Richard D. Yoakam · 1985

Dick Yoakam is a professor of journalism at Indiana University with an impressive background as a working broadcast journalist. Among his colleagues and former students, Dick has a reputation as a critic and scholar who has made a profound and positive contribution to journalism.

He even has a reputation for teaching many more than he knows.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 1, 1924, he earned bachelor and master degrees in journalism at the State University of Iowa. He began his professional career as news editor of a Des Moines radio station, covering a wide variety of assignments. He later went into television news broadcasting at Cedar Rapids from where he covered national political conventions and atomic bomb tests at Yucca Flat, Nevada.

In 1957, he became an assistant professor of journalism and telecommunications at Indiana University. Since arriving at I.U., Dick has found time to be involved in many areas of journalism, including being chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors
Association awards committee and faculty chairman of the National Press Photographers Association Newsfilm Workshop. He also has worked for NBC two summers, one in New York City and the other in Washington, D.C.

Among his many honors are the Distinguished Teaching Award of the College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School Alumni Association at I.U. and the president’s medal of the National Press Photographers Association for work on a newsfilm workshop at the university of Oklahoma.

And he has written and studied extensively about his profession. The result of his two sabbatical leaves is a textbook on electronic television news published last year by Random House. It is “New Communication” and came from extensive observations of television news production and editorial policy in 11 Western European countries and in 34 television stations in 14 cities in this country.

Other studies he has conducted include analysis of coverage of the energy crisis, economic news, President Gerald R. Ford and of presidential primary elections on ABC evening news. This work was conducted with two other professors for ABC.
A quote from a speech by Dick at the Radio-Television News Directors Association Convention three years ago sums up eloquently his views of his chosen profession – broadcast journalism. It reads:

“We are in a profession that has technical skills to do amazing things. We can show that there are enough rings of Saturn to name one for each living astronomer. We can broadcast live from the moon, or anywhere on our globe. We can reply the winning Super Bowl touchdown from 14 angles. We can freeze a face at the moment of highest emotion. We can show the split second a bullet enters the President’s chest. We can show in color with fantastic clarity the bombing of Beirut. We can do that. But so can a lot of others who are becoming more and more competitive for viewers’ time.

“It is time to begin to believe in the power of content quality. All the splash and flash of production elements, the empathy of our anchors, the wonder of the technology – everyone has that. But it can’t match the moment when the content – words and pictures and sounds – comes together to give the audience the closest approach yet to a true representation of reality.”


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