This professor deserves an award

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By Ned Cantwell

The New Mexico State Aggies are trailing 56-zip with five minutes to go and the stadium is as quiet as a church pew the day after Christmas. Except for one guy.That’s Mac on the 50-yard line, waving his arms and yelling. “Still plenty of time left, guys!” This is not a “glass is half full” kind of guy. This is a “glass is brimming with expensive French wine and they are still pouring” kind of guy. Ask him if every cloud has a silver lining and Mac will say, “what cloud?”So who is this Mac guy anyway? Probably sells time shares. Who better to convince you to fork over thousands of bucks for vacations you might not take in an investment that is sure to depreciate?Or a preacher. Yeah, that’s it. Anyone this cheerful and enthusiastic must be all right with God.None of the above, although Dr. Sean McCleneghan, a journalism professor at New Mexico State University, radiates evangelical fervor when he corners an editor and pitches some kid for a job.Mac launched the student summer intern program in 1983, a year after joining the staff. A quarter century later he is still whipping it home like a jockey with two furlongs left at the Kentucky Derby. He just doesn’t teach kids, he promotes them for jobs in New Mexico newsrooms as summer interns. I was reminded of all this when I watched Dr. Sean handing out writing awards at the New Mexico Press Convention a couple weeks ago. Once a year newspaper staffs gather at a posh Albuquerque hotel to remind one another they are pretty special.There is nothing wrong with that. All industries should be proud enough to get together and brag on themselves.The conventions inevitably conclude with awards ceremonies. Best Feature Writer in the Entire Western World, Big Cities. Best Feature Writer in the Entire Western World, Market Population Less Than 50,000. Best Feature Writer in the Entire Western World, Towns Without Stoplights.Mac is always front and center at these things, a walking billboard for the NMSU journalism program and its students.You wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up wearing a sandwich board. He has placed 641 kids on newspaper staffs, in TV stations, ad agencies, public relations companies. When I was actively involved in the daily journalism business, Sean’s calls were predictable. “Listen, this student is likely to win a Pulitzer one day. I wish I were you. I’d like to be in a position to say I gave this young man his first job.”Yeah, yeah, yeah, Mac. Send the kid on over. We’ll use him. It is a great program for editors. You pay this young man or woman as little as the law or your conscience will allow, and they work like journalistic pack horses to make their mark. We had a bunch go through our newsroom, and it would be fun to know how their careers turned out.I did catch up with Samantha Dunn, a young lady who grew up in Las Vegas reading the Optic. Found Samantha on Amazon. She’s written three books, hangs out in Malibu. I am proud I gave that kid her first writing job. Now if I could just get her autograph.I don’t know if the New Mexico Press Association has an award for professors. I would like to make one up and personally present the plaque to Dr. Sean McCleneghan next convention: “Best College Buddy Kids or New Mexico Newspapers Will Ever Have, Entire Western World.”

The columnist welcomes responses at ncantwell@ beyondbb.com.