrest and a divisive nationwide election marketing campaign. But news-media sources have continued to dwindle.
In line with a examine launched this yr by the College of North Carolina Hussman Faculty of Journalism and Media, 300 newspapers have closed and print newspaper circulation has declined by 5 million since its “The Increasing Information Desert” venture was printed in 2018.
Leslie Frank mentioned there have been some ways she and her husband might have given again to the UI. They’re specializing in the Faculty of Media, she mentioned, due to their concern in regards to the course journalism goes within the U.S.
When she studied journalism in Canada, she mentioned, fundamentals and accountability had been taught.
“These are the issues which can be missing right now,” she mentioned.
It’s “lazy” journalism, she mentioned, when reporters don’t confirm their details, attribute their sources by identify and current balanced viewpoints.
“I believe that’s my drawback, that I simply don’t see any accountability right now,” she mentioned.
“Precise information ought to be clearly labeled information, and commentary ought to be labeled commentary,” Richard Frank mentioned.
When the strains started to blur, he mentioned, is when Ted Turner launched the primary 24-hour cable information community, CNN.
“And so they discovered folks wouldn’t stick with them in the event that they stored reporting the identical story, so that they began increasing into different areas that will not have been information,” he mentioned.
Then alongside got here rivals, and “then it grew to become a struggle for eyeballs, as a result of that’s the place they made their cash,” Richard Frank mentioned.
A change for the higher begins with what’s taught within the classroom, in line with the Franks.
“College students have to grasp what the basics of journalism are,” Leslie Frank mentioned.
She additionally mentioned she isn’t criticizing the UI’s program, however “there’s at all times room for enchancment.”
Earlier than the pandemic, the Franks made frequent visits to the UI, sharing their expertise and training college students within the Faculty of Media. They hope to proceed their hands-on contribution within the years to come back, they mentioned.
Their present will fund new expertise for school rooms and the creation of a state-of-the-art broadcast studio throughout the Richmond Studio. It can additionally create the Richard and Leslie Frank Middle for Management and Innovation in Media at Illinois to herald consultants to talk and work with college students and create different skilled enrichment and outdoors studying alternatives, reminiscent of convention participation and internships.
Leslie Frank mentioned she has seen firsthand how a lot the UI wants an improved educating studio with higher tools.
She and her husband are already bringing in consultants to talk and work with college students, the couple mentioned. Their present will probably be spent in the easiest way doable on bringing in individuals who can discuss journalism and clarify how issues work in the actual world, Richard Frank mentioned.
Tracy Sulkin, useless of the UI Faculty of Media, mentioned the brand new heart could have a transformational impression on college students and outline the UI’s excellence in media fields.
“I’d underscore that my colleagues and I are very a lot trying ahead to working with the Franks and that the middle’s programming will profit enormously from their experience and dedication and from their generosity in connecting the Faculty of Media with completed professionals of their community,” she mentioned.
In the meantime, right here’s a tip from the Franks about getting a wider view of the information: Don’t restrict your self to 1 outlet.
“My recommendation, and that is what I say to my buddies, I say, ‘Do your self a favor and watch all of them, and make your individual resolution,’” Leslie Frank mentioned.
Learn as a lot as you may, too, she suggested — together with your group newspaper, nationwide publications and what’s on social media.
Richard Frank mentioned he switches from information channel to information channel whereas he works out within the mornings.
“When a industrial comes up, I swap to the following information channel,” he mentioned.