Travis Linn: An appreciation
The dean set the tone for journalists in Nevada
Even with Travis Linn’s passing, you can still walk the halls of the Reynolds School of Journalism and hear that unmistakable voice of his. It was a gift from God, that voice of his: resonant, intelligent, commanding.
It was the voice of a man who excelled in everything he did: from graduating from Harvard to rising through the ranks of radio and television in Texas to becoming Southwest Bureau Chief for CBS News to earning the appointment as first dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism to pioneering a new media curriculum at his school.
Travis passed away in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 17, at age 64 following a brief illness, and already those of us who knew him miss him.
In spring 1987, I remember a meeting with Travis. He was dean of Journalism then, and I had an iron-clad plan to get out of the foreign language requirement demanded of all journalism majors.
Why did I need foreign language when I would be communicating in English?
“Young man,” Travis finally responded, pausing for emphasis on the “young,” “have you ever realized that the world is smaller than you think? A good journalist isn’t only a citizen of his community or his country—he is a citizen of the world.”
The Internet revolution was still years away—shrinking the world to the size of a computer screen—but already Travis was on the vanguard of the information age.
I grudgingly took Spanish via correspondence course that summer, cursing Travis under my breath a number of times as I struggled through. A year later, though, during my first job at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, I discovered that Travis was right—the world was much smaller than I had thought.
Thanks to Travis’ insistence, I was the only sportswriter in the Las Vegas Stars’ clubhouse who spoke Spanish. This led to a friendship with a young Latin baseball player named Sandy Alomar Jr.—who would go on to become an all-star catcher with the Indians. Because I spoke Spanish, Sandy gave me a number of important exclusives.
And in perhaps the best Travis Linn tradition—a tradition grounded in the basic decency of all human beings—I was the only working journalist invited to Sandy’s wedding that summer, in a small chapel just off the Strip.
“The fact that you went to the trouble to speak to me in Spanish made all of the difference,” Sandy told me later. “It showed you cared.”
No, Travis was the communicator who cared.
The man was an insatiable learner. More than 10 years ago, he realized what a powerful tool electronic communication would be. He mastered it with a wholehearted, lyrical, insistent joy of someone conquering a new frontier.
It was a tradition for Travis to take his students to breakfast at Archie’s, only a stone’s throw from campus. A man who is Harvard educated and who has stared down Walter Cronkite obviously has high standards, and Travis was indeed a demanding professor. But he was also fair. The breakfast, somehow a variation of his beloved eggs, bacon, toast and coffee—was his way of thanking his students for their hard work.
What a treat it was, to sit over breakfast with a man who could recall Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid and Rather, not as vague apparitions of TV broadcasting past, but as real human beings.
Yet as much as he was a great storyteller, rooted to some extent in the past, Travis kept pushing forward, into the future.
For that, we will never forget him.