I sat across a conference table from Steve Buttry just two and a half weeks ago. We were joined by an adviser and a few other student editors. It was a Sunday morning, and I was in desperate need of the kind of ethical advice that can only come from decades of newsroom experience.
To me, it seemed like the world was unraveling. But Steve was as calm as ever. To him, there was simply a new opportunity to learn from the shortcomings of the past and to seek out the kind of innovative solutions that journalism’s complex and evolving nature calls for.
That all seems like ages ago now in the wake of Steve’s death. We’re already onto the next week’s paper, the next digital obstacle, the next ethical dilemma. Things never really slow down in the basement of Hodges Hall, and that has a lot to do with Steve, whose job as LSU Student Media director was to be an advocate of change.
With him, no debate was ever off limits. No problem too difficult to tackle. No goal too distant. No time too inconvenient for a meeting. Little looks or works the same as it did when I started with The Daily Reveille almost three years ago. And while many of those changes were led by students, it was Steve who lit the spark.
Sure, we didn’t agree on everything, but that was part of the job. Steve challenged me when it came to making tough calls, encouraged me when I was unsure of myself and always urged student leaders to look to the future.
His candor regarding Student Media’s precarious future, even as he stared down fierce criticism, helped to shape my understanding of leadership, which is to say the hours are long and the thank yous few and far between.
Steve’s dedication to Student Media was unwavering, even when it came to fielding Friday-night phone calls from an editor in chief in the midst of a panic attack. That level of commitment was a part of who Steve was.
As a student and a journalist, I owe him my respect and thanks. Steve will always be remembered for his hard work and contributions to digital progress.