School of Communication

Helen Fallon Brings More than 20 Years of Real-World Experience to Journalism Program

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pictured is Helen Fallon. Photo | Christopher Rolinson

Helen Fallon, professor of journalism and director of Point Park’s Honors Program, has more than 20 years of professional experience working in the newspaper industry. At Point Park, Fallon was instrumental in creating the annual student trips to Washington, D.C., and a different foreign country each year to focus on national and international media as well as broaden travel experiences for students.

Tell us about your professional experience.

I have a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from Point Park University and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University. I started out as a reporter/editor at a number of small newspapers in the Pittsburgh area, moved briefly into hospital public relations, and then in 1986 I came to teach at Point Park. That also afforded me the opportunity to work at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (for most of this time conveniently located down the street from campus). I've been there for more than 20 years as a part-time copy editor. I get the chance to write from time-to-time, and it's still a great thrill to see my byline.

How do you incorporate your real-world experience into the classroom?

As a part-time copy editor at the Post-Gazette, I bring real-world examples into the classroom all the time. Working there keeps me current in changing platforms in newspapers (we do our work for the print publication and the Web). I bring my experiences back and tell my students all the time that I make mistakes, I do things well and not so well, and I work under deadline pressure. All of those things we mimic in the classroom. 

What courses do you teach?

  • Feature Writing
  • Journalistic Writing & Editing
  • International Media
  • Survey of Mass Communication

Why do you like teaching at Point Park?

I came back to teaching after I lost three jobs in one day, and that's a story I share with my students all the time. I always worked with interns at previous jobs, and I thought that those experiences would help me reach young people.

What I really like is watching students grow through a semester. They start out not knowing as much as they think they do, and then we move to a professional level of writing and editing. Their progress — if they stick with it and work really hard — can be just amazing. It's a different student who sits in that classroom at the end of the semester, and that's a real thrill for me still. 

Tell us about your role as director of the Honors Program.

I went from more than nine years as chair and acting dean of the then new School of Communication, taking my administrative experience to organize and direct the Honors Program. The best thing about directing the Honors Program is that I get to meet students from all majors. I try to get them into thinking about academics, leadership and community service because that all enhances their classroom experiences and prepares them for work. The students amaze me with their creativity and their passion. We also travel and have students present at conferences and do additional work in their classes. It's hard to see them graduate. 

What's it like teaching in Downtown Pittsburgh?

There are so many opportunities for internships and actual journalistic experiences in Downtown Pittsburgh. We form relationships with groups and our alumni. I try to mix it up as much as I can in my classroom and urge all of the students I interact with to take advantage of every opportunity. We have more internships than we have students to fill. It's a vibrant community, and I incorporate the city into my classes as often as I can. 

Video b-roll by Emily Faller, a senior photography major

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