The Jewish Journalism of Joel Shurkin

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Frozen Chosen

If the temperature falls below -35, Sunday school is canceled--A personal note, if you don't mind. Wondering what the hell I've been? Getting a job.

I thought you all would like to know that starting in mid-August, I become adjunct professor of journalism (Snedden Chair) at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It's a one-year appointment and I'm the first person to hold the position. I just came back this week from five days in Fairbanks. I'm also happy to report that Hannah is coming with me next year, and will start 9th grade at West Valley High School in Fairbanks. She is already wearing a Wolf Pack sweatshirt. Carol will join us periodically when her job permits--she hates cold weather. We hope to live on campus and will return to civilization once or twice during the academic year. We also intend to maintain a place in Alaska through next summer for exploration. It is very beautiful.

I will teach two courses, Prospectives in Journalism, which I can design myself (think corporate ownership, the new media, political pressure etc.) and science writing. Additionally, my students and I will be working on a year-long project, probably on climate change, which is occurring in Alaska faster than anyplace else in the world--or at least is being better measured than anyplace else. I hope to turn it into a book. All that will require some time in the field, an adventure. Muck-lucks and whale blubber, yum. The International Arctic Research Center is based at the university, so a major resource is up the street.

We will return to Baltimore late spring next year. We're home until August 13th or so. Alaska is allegedly the best-wired state in the country so I will not be out of ready touch. I will keep this going until then and then I'll start a blog for that purpose. I've had requests.

And the line about the Sunday school--it's an actual message on the website of the only synagogue in Fairbanks, which claims to be the northernmost synagogue in the world. Now imagine kids trudging off to Sunday school in -35 degrees and darkness. The frozen chosen. Oh, and the bear photo? That is a nine-foot Kodiak bear on display at the Anchorage airport. One's only possible reaction to seeing a nine-foot bear--even stuffed--is 'oh shit.'


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