MEGHAN- Howdy Ags, I’m Meghan Wall and Welcome to “Write Right.” Today we’ll be talking to journalist Dale Rice about his experience in the news business as well as gaining tips for students interested in pursuing a journalism career.
Dale Rice graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism. He then worked 35-years in the newspaper business for well known papers like the Dallas Times Herald and the Austin American Statesman. Rice has worked in every facet of the news business from being a general assignments reporter, to covering education, city hall, business, working as a bureau chief, a features editor, and most recently a restaurant critic. He has covered issues ranging from school desegregation, to murder investigation, the legislature, and great places to eat.
Rice retired from the news business last year and came to A&M to teach journalism courses in media writing and political blogging.
MEGHAN: How did you get your first journalism job?
DALE RICE- My first job was really a fluke in a way because I got the journalism degree with no intention of ever using it. That sort of whole idea of the kinds of things journalist do, you know, call people up to ask them how they feel about someone who just died, and things like that made me go oh-my-word I’m not sure I really want to pursue this, although I really enjoyed all of the courses, especially the writing courses I had took. But I was in graduate school planning on getting a masters in economics and at the end of the first semester I ran out of money. And so I guess you might call it a desperate move. I called the editor of the newspaper in Syracuse and asked if by any chance they were looking for any reporters and he said yes and invited me to come in for an interview. So I trotted down to the newspaper with my clips in hand, because I had written for the student newspaper at Syracuse University. And got in, and he did a full-fledged interview that included having me write a story on deadline right on the spot. He had me interview him as though he was a police chief talking about a crime that had just happened. So I had to ask him all the questions and sit down and write the story and hand it in to him. And low and behold to my shock he hired me.
MEGHAN: What made you decide to stay in journalism?
Again those first few months it was like, do I really want to do this? And then I was handed the education beat and just a few weeks after I was handed the education beat the city got hit with an order to desegregate the public schools and from that moment on my job became, as far as I was concerned, became one of the most fascinating jobs in the world and it stayed that way up until I retired last year.
MEGHAN: Why should someone go into a career in journalism?
Well, I think there are two reasons to go into a career in journalism. One is a personal reason, and that’s because you love the idea of reporting and writing and being, what I think is the second reason, a very critical component for democracy. I think freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any good democracy, and so I think that it is so incredibly important to have good journalists out there, not only covering what’s going on but really looking for the underlying reasons that things are happening. And so, I think if you want to be a part of that sort of work then it’s a great reason to head into journalism.
MEGHAN: What types of journalism jobs are out there?
Well, and there are all kinds of writing for newspapers too. I mean, not only would there be the writing about politics and government but of course there is feature writing, there is sports reporting, and business reporting so there are all sorts of kinds of writing. Beyond writing for newspapers, the magazine industry in the last couple of decades has in fact grown substantially. There is all kinds of niche publications and huge numbers of them have full time professional writers as well as using part-time freelance writers as well. And so right there there’s a lot of room. And then you have television and radio, and while a lot of television or radio stations would be looking for someone with a broadcast degree, others might be willing to take a chance on somebody who just has a pure journalism degree, but who has the background for knowing how to do interviews, how to ask the right questions, how to get at the heart of the story, and how to do a good job reporting that in a way that’s understandable.
MEGHAN: What journalism experience can students get at A&M?
Well right now a student at A&M can minor in journalism, we hope to have a major in the future but right now it’s a minor. And you can take the writing courses we offer as part of the journalism minor and you look for other related courses that would be amazingly useful to you as a reporter. A good example of that would be taking the public opinion course in political science that talks about opinion surveys and how those statistics are often incorrectly manipulated by the media. So one way that you could become a particularly well informed journalists is by taking a course such as that.
MEGHAN: What do students gain from a journalism course?
Within the journalism program, I think our concentration really is on the writing side of journalism, and of course totally paired with that is reporting, because you don’t just simply sit down and write a story with no preparation. You actually have to go out and do the reporting as well and so you learn a lot of reporting skills: including interview skills and how to approach a subject, how to ask the right questions, and really to think about what are the right questions and all of the kinds of information that you should be gathering before you sit at that computer to begin writing. But, I would say all of our writing courses, we call them writing courses, but you can’t ignore that there’s in fact a big reporting component in there as well.
MEGHAN- Dale Rice teaches Media Writing I and II, which are listed as W courses. For more information on these courses and to look at a syllabus, check out our website at writingcenter.tamu.edu.
Tune in next time where Mr. Rice will discuss how to write a news story. Thanks for listening to “Write Right!” Goodbye!