Journalism Masterclass: “What I Wish I Knew Then”


By: Alaina Laszewski, Graduate Student

Be curious, read, pick up the phone, and always ask the next question; while their titles are long, their pieces of advice came forth succinctly, with honesty and humor. Audrey Cooper, Editor In Chief, San Francisco Chronicle; Walter Middlebrook, Assistant Managing Editor, The Detroit News; and Tom Cibrowski, Senior Vice President of Programs, News Gathering and Special EventsABC News were the alumni panelists at COM’s Journalism Masterclass on September 24, 2015 entitled, “What I Wish I Knew Then.”

The panelists began the hour by offering an overview of their careers, and then launched into a series of questions varying from “what is an opportunity you wish you’d seized while in college,” to “what is the biggest mistake you see young or aspiring journalists make,” on to “how do you avoid or overcome burnout?” While Cooper, Cibrowski, and Middlebrook live and work in completely different regions of the country, their thoughts touched upon common themes: be patient, work hard, find mentors and stay curious.

In a time when most college students are encouraged to stretch themselves any number of ways, joining numerous clubs and extra-curricular activities, Cooper explained the importance of getting to know people. “One of my bigger regrets from my time here was kind of flitting all over to a lot of different things…I would’ve availed myself more and been a little bit more assertive about getting to know people that might’ve been able to help me.”
When asked whether a journalism degree is necessary, Middlebrook spoke about the importance of a journalistic skill set, regardless of degrees held.

“There are some people who can’t write, but they can ask questions…Some of you are afraid to talk to people and you shouldn’t be in the business. Some of you are afraid to get in front of a microphone and you don’t learn how to enunciate…But there [are] various places in our different shops where you fit in, if this is what you want to be. But you have to practice that skill set.”

Cibrowski cautioned the audience to be careful with social media: “We’re all big on social media…but we’ve had to fire people who Tweet inappropriate things or take a stance. It’s really unfortunate…we can’t show bias. You have to be aware of where you are, who you work for.”

Cooper, Cibrowski, and Middlebrook stayed after the masterclass’ allotted hour, meeting with students to discussing the industry, as well as to offer more personal advice to those who came forward with questions.

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