After several years of experimenting with blogging, primarily through a multimedia journalism class I teach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, I’ve finally narrowed my focus to a single theme that still encompasses most of what I’d like to accomplish with my life and career. Words are Roads will replace my blog dr. shill and allow me to do more of what’s important to me: examining the impact of words, exploring how we can use them more effectively, and striving to present words more effectively myself.

I’ve taken the blog’s title from a course I’ve developed to study — and celebrate — the Yellowstone Trail in Wisconsin.  While the class has unfortunately been put on a temporary hold, planning the course  rekindled an excitement for teaching that sometimes cools considerably as my students and I struggle to accomplish all that we plan each semester. It also took me in new directions with my writing, especially as an outdoors columnist for The Portage County Gazette from October 2015 until April 2018, when the column was discontinued by the paper’s new corporate ownership, along with the work of other local writers.

I frequently tell my students how much I’d like them to find a passion for reporting on issues of their choice. This blog will now be my best shot at taking up my own challenge.  Too often, I’ve let my role as teacher, adviser, researcher and servant of the university keep me from being a journalist and commentator.

The commentary will be important, because thinking critically, encouraging discussion, and occasionally speaking out are at the heart of what both journalism and education do.  As a very active participant in UWSP’s successful push to enact a tobacco-free campus policy in 2014 and an outspoken proponent of a university faculty’s traditional role in shared governance, I’ve spent a fair share of my time debating important public issues over the past four years.  Afterending my second two-year term in the now-mothballed UWSP faculty senate, I have redirected much of that energy to writing about such issues, but also many others — especially the outdoors.

Topics will range from the Yellowstone course and all it entails (including the tensions between economic development and environmental protection and enjoyment) to journalistic technology, from university life and shared governance to sports and camping.  For the foreseeable future, my primary focus will be Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, for which I set up a separate page during a reorganization of my blog.

Virtually everything will be tied to, and tied together by, words — the lessons they teach us and places they take us.  The words here will be my identity. They’ll be the things that take me from here to there.  I won’t always know where “there” is, but I look forward to the journey and invite all readers to take part through comments and sharing as they see fit.  — Steve Hill (updated April 17, 2018)

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