Forty Years as a Professor of Journalism

Forty Years as a Professor of Journalism
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This year 2018 marks my 40th year as a professor of journalism. I started teaching in 1978 at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury on Long Island. Each year I’ve had a couple of hundred students which, times 40, comes to a total of thousands of students.

We happily recall our teachers, and the opposite is true, too: I fondly recall students—and relish in their successes. As a teacher you get to know your students well. Your lives intertwine.

Larry Lawson is now director of news and coordinating producer at the New England Sports Network. After I began to teach classes at SUNY/Old Westbury, I started an internship program placing students in media all over the New York Metro Area. I feel internships are vitally important—it’s how I was inspired to go into journalism, an internship as an Antioch College student at the Cleveland Press.

I helped Larry, keenly intelligent and personable, get an internship at WCBS-TV in New York. He did well and then, as he told the story on a visit back to Old Westbury a while back, he was offered a job—but working in the mail room at the CBS network. He spoke of not wanting this, of seeking to be a producer, and calling his old professor and asking me—I remember the conversation well—what to do. I advised him to take the job as a “foot in the door.” He said that even though but a mail clerk, he was noticed—and taken under the wings of 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley and Andy Rooney. And in short order, this young man “from the projects in Brooklyn,” he noted, was a producer at CBS, then moving on to CNN, Black Entertainment Television and ESPN, and is now at the helm of an important sports network.

There was Sid McCain, daughter of U.S. Senator John McCain. She was my student at Southampton College where, in addition to teaching at SUNY/Old Westbury, I taught for 25 years part-time as an adjunct professor until, sadly, it was shut down.

Sid has courage and sharpness like her dad. She took my Investigative Reporting course and, being an animal-lover, decided to do a hard-hitting expose in the college newspaper on the treatment of test animals in the psychobiology program at the college. The professor who ran the program was furious and went after Sid and me, as advisor to the paper. I recall the times sitting with Sid waiting for a set of tense meetings to begin. In the end, Sid and a free press won. She’s now promotions director at WMSE radio in Milwaukee.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Old Westbury graduate Michael Schuch: “Mr. Grossman, This is atypical of me to contact one of my professors—or dare I even say mentors. I want to thank you. A long time ago—about 30 years—you suggested that I intern at Cablevision. I don’t know why. It was a surprise to me. Your recommendation gave me the start to a productive career. I finished the internship and realized I had a love for the technical side of the industry. Since then I’ve started a company that is respected as one of the best in the world at what we do. I often reflect and appreciate that without your suggestion—whatever you saw in me—it may have not been possible. I thank you.”

It doesn’t get any better than that for a professor! Turns out Michael has a company, CMS Audio/Visual, with offices in New York and London and numerous and major global clients.

My former student Michelle Imperato is an anchorwoman at WESH-TV in Orlando, Florida; Ed Easton, Jr. is at WINS radio in New York; last year’s Old Westbury graduate Moses Nunez, Jr. just got a job as a broadcast operations coordinator at NBC in New York; Selena Hill is digital editor of Black Enterprise magazine in New York; Kathryn Menu is editor of the Sag Harbor Express; Dean Harding is at NBC News; Beth Young started and edits the East End Beacon; Francy Rios is assignment desk editor at News12 The Bronx; Tim Gannon is a reporter for the Riverhead News-Review; Pat Rogers is publisher of and journalist at Hamptons Art Hub; Fred Towle is sales and marketing director at the South Shore Press; Megan Kapler is a filmmaker in New York; Annette Fuentes has been a reporter for the New York Daily News and an editor at Newsday and is an author; Niclas Gillis, a student at SUNY Old Westbury from Sweden, is a writer and director in New York; Asha Johnson is a videographer at News12 Long Island; Eric Wald is co-publisher of The Waldo Tribune; Annette Hinkle is community news editor at the Shelter Island Reporter. And the list goes on.

Some of my ex-students are in government work. Fran Evans is a spokesperson for the Suffolk County Legislature; Tim Laube was the clerk of the legislature and is now business manager of the Eastport-South Manor School District on Long Island; Brian Frank is chief environmental analyst for the Town of East Hampton; Jeff Szabo became a deputy Suffolk County executive and since 2010 has been CEO of the Suffolk County Water Authority. I know my Environmental Journalism class Jeff and Brian took has been helpful in their positions. Brian told me it was “the inspiration” for him to get into environmental work.

Some students, like me, after years in journalism went into teaching it. Claire Serant is at Brooklyn College and Bill O’Connell, a professor of communications at Suffolk County Community College.

The years of doing and teaching journalism have been very fulfilling.

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