Hofstra Pride

October 29th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

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It has been a heady couple of months here at the Herbert School.

In August, The Princeton Review named our radio station, WRHU 88.7 FM, the # 1 college radio station in the country. While we have long taken pride in the station’s high standards and extensive activities—covering news, reporting on local communities, broadcasting Hofstra and professional sports (including being the flagship station for the New York Islanders), offering diverse musical programming, and so forth—we were really delighted when this recognition was bestowed.

Then in September, WRHU received a prestigious Marconi Award as the best noncommercial station in the country from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). We were up against a distinguished list of finalists, and the award was a tremendous boost.

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We wondered how things could get any better.  And then in October, LinkedIn published a new set of ratings of universities based on the career outcomes of their graduates in eight major fields of employment. Hofstra University placed second nationally in placing graduates in desirable media positions.

We have long prided ourselves on our faculty, students, curriculum, and facilities, and have made great efforts to build ties between the Herbert School and the many media corporations in New York City and the surrounding area.

This public validation of our successes has filled us all with great satisfaction in the work we are doing and has inspired us to work even harder to build on these successes in the future.

I can’t wait to see what the months ahead bring.

Educating the Next Generation of Journalists

September 18th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

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Originally Posted: The Ailes Apprentice Program

By Guest Author, Evan Cornog, Dean of The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University

If you want to understand why diversity remains an issue for news organizations, you might start by examining how newsrooms looked a generation or two ago across the United States.

Mainstream news organizations were, well into the 1960s, overwhelmingly the domain of white men, and although those men were usually dedicated to their profession and eager to present an objective picture of the world around them, the limits of their own life experiences—and the almost locker-room atmosphere of those long-ago newsrooms—shaped news coverage, according  to the Poynter Institute For Media Studies.

At a time when most of the positions of power in the nation were also occupied by white men, the lack of diversity in newsrooms meant less coverage of issues of lesser interest to that audience, writes Dr. Edward Pease, who heads up the journalism department at Utah State University.

A striking example of this lack of coverage was highlighted in an editor’s note in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader on July 4, 2004.

“It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil-rights movement. We regret the omission.”

According to the Herald-Leader article, that note was triggered by a request from a local historical society for photos of the civil-rights protests in Lexington shot decades earlier by the paper’s photographers. The paper found it had no such pictures, because it had failed to cover the movement. The reason:  papers back in the 1950s and 1960s “catered to the white citizenry, and the white community just prayed that rumors and reports would be swept under the rug and just go away,” a local NAACP leader said.

Those of us who are educating the next generation of journalists take seriously our duty to make sure that we graduate students who will help increase the diversity of newsrooms across the country. We work hard, with our colleagues here at Hofstra, to attract the best candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, and to provide the sort of financial aid that will enable them to attend. And our faculty and administration also work hard with media organizations in and around New York City to secure the most demanding and rewarding internship experiences for them.

Having partners like the Ailes Apprentice Program greatly enriches what we can offer to our students, and helps keep open the lines of communication between the university and the businesses and organizations that will employ our graduates. That way we can be confident that in the future, no big stories will be just “swept under the rug.”

Evan W. Cornog, PhD, is Dean of The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University, where students are producing award-winning work and kick-starting their careers as future communications industry leaders. The Fox News Channel University/Ailes Rising Apprentice Scholarship was established at Hofstra in 2011.  Scholarship recipients include Luz Peña ’12, who is now reporting for MundoFOX in Los Angeles, and Claudia Balthazar ’14, who is currently participating in the Carnegie-Knight News21 fellowship program and was recently named Student Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Additional information about The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication can be found at www.hofstra.edu/soc

Getting it Right the First Time

March 28th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

Writer and Professor Jonathan Schell at Occupy Town Square in Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village of Manhattan in New York. Wikimedia Commons.

Writer and Professor Jonathan Schell at Occupy Town Square in Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village of Manhattan. Wikimedia Commons.

The news this week that the reporter Jonathan Schell had passed away at age 70 saddened me. Jonathan was a star writer at The New Yorker when I started there as a fact-checker in the mid-1970s. Already famed for his reporting on the Vietnam War, he was writing regularly about the unfolding Watergate scandal, and soon after the conclusion of that drama he published a remarkable book, The Time of Illusion.

What Schell managed to do in that book was tie together aspects of nuclear deterrence doctrine, the domino theory (the idea that allowing communism to triumph one place—such as Vietnam—would hasten its spread globally), and President Nixon’s obsessive concern with domestic protest and dissent into a single, seething mass. The very unusability of nuclear weapons pumped up the importance of the “credibility” of any threats to use them, and so placed remarkable strains on the way Presidents managed their, and the nation’s, image. Nixon’s dirty tricks and campaign subterfuges were part of a string of causation that could be traced back to the hydrogen bomb. If that sounds implausible, just read the book.

As we approach the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, there is still no book that gets at the essence of that Constitutional crisis as deeply, and as clearly, as Schell’s take on it. Usually contemporary accounts of historical events fade swiftly, as new evidence and new insights recast our understanding of the meaning of a particular event or time. But Schell appears to have got it right the first time.

He is better known these days for his writings against nuclear arms, and for his early Vietnam work. But I think The Time of Illusion is his masterwork, and still repays close attention today. RIP, Jonathan Schell.

 

 

Evan W. Cornog, Ph.D., dean of The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, served as an associate dean at the Columbia University School of Journalism for more than a decade and handled a variety of responsibilities during his tenure there. He led fundraising efforts, coordinated the development of a new curriculum, directed the school’s new Master of Arts program in Journalism and served as publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review. Dr Cornog is also the author of several books on politics and the press – expertise he honed as press secretary to New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch and as a freelance writer and editor whose stories have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Slate and the Boston Globe. He also served as director of external relations at Bennington College in Vermont and as special assistant to the President of the New School in Manhattan. Dr. Cornog earned his bachelor’s degree in history and literature from Harvard University, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in history from Columbia. The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, edited by Dr. Cornog and Victor S. Navasky, was published in 2012.

The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication

November 1st, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

Photographer: Zack Lane, University Photographer

Convocation remarks: October 30, 2013

Thank you, Dr. Berliner.

The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication is only now taking his distinguished name, but it was founded as a school in 1995, and many of its programs have far earlier roots here on campus. So when I was asked to speak today about its mission, the first thing that came to mind was how, over the years, its mission has both remained constant and changed radically.

The constancy comes from the purpose we all share—to examine and explore a wide variety of issues concerning human communication. Some aspects of this are highly practical or technical—what is the best way to light this scene for my movie? How can I get the Police Department to give me the statistics I want for my news story. Others are challenging in different ways—what story do I want to tell, and why? How will my movie (or article, memo, decision) make the world a better place?

The radical change comes from the constant disruption that has beset the world of communication since the school’s founding in 1995. That year the Internet was still a novelty (if that) in the lives of most Americans.

Just to set the scene a bit, in 1995, Apple was still just a computer company, and was near bankruptcy. In the summer of that year, a new Web site appeared selling books online, with the name of Amazon.com. It would be three years until Google was founded, and nine years would pass before Facebook appeared. There was no Fox News network, or MSNBC. Tweeting was still something confined to birds.

Today, one could argue that Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are the most influential corporations on the planet. And they are now all communications companies.

For a School of Communication, that has been both good news and bad news. The good news was, and is, that the subject of communication has become one of the central subjects of modern life. The bad news, at least for a time, has been that some of the industries into which our graduates enter after they leave Hofstra have been undergoing rapid, and disruptive, change.

The upshot has been that the school has become much larger than it was at the time of its founding, as students rightly see the various communications fields we teach as growth areas of the 21st-century economy. But the sorts of jobs that are available, and the skills needed to land those jobs, are constantly evolving.

While the fields we prepare students for are growth areas, the distinctions between communications professions are getting less clear. Public relations professionals now need basically the same skills as “content providers” that journalists have, and journalists are now expected to be much more aware of the economic consequences of their work. Reporters are expected to drive traffic to their news organizations’ web sites, and thus boost ad revenue. As celluloid film continues to decline as a physical medium, the digital technologies that are replacing it are bringing film and TV practices—such as non-linear digital editing—into closer alignment. Yet in spite of this ongoing convergence, for those inside those professions there remain clear distinctions between PR and journalism, and between TV and film.

Many of us at the Herbert School, of course, worked in these industries before coming to academia, and harbor strong emotional and intellectual affinities to certain ways of doing things. My first job was at the New Yorker magazine, where editorial independence from the business side was so pronounced that it when the Surgeon General’s report on smoking’s link to lung cancer was released in1964, the magazine’s editor proclaimed that the magazine would no longer accept cigarette ads—and the magazine’s owners agreed. Those were different days.

My point is that adapting to change is not just a matter of buying new technologies and integrating them into your curriculum. There is the even more daunting task of re-examining the very assumptions behind your work as the ground beneath your feet shifts. In decades past technologies changed, but at a slower pace, and along a more predictable pathways. Now changes happen so swiftly, and alter so much, that everything is up for grabs.

That is one reason why the liberal-arts education remains central to our mission, and why each of our departments has a significant commitment to teaching critical thinking about communication, whether it be through the ancient study of rhetoric, critical and theoretical perspectives on film and television, or scholarly examination of the role of mass media in our society.

Earlier I said that Apple, back in 1995, was still a computer company. Today, even though they still make “computers,” they have become intimately involved in the marketing of various kinds of media content—digitally transmitted songs, books, TV shows, and films. Along the way, they have transformed those businesses, and undercut many traditional power bases (remember when record companies mattered?).

It used to be commonplace to say that the “industrial age” had passed on, and that we were living in the “information age.” This was a commonplace idea in the 1970s and 1980s, and beyond. But today we live in the Age of Communication, one that has been made possible by the digital innovations of the information age, but that has now passed beyond to a new paradigm.

This Age of Communication is what we now have to educate our students to master, to excel in, and to provide leadership for. Fortunately, we have always had a good formula for this in a curriculum that provides strong technical and practical skills while remaining steadfastly committed to a liberal-arts foundation. Together, this combination means that our graduates are ready for the jobs out there today, but also able to adapt to new conditions in the years and decades ahead.

All of which leads me, in the end, to Lawrence Herbert. Today we live in the age of visual communication, and Larry Herbert’s Pantone Color Matching System is part of the fundamental vocabulary of our age. As our graduates seek to convey messages to their various audiences, color is one of the most important tools they work with, whether it is on the set of a film, in the pages of a magazine, or as part of the design of a manufactured product. Decades ago, Mr. Herbert combined a detailed knowledge of the printing business with a vision of what was needed for the future. President Rabinowitz will tell you more about Larry Herbert’s remarkable achievements, but suffice to say that he is one of the founding fathers of the Age of Communication.

The business he built upon his standardization and rationalization of the spectrum has been a great success, and we are grateful that he has shared his success with Hofstra, to the lasting benefit of the students of the School of Communication—the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. Thank you.

Golden Age

September 30th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

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By now, most of us have realized that television’s “golden age” is happening right now. Last weekend’s Emmy Awards (not the awards show itself, but the work nominated) demonstrated how clearly that is the case.

In category after category, there was an embarrassment of riches. Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Bonneville, and Damian Lewis in a category (lead actor, drama) won by Jeff Daniels. Similar wealth of talent, and fine performances, were evident in all the other acting categories.

Whether it was the sustained excellence of shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family,” or the one-time excellence of “Behind the Candelabra,” big-time talent and some dazzling risk-taking resulted in an astonishing diversity of first-rate programming.

It used to be fashionable to refer to the TV set as the “idiot box,” but that attitude is anachronistic today for more than one reason. The box is gone, and if the idiocy can still be found there, so can some of the most impressive creative work in the nation today.

My own favorite program of the year was the BBC/HBO adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s “Parade’s End”—screenplay by Tom Stoppard, and with fantastic performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall. The novel—actually four novels—is a great favorite of mine, and adaptations of one’s literary favorites more often disappoint than they please. However, Stoppard’s treatment was so acute, and the performances so compelling, that the miniseries became my personal touchstone for excellence this past year. But when those nominated (Ms. Hall was overlooked in the nominations) did not win, my disappointment was greatly reduced by the sense that so much great work was on display that any selection of a winner had to be a bit conditional. As they say in football, on any given Sunday . . .

In any case, seeing the solid lineup of excellent programs being honored, I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be involved in educating students for careers in TV and other communications fields.

And as we are constantly adapting to new technologies and business practices, we take heart from the ways the rise of new approaches (cable TV, online distribution of shows like Netflix’s “House of Cards,” and so on) open the door for new opportunities for creative folks to entertain, inform, and enlighten us all.

It’s nice to live in a golden age.

Summer of the Shark

August 7th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

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Today the news is about a dead shark found on a subway car in New York City. Earlier this week, “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel kicked off with a shamelessly concocted “investigation” into whether the prehistoric giant shark, Megalodon, might still be alive. Discovery’s defense, in a statement, is that “with 95 percent of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”

And of course, a couple of weeks back Twitter was aflame with reactions to the B-movie “Sharknado”, a reaction that earned the laughable film a theatrical release.

All very jolly, except that the real story of sharks is so depressing – they are being aggressively hunted for their fins, prized in some Asian cuisines, and researchers are estimating that perhaps 100 million sharks a year are being removed from the seas — with consequences that are likely to be enormous. Removing large numbers of an apex predator like the shark will have cascading effects throughout marine ecosystems around the world, compounding the problems brought on by climate change, pollution, etc.

And yet stories of “monster sharks” are staples of local news organizations, and shark-fishing “tournaments” are treated as jolly human-interest news items, not pathological misbehavior.

Sharks may not be cuddly, but they are not evil, either. The continuing demonization of them in all sorts of media does a disservice to the planet.

Why Hofstra?

April 29th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

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This is the time of year that admitted students are making up their minds, and they have been coming to the campus, calling, and otherwise seeking guidance on their choices in record numbers.

When I am asked to answer the question, “Why should I choose Hofstra,” the challenge I find is to make the answer as concise as possible, because I see so many reasons to come here.

But if I had to boil it down to two, I would leave aside many of our favorite talking points — great facilities, proximity to New York, a wealth of curricular and co-curricular activities — and concentrate on two things: top-flight teaching and a culture of collaboration and achievement here at the School of Communication.

Hofstra likes to say that “excellence in teaching is the expected standard” — which can sound like boilerplate. But the reality is that not only is excellence in teaching expected, there are an array of steps in place to make sure that we reach that standard. We perform careful screening of those who apply to teach here; we undertake extensive monitoring of classroom performance (including student evaluations of teaching, observations of junior—and senior—faculty by experienced teachers, and formal assessment of learning outcomes; and we intervene quickly when a teacher is having trouble hitting the expected standard, offering a variety of services on campus to help them become more effective classroom instructors, more caring mentors, and more consistent evaluators of student work.

All of this adds up to both a crystal-clear expectation of teaching excellence and a system designed to support those who need guidance.

Much of what we teach has a collaborative aspect, and the School of Communication has a culture of collaboration inside the classroom and outside. Students work together on film productions, Web sites, televised news programs, magazine production, public relations projects, radio broadcasts, and oratorical performances. For most of our students, internships with local media companies and related industries is a big part of the undergraduate experience, and students collaborate on sharing leads, opening doors, and working to build Hofstra’s network in the New York City area.

I have spoken with many employers in my three years as dean here, and they consistently praise their Hofstra interns for their seriousness, their preparation for the job, and their work ethic.

For incoming students, there is a record of success to build on in their own careers here, and dedicated faculty and staff to help them seize the opportunity and make the most of it. All this makes my job easy when I have to answer the question, “Why Hofstra?”

Books and the Future

March 8th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

1984

In the age of the e-book, with bookstores in retreat and the physical book increasingly seen as an environmental anachronism, I feel the need to put in a word for the old-fashioned book.

I did my best to embrace the new order a few years ago, buying a Kindle and being given an iPad for Father’s Day one year. I ordered some books, and enjoyed the instant delivery and the ability to read across platforms—picking up something I had been reading at home on the Kindle or on my iPad while waiting in line at a store, etc. But after about a year the Kindle broke, and the iPad is now mostly used by my sons to play Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies. And I am back to buying physical copies of books.

Why? Am I just used to what I am used to? I don’t see it that way. The iPad is, to me, an inferior way to read a book—too heavy, no good in bright sun, apt to need recharging, and useless for the crucial times of takeoff and landing, when a good book is the best diversion from the tedium of air travel. The Kindle is a better weight, works in bright sun—but brings little delight to the act of reading.

A nicely made book is a delight. With a good cover (or even, as above, a cheesy one), well-selected layout and typeface, good paper, a nice binding, a book can be a joy to hold in the hand.

And even if they are not wonderful examples of the printer’s and binder’s art, they can be vivid Proustian reminders of the time you read the book the first time. The “1984” cover reproduced above is the one I encountered in my family’s library when I was quite young—too young to read it. That saucy illustration conveyed to me a sort of illicit excitement, and certainly predisposed me to read the book. In the event, it was a bit less saucy a book than the cover promised—and, of course, a far better one.

Electronic copies lack that sort of resonance—but the fact that so many books are now, essentially, free (in the public domain) is a great thing, and so is the wireless delivery of them for travelers.

And for those of us who love the book as an object, I suspect there will arise a set of businesses catering to our tastes, for a price. After all, in spite of the rise of MP3s, I still can (and do) order new albums from Green Day, or Cat Power, or Bob Dylan on good old black vinyl.

Maybe the pleasure of holding a hardback book in the hands is a taste shared by a diminishing percentage of the population, but I suspect that the book will survive this change of tastes.

As to the new forms that will emerge as the capabilities of tablets and other technologies mature—I look forward to learning to navigate them with pleasure.

Photo: George Orwell, 1984, Signet Books 1951. Cover art by Alan Harmon.

Ed Koch: under the adulation

February 7th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

Originally Published in Columbia Journalism Review (February 4, 2013)

Ed Koch: under the adulation
A press secretary looks back at Hizzoner and the media

By Evan Cornog

The death of former New York mayor Edward I. Koch last week at age 88 brought forth a flood of reminiscences (including my own) about him. Many recollections stressed Ed as a personality—the wisecracking New Yorker (by which many implied New York Jew)—and portrayed his persona as mayor and his persona as the TV judge on The People’s Court as cut from the same cloth.

This line of argument is perfectly reasonable, but tells us more about how the press functioned during his time in office than it does about his mayoralty. I served in his press office from 1980 to 1983, and became intimately familiar with this depiction of Ed. We all realized that Ed’s outsized personality could be a great political asset. After all, Fiorello LaGuardia, whom Ed greatly admired, showed how useful it was to reach his audience as directly and as powerfully as he could. I don’t recall Ed ever reading the comics from the papers over the radio, but he certainly strived to connect, through the media, with the individual citizens. “How’m I doin’” was just one manifestation of that effort.

Representatives of the national and international media would drop by for a few days, gather the requisite quotes and clips, and present their audiences with the standard portrait—the mayor as canny vaudevillian, raising the spirits of a crumbling city that was widely seen as in a terminal tailspin.

Of course, this sort of coverage drove some reporters crazy. Chief among the detractors were Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett at The Village Voice, who anatomized every link between the city government and the real-estate interests, and chronicled the various accommodations Koch the onetime Village Independent Democrats reformer made with the party bosses in the boroughs.

But the people who were really driven crazy by the adulation of Koch were the regular City Hall reporters, the denizens of Room 9 who covered every aspect of city government, fought with their desks for stories they believed in, and really tried to cover the complexity of the city’s travails as it fought to recover from decades of fiscal mismanagement.

And the reality was, we in the Koch administration wanted to help them with those stories, because we felt that our administration was doing a good job. The city was falling apart because for decades politicians from the mayor on down had been more interested in building shiny new schools and libraries and parks than in maintaining the things that had already been built. The perception was that people were only willing to pay New York City’s high taxes for those sort of projects.

The first public event I went to after I joined the press office was a groundbreaking for a sewer renovation in the Bronx. Let me tell you, getting anyone to come on that junket was a challenge. I think The Associated Press sent someone (mostly to be there in case the mayor was assaulted by a lunatic), and perhaps a couple of others attended, but I don’t think a single story was filed. Still, Koch was sending the message that the city had to take care if its fundamental infrastructure, and that it had to pay money to do so. Reporters from Paris or Tokyo or Los Angeles were seldom interested in that sort of detail but, over time, the message began to get across.

Some reporters (and some press secretaries) rolled their eyes in boredom as city officials discussed changing garbage collection from three-man trucks to two-man trucks, over strenuous union objections, or adopting the one-man catch-basin cleaner (don’t ask). Truly, the eyes glaze over at some of this. But that was what was needed. The move to two-man trucks resulted in huge savings, and over the time I was there, in the early 1980s, the city came back to fiscal responsibility and began to right itself.

Koch was hardly alone in making this happen. He would likely have failed if not for the strong leadership in support of the city shown by then Governor Hugh L. Carey. Bob Kiley and David Gunn helped turn around a dysfunctional Transit Authority and began to improve service on the subways and buses that are the metropolis’s circulatory system.

Throughout all this, our “communications strategy” was basically to try to keep our heads above water and tell what we were doing. There was no great Schlieffin Plan for the press—just daily care and feeding.

Sure, we liked some reporters more than others, but overall the relations between the administration and the press were open and cordial. Certainly they seemed that way to veteran City Hall reporters when they looked back on the Koch years during the Giuliani era. At one event held to discuss the Giuliani Administration’s maltreatment of the press, Wayne Barrett came up to me to remark on how open and fair we had been. The wheel turns.

When I recall that time, I am particularly struck by the simplicity of our tools. When I started, we were still doing press releases on typewriters (we finally managed to cadge a superannuated word processor from another city department). We wore beepers, and carried quarters to be able to use public phones when we were out and about. Press releases were hand-delivered to Room 9, and an AP teletype machine sat in a closet for us to monitor breaking news. No Web, no social media, the gatekeepers still firmly ensconced on their editorial thrones—there is a distant, almost artisanal air about it.

But, just as I think the Koch Administration largely did a good job in difficult times, I think the City Hall reporters largely held up their end. Reforms in the city’s managerial and fiscal practices were thoroughly covered, in spite of the fact that they did not always make the most gripping reading. And so, of course, were mistakes and scandals.

Our relations with the press were, fundamentally, adversarial, but they were also respectful. For the truth of the matter was, a lot of our internal meetings were governed by the unspoken question, What would this program or decision look like if we read about it in tomorrow’s Daily News? In a democracy, as it turns out, that’s a pretty good question to have hanging over your head.

Evan Cornog , former associate dean for academic affairs at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the former publisher of CJR, is dean of the School of Communication at Hofstra University.

Ed Koch Sweated the Details

February 4th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

Originally published on Newsday.com – February 1, 2013

Photo credit: AP | Ed Koch in the office of his campaign manager, David Garth, in September 1977.

If Fiorello LaGuardia embodied New York for those we now call the Greatest Generation, it was a member of that generation, Ed Koch, who personified the city for the generations that came after. His death Friday from congestive heart failure is a loss felt by just about everyone who loves New York City.

The city that Koch took charge of in January 1978 was still in its fiscal tailspin, and had experienced widespread looting and rioting the summer before when a blackout cut power for more than a day. Had anyone then painted a picture of the city of the present, with its dramatically lower crime rate, redeveloped neighborhoods and confident global profile, it would have been dismissed as a foolish fantasy.

But the city did not turn into the penal colony portrayed in the Kurt Russell movie “Escape from New York.” And while many people, and forces, deserve credit for the change in fortunes, it was Ed Koch who changed the story, and restored New York’s faith in its future.

I worked for the mayor from 1980 to 1983, joining his press office as an assistant press secretary just two weeks before the transit strike. By the time I left my post as press secretary in the summer of 1983, the city had balanced its budget and was beginning to address the legacy of decades of neglected maintenance of its vital infrastructure.

Much of the press about Koch, then and now, has concentrated on his public image, with a generous helping of descriptors such as “feisty” and “combative.” And certainly a lot of his effectiveness as a politician came from his ability to get his positions across through the media. But what this misses is how dedicated he was to the actual day-to-day governing of the city.

In the three and a half years I worked for him, I must have sat though a large number of the substantive meetings he had. And what impressed me above all was that nearly all the time, the question he was trying to answer was: What was the best choice for the entire city?

This is not to say that he didn’t care about his political career, but he had sufficient confidence in himself, and in democracy, to feel that if he found the right answer to that question often enough, his career would take care if itself. And he was right. Of course, he didn’t always find the right answer, and at times political expediency shaped the course of policy more than he would have liked. But in the years I worked for him, I never saw him less than passionate about the city he led.

He came across as a man with a big ego, but he was eager to surround himself with the best commissioners and deputy mayors he could find, and displayed no fear of being overshadowed (as if). As a boss he was certainly demanding, and if you messed up, he let you know it. If you messed up badly, you were gone. But he also was capable of a thoughtfulness about others that is seldom discussed in assessments of him.

One of the duties of press office members was to be with the mayor at any public appearance, no matter when or where. Sometimes this meant getting up in the middle of the night to meet the mayor at a hospital where he was visiting a police officer or firefighter who had been hurt in the line of duty. One night, a call came for me at 2 a.m. that the mayor was on his way to a hospital in Queens to see a cop who’d been shot. A police car came to my house in Brooklyn and took me to the hospital. The mayor met with the doctors, talked to the press about the officer (who survived), and, in the midst of all that, made it his business to find me a ride back to my home. It was a small, but to me very meaningful, example of the sort of person he was.

So while we remember Ed Koch the cheerleader for New York, I want also to remember the man who sweated the details — both for the city he loved and for those who worked with him. Rest in peace, Ed.

Evan Cornog is dean of the School of Communication at Hofstra University