The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M welcomes new journalism professors from CNN, Dallas Morning News

Journalism department announces updates at FJSA Hall of Honor ceremony
Photo by Hannah Harrison
Incoming journalism professors Mariano Castillo and Flora Charner sit with former student and Battalion staff member Ken Sury at the FJSA Hall of Fame reception ceremony held in the J. Wayne Stark Galleries in the Memorial Student Center on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)

At a ceremony honoring Aggie journalists, Texas A&M announced it will welcome three new journalism professors in the fall. New hires will include Mariano Castillo and Flora Charner of CNN, and Paul O’Donnell of Dallas Morning News. 

Castillo, A&M Class of 2002, is senior director of news standards and practices. Charner is the weekend director of coverage for CNN’s international newsgathering. O’Donnell is the senior business editor at the Dallas Morning News.

Journalism and Communication Department Head Hart Blanton announced the additions on April 19 at the Former Journalism Students Association, or FJSA, Hall of Honor reception.

Recognizing former students

Since 1996, FJSA members have voted annually to induct distinguished Aggies for its Hall of Honor. This year, two former students were honored at the ceremony: Cathie Anderson, Class of 1986, and Al Reinert, Class of 1970. Reinert was honored posthumously. 

They exemplify the best of the business and are the example that we cite when we make our case for why Texas A&M provides the right environment to train the next generation of journalists,”

— Mariano Castillo, Outgoing FJSA president and incoming journalism professor

Incoming FJSA president Matthew Watkins, Class of 2007, introduced Reinert and some of his professional pipeline. From his time as a reporter to becoming a filmmaker, Watkins said Reinhart had an “amazing but unconditional career.” 

Reinert was most remembered for his work documenting America’s space program, such as his 1989 documentary “For All Mankind.” However, Reinert was also a 1996 Academy Award nominee for co-writing the 1995 film “Apollo 13” — one of his few fictional works, Watkins added. One of Reinert’s best friends, Thorne Dryer, accepted the FJSA award on his behalf. 

Anderson was introduced by her former editor at The Detroit News, Sue Burzynski Bullard. Bullard met Anderson in 1989, who quickly worked her way up the leadership ladder due to her attention to detail. 

Although she currently reports for the Sacramento Bee, Anderson has held a variety of editorial and reporter positions over the past 30 years at the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin-American Statesman. 

Anderson reflected on her time at A&M, and notably, within The Battalion. In fall 1986, Anderson served as the first Black editor-in-chief. In her time there, she said her race was never an issue or cause to be self-conscious.

She said she connected with others in student media on a deeper level, and the competitive nature of the newsroom always drove them to do more.

The importance of Aggie journalism

Castillo said many Aggies have reached great heights in journalism and communication. However, the derailed hiring of prospective journalism director Kathleen McElroy was a wake-up call. 

“Our year started with a pause,” Blanton said.

Castillo said since June 2023, he was proud of how alumni supported student journalists. In July, FJSA and the Friends of The Battalion partnered to cover additional printing expenses to support The Battalion’s in-depth coverage of the McElroy fallout.

Blanton said hiring new faculty will support A&M’s program as it moves in the next direction. The director search is continuing in the background, Blanton said, but A&M’s priority is to continue building an amazing program.

Journalism professor Tom Burton said A&M needed to offer the degree earlier, but he has high hopes for the future of the program. Burton said a committee was assembled for input and agreed that a university of A&M’s size needs to offer journalism.

Incoming professor Charner said journalism helps give a voice to the voiceless, and the recently-reintroduced journalism degree will help teach the next generation of storytellers. 

“Even if we’re not avid consumers of news, we still need to see what happens in the world and our communities from every different country, and journalism allows us to do that,” Charner said.

Since A&M has re-introduced the journalism degree, Burton said there is some progress made thus far, but the department will continue to grow in the coming years. 

“Journalism is important because it serves to tell the story of the community and also hold those in power accountable,” Burton said, adding that the future of journalism is in the hands of the current-generation students.

Currently, there are three journalism professors in the department, along with one from communication. Now, with three more, the department plans to expand further into political, international and audio reporting. Burton said as it adds more professors and courses, A&M will have the faculty needed to support its growing student numbers.

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About the Contributors
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
Stacy Cox
Stacy Cox, News Writer
Stacy Cox is a freshman majoring in Sociology, minoring in Women & Gender Studies and earning a certificate in Legal History. Stacy is from New Braunfels, Texas, and she started writing for The Battalion in November 2023. After graduation, Stacy intends to earn a law degree and pursue a career in law and public service.
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