Saturday, October 20th, 2018

USM professors help The Phoenix rise from ashes

Jason Read, professor of philosophy.
Sam Hill
Jason Read, professor of philosophy.

Posted on January 22, 2015 in News
By Brian Gordon

Ronald Schmidt, professor of political science,
Sam Hill
Ronald Schmidt, professor of political science,

USM professors Ronald Schmidt and Jason Read have been filling holes left in the wake of the mass exodus of Portland Phoenix writers to the new alternative weekly in town, Dig Portland. The two professors have had more or less regular columns in the Phoenix, which comes out every Wednesday in Portland and the surrounding area.

Schmidt, a political science professor by trade who specializes in American politics and political theory, writes about local politics in his column titled “The Red Pencil.”

When Dig started, Dan McLeod, Phoenix editor, got Schmidt on board to replace the old political writer, Al Diamon. They met for coffee to hash it out. McLeod is a former USM student and Free Press alumni. He also recruited Read because he was a fan of his personal blog.

Read is a philosophy professor who writes his monthly column “A Closer Read” which has been about movies and how they can be interpreted from a philosophical view point. Read said he’s not going to write strictly about movies but ties in philosophy with culture, politics and maybe television, all with a Maine connection.

 “I try to name drop a philosopher in every column,” Read said, in the hopes someone will pick up on it and explore it further.

Both authors found the newspaper style liberating in contrast to their academic writing which is rigidly confined and tends to be a lot lengthier.

“I like the idea of being able to write in a different vein and reach out to a different audience than I usually deal with,” Read said.

“My writing style is geared towards at least long papers or short books. With the column, you need your point to be clear in a couple of sentences. And you need to get out. It’s a challenge, but its a fun challenge,” said Schmidt.

Read isn’t going to be quitting his day job anytime soon. 

“No one could make a living writing a column,” he said.

They both said they were having fun and would like to do it as long as possible, but they’d like a bit more feedback from the reading public. 

Read noted, “I want to generate my first angry letter at some point.” Schmidt has received some “really nice emails,” but alas no angry ones.

As for when they find time to teach classes, grade papers and write a column? Schmidt has been squeezing it in when his daughter goes to bed. “You make time. Sometimes I’ve worked on it at 3 in the morning ‘cause that’s the time block I could find.”

Neither could speak to whether or not their involvement in column writing is the idea of rebranding USM as a “metropolitan university.”

“Community service is part of what we’re evaluated on and I think of trying to explain politics in public venues is a big part of my community service,” said Schmidt. “I do hope that over time Jason’s and my column will reiterate that USM is part of Portland and that engaging with other people in Portland and around the city about events going on in the state, is part of what a community is.”

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