Q To begin with, what is your history with journalism?
A I began working on my high school newspaper 2 or 3 years before graduation. I was a journalism major as an undergraduate in college. I worked for a couple of newspaper during my college years. I went into the Navy after I graduated from college. Most of my time spent in the Navy was working on All Hands Magazine, which is the Navy’s personal publication. And I was freelancing for different newspapers at that point. When I got out of the Navy, I worked on my Doctorate degree and got a job teaching journalism at The University of Alabama. I stayed there for 25 years, during which I worked for a couple of newspapers. Some were part-time for this and that. I left Alabama in 2003 and went to Emory, Virginia for 3 years. In 2006, I moved to Knoxville.
Q What was the typical, or most popular format of media during your time? For example, was print quite popular, or maybe radio?
A I’m not sure I can answer that specifically. I was interested in print. I was interested in newspapers. So That was most prominent for me.
Q Do think that has changed?
A It probably wouldn’t be print because that has receded. But, I like to write and I like to report and I like to do the things associated with what we used to think as print.
Q Speaking of the format of media, sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post seem to be popularizing the use of “to the point” journalism instead of “long form” writing. Which do you prefer, both as a creator and a receiver?
A I’m not sure I prefer one over the other. They have their use and appel to certain people. What we try to teach students both so that they can make a good choice there. I think that is one of the ways journalism is changing because we are shifting from something that used to be very media-specific to getting something on your electronic device, there may be a variety of ways you may be getting that news source.
Q Do you think “to the point” journalism is the media layout of tomorrow?
A I think so. I think people want stories, they want news. We have kind of have had them in the same grouping together, but they are separating as they probably should.
Q If so, will the media world lose a certain “high quality essence”?
A I don’t know that I ever bought into the “high quality” stuff. Newspapers have been around for a long time with excellent journalism. They also did really shotty journalism. I saw both happen. I don’t think it is a matter of the medium. I think it is a matter of how much care they take in the news.
Q Even though no form of media, even telegraphs, has died out, many believe that print journalism is on its way out. Do you agree? Why?
A I would disagree because print has it’s uses. Print used to be the only medium. What has happened in the last 15 years is that we have seen this radical change. Your journalism doesn’t have to be in print any longer to exist. Print is probably going to be around for a while. Print has become pretty expensive compared to some other things now, where it used to be fairly cheap. What we should always be concerned about is the content, not the medium.
Q If it were to succumb to the electronic media, would anything be lost? Or would the journalism industry work just as efficiently and successfully?
A I have made the argument that the quicker newspapers die out, the better journalism will be, because we would finally be forced to take advantage of the mediums online offers. Right now, most print newspapers are still operating in a print kind of world. They don’t understand that they could do so much more. So, I think a lot of things are going to change because of the technology.
Q As a professor, you train young minds to prepare for the journalism industry. Do your methods of teaching, or what you teach, change drastically over the years as media is innovated?
A We have always had to pay great amounts of attention to the technology, whatever technology we are using. When I started as a journalism major, I had to prove that I could do basic typing skills because not everyone could do that. I am sure there are people of a previous generation who were saying “Why should you learn how to type?”. So, we have always followed the technology. We have always had to pay attention to making sure our students had a technological norm or standard. I suspect it will always be the case.
Q Do you encourage students to pursue this field, even though it has a reputation to be one of the most competitive fields?
A Why not? It has always been competitive. It is never offered great monetary rewards. People get into it because they find other rewards. The career paths that students have now are much different than what I had, and they seem to be more complex.
Q What advice do you give to your students about the future, or the uncertainty, the journalism industry?
A Uncertainty means that there are lots of opportunities there. If you are looking for stability, get a government job. If you are creative and have a passion for things that journalists do, then by all means pursue it. There are lots of opportunities out there. I fact, I think there are lots for opportunities now than when I was graduating. For instance, when I was an undergraduate journalism major, neither I nor anyone else even thought they could be a publisher of anything. And now, I am teaching my senior level class how to publish and be their own publisher. So, I just think the opportunities are there.
What Is Your History With Journalism?
Q To begin with, what is your history with journalism?
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