The man who taught me the art of the lede

On February 5 the man who first taught me to be a journalist passed. There is no greater testimony to the profound impact Raymond Schoenfield had on me than the fact I became a journalist, and then a journalism teacher. Schoeny, as his students at Beloit Memorial High School knew him, had the number one quality to be a good instructor: love of subject. In class, in the offices of the student newspaper The Increscent after school, in passing in the hall, Schoeny would always ask your opinion of the latest news, or pull you aside to recommend a good book. I went on to get a BA at Brown and a Master’s in Journalism at USC, but no one taught me more than this pale, tall, high school professor with the big glasses and thinning combover. He and social studies teacher Lloyd Page treated us teenagers as intellectual equals and guided us to be critical thinkers. Schoeny made the Increscent offices a sanctuary for nerds and misfits. I was the editor in chief my senior year, and my bestie Cindy Hahn – not a nerd, but still one of us — was my girl Friday. There was a whole wonderful cast of characters there. It was a haven not just for writers, but for photographers, cartoonists, designers, sales people, etc. We would skip pep rallies and hang out with Schoeny. He was our Gandalf, a benevolent father figure with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. But he was also very serious about teaching the importance of good journalism, and the Increscent had the awards to show for it. He taught me to think deeply about literature and writing. I wrote a paper comparing Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata under his direction, which is a pretty crazy thing to do in a public high school in a small Midwestern town, and his high praise made me want to be a critic.

I last saw Schoeny when I was inducted into the Beloit Memorial Hall of Fame, which I think he had not a little to do with. He lost his eyesight in his later years, which seemed like the cruelest twist of fate: this voracious reader, blinded. His wife Joyce was always by his side, and he was proud of his kids. If you want to do something about the future of journalism, join me in donating to the scholarship fund in his name. https://statelinecf.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create?funit_id=1223

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