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Storin to leave position

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, December 7, 2005

After serving as associate vice president of news and information the past three and a half years – making him Notre Dame’s mouthpiece during a rare presidential transition and a controversial football coaching change – University spokesman Matt Storin will step down at the end of this calendar year.

Storin, a 1964 Notre Dame graduate who was the editor of the Boston Globe for eight years before coming back to work at the University, said he decided last February that this would be his last semester in the post.

“I love being at Notre Dame, and I’ve enjoyed the job,” Storin said Tuesday. “I’m very fond of [University President] Father [John] Jenkins, so [stepping down] is really based on personal considerations.”

Since many of his friends and family live on the east coast and he and his wife recently built a home in Maine, Storin said he would like to spend summers there, which would be impossible while remaining associate vice president.

The University has not yet named a permanent replacement for Storin, whose retirement is effective Dec. 31 but may wait until after Notre Dame’s trip to the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., he said.

Associate Director of News and Information Dennis Brown – who, along with candidates external to the University, is a candidate to succeed Storin – will take over Storin’s duties in the interim, Storin said.

Storin will continue to teach one course per semester at the University, adding a fall course on the role of news in American life to the spring Media Ethics course he has taught since 2004.

“[Teaching] opened a whole new world to me,” he said. “The students here are pretty special, both intellectually and in who they are, and I think that coming [to Notre Dame] in this particular point in my life … was probably the best decision I’ve made in my career.

“The thing I enjoyed about being editor of the Boston Globe was working with young reporters, so here I’ve been able to do a little bit of that – and it’s very, very important that students of the kind we have here at Notre Dame enter the field of journalism.”

Speaking for Notre Dame was not always easy, Storin said.

In addition to heading the News and Information Department and responding to campus, local and national media, he also regularly corresponded with alumni concerned about the direction the University was taking amidst the recent national culture wars – a delicate and often trying task.

“That was the most wearing aspect of the job,” Storin said of addressing fears that Notre Dame had “lost its way in terms of its Catholic character.”

“The great thing about Notre Dame is that everyone wants Notre Dame to be his or her Notre Dame – in other words, as he or she idealizes it,” Storin said. “Sometimes you’re dealing with very passionate and articulate people. It’s always interesting, but sometimes frustrating.”

That same passion – and plenty of national scrutiny – surfaced last winter when the University fired then-football coach Tyrone Willingham, who had been Notre Dame’s first black head coaching hire in any sport. Facing heated allegations of racism from various critics, Notre Dame needed to explain its choice and protect its image – which placed Storin at the center of the storm.

“Definitely the most difficult period [of my time here] was the transition in the coaching area, but it was also the most interesting in some ways,” Storin said. “It was a time when you felt you were in a bunker to some extent, but I learned a lot, and in looking back on it, as with any challenge, you take a lot away from it.”

Other challenging times, such as the winter 2002 disappearance and death of freshman Chad Sharon and the spring 2003 resignation of then-Executive Vice President Father Timothy Scully, were balanced by chances to raise national awareness of Notre Dame’s academic prestige, Storin said. Recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times and Chicago Tribune showed Notre Dame in a positive light, Storin said, particularly the favorable coverage given the University amidst the controversy surrounding the revoked visa of Muslim professor Tariq Ramadan in the fall of 2004.

After making the transition from working in journalism to responding to journalists’ requests, Storin said he generally had positive exchanges with his former counterparts.

“With I’d say the exception of some of the coverage of the Willingham episode, I’ve had very good experiences with reporters here, not least of which were frequently the reporters from The Observer,” he said. “Generally they knew more about Notre Dame to start with, and of course, in all honesty, student reporters are invested somewhat in Notre Dame and they’re anxious – to the extent that they can do so within their professional responsibilities – to portray the school in a good light.

“And sometimes that means telling hard truths, speaking truths to power, but nevertheless it’s been a good experience.”

Switching to his News and Information position from the journalism field also allowed Storin to ease tensions between some administrators and the media, he said.

“I think if I accomplished anything internally, it was to make some University officials realize that with good preparation and forethought you can often use media to your advantage, and that it’s wrong to consider reporters to always be antagonistic and potentially sinister,” he said.

Storin retired from the Globe in July 2001 after eight years as its editor and a total of 21 years at the newspaper, where he covered news from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. He has also worked for U.S. News and World Report, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News, the Maine Times and his hometown paper, the Daily News of Springfield, Mass. Following his retirement, Storin took six months off before joining a program at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He began working at Notre Dame in August 2002, and said Tuesday he planned to continue teaching here for “a few years.”

“I like it, I really enjoy it,” he said. “As long as my health is good and my long-suffering spouse continues to like South Bend … it could be a good long time, we’ll see. Really, for 41 years with a couple of short breaks I’ve had to spend most of every workday in an office … I won’t mind having a more flexible life, and I think it’s time for that.”