Telling Albany’s story – William Kennedy speaks on the changing world of journalism
By Lauren Mineau
The man who told the “Albany Cycle,” visited campus on Wednesday, Oct. 9 to discuss journalism and answer questions from aspiring journalists.
William Kennedy, known colloquially as Bill Kennedy has written eight novels including ‘The Ink Truck,” “Ironweed,” and “O Albany!” Kennedy worked for the Albany Times Union as an investigative reporter and movie reviewer.
Kennedy attended Public School 20, Christian Brothers Academy, and Siena College, all in the Capital Region, prior to pursuing a career in journalism. He joined the Post Star in Glens Falls as a sports reporter and, after being drafted in 1950, worked for an Army newspaper in Europe.
After the Army, he joined the Albany Times Union as a reporter. In 1956, he accepted a job with a newspaper in Puerto Rico, where he met and married Dana Sosa, a Broadway actress and dancer. He also met his mentor, Saul Below. The Kennedys have three children: Dana, Katherine, and Brendan, and seven grandchildren.
The lecture was designed as a celebration of journalism’s history, particularly UAlbany’s journalism program’s 40th birthday. However, Kennedy discussed the death of the journalism he once knew. With the digital age upon us, bloggers and web commentary have taken the reigns on reporting and uncovering truth. Kennedy specifically discussed the story of the fall of biker Lance Armstrong. Many of the doping allegations were uncovered by a blogger, a concept familiar to the younger audience but new to Kennedy.
Kennedy was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1993, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002. He has received many literary awards, including the first Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award, and was named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.
He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, PEN, and the Writers Guild of America.
Kennedy lectured in creative writing and journalism from 1974 to 1982 at UAlbany before becoming a full professor in 1983. He also founded the New York State Writer’s Institute which is responsible for bringing many esteemed writers to campus to discuss their work.
In 2003, UAlbany acquired the William Kennedy Papers, a collection comprising 70 boxes of manuscripts, film scripts and memorabilia. The collection is maintained at the University at Albany Libraries’ M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives as a resource for scholarly research on Kennedy’s work and career, and on the social, political, and literary histories of the Capital Region.
Kennedy told the story of “William Rowley: Journalism and Social Justice,” at his lecture. William [Bill] Rowley, who created the journalism department in 1973 along with the help of Kennedy.
Rowley has said that the department’s main goal is – “Our primary task is to provide a liberal education and to preserve and nurture our humanistic culture.”
Kennedy was also crucial in the creation of the department, which has produced nearly 800 graduates so far. Kennedy was one of the first professors and taught Advanced Reporting and Magazine Writing, both are still offered today.
Kennedy’s journalistic experience is enviable by any current or aspiring reporter but he got his start at his college newspaper and worked his way up. His achievements are incredible but the path he followed was conventional.
What advice did Kennedy provide to an aspiring writer, “None besides learn how to write.”
But at 85, he’s allowed to say that.