Opinion: Experienced journalists are needed as teachers. I became one when I least expected it.
Castaneda is an associate columnist and opinion writer at the San Diego Union-Tribune and teaches online at Palomar College and San Diego City College. She lives in Chula Vista.
I never wanted to teach journalism. I thought I would just practice it. And I never imagined that I would still be in the virtual classroom today.
My reporting contract was not renewed at KGTV Channel 10 in 2000 after a change in management, and that changed my career. I wasn’t ready to leave San Diego, so I started looking for other options. I could have moved on to one of the other local affiliates. But after nearly 10 years of covering crime, law enforcement, and what seemed like the same stories over and over again, I felt I needed a change.
A friend of mine encouraged me to contact San Diego City College. At the time, it had one of the most successful radio, television, and film departments in the local community colleges. I met the department chairman, Hope Shaw, a legend in local media circles. She led the department for decades and many of her former students were successful industry professionals like Bree Walker, Dave Scott, Lisa Lake and director Cameron Crowe. Hope and I clicked instantly, and she became a wonderful mentor to me. She hired me on a part-time basis and encouraged me to pass on my knowledge to those who wanted to learn the trade.
I really enjoyed seeing people from all walks of life show up on day one knowing nothing about the broadcast industry and then walk away 16 weeks later with the skills they needed to be hired at local TV stations . It wasn’t long before they started getting jobs and making a huge impact on English and Spanish news.
Over the years, long-serving faculty, including Hope, have ceased to teach full-time at City College. Before doing so, she called me into her office and we had an in-depth conversation about teaching. She told me there was a full-time job opening up and she wanted me to apply. But even though I enjoyed the students and was in class one day a week, I just couldn’t see myself teaching full time. I was still working part-time as a reporter for Cox Channel 4’s “San Diego Insider Magazine”. I loved the longer format storytelling and didn’t think I was done yet. Then Hope said something I’ll never forget: “Teaching gives you the best of both worlds.” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Especially since my own family was growing. I cherish that last conversation with Hope because sadly she died in a drowning accident a year later at the age of 70.
In 2004, I became a full-time assistant professor. This involved teaching three extra classes per semester, spending time on prep, grading, and many administrative and service tasks that I didn’t expect.
I taught the Capstone News class, RTVF 145, also known as “Newscene”. The students worked as a team to produce their own 30-minute newscast every week, on schedule. The show aired on ITV San Diego’s county education channel, which added pressure. Technology was constantly changing and this often meant battling with administration for equipment and budgets. But we knew we were doing something right because the information officers called us for our students.
Many of them have won local and national awards. Dozens now work as on-air reporters, news anchors, producers and even news directors. Some have gone into filmmaking and technical jobs, and others have started their own music production businesses, or are now working in public relations and marketing.
Looking back, I learned as much from my students as they learned from me. I’m so proud of them.
If Hope taught me anything, it’s that teaching is demanding. Earn a Ph.D. and teaching at a university is never an easy task, of course, but Hope pointed out that students also clearly benefit from professors who have industry experience, even without an advanced degree. This is partly why at the community college level, in vocational training programs, a master’s or doctorate. is not always necessary.
Many current and former journalists also juggle teaching as part of their workload. I contacted a few of these teachers to ask them why they choose to teach, especially after the pandemic, when students’ lives are more complicated.
Jerry McCormick, a communications professional who has worked in print and television, said, “I teach journalism because it’s my passion. As a person of color, I don’t see enough people in this field, and as a teacher, I hope to be a role model for my students. I’m a poor black kid from South Carolina, and if I can do it, anyone can.
Lora Cicalo is the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she has worked for 35 years, and has taught journalism at San Diego State University for 15 years. “Teaching is both a way to give back and a way to stay in touch with the next generation of journalists and news consumers. I believe it is essential to bring real-world issues and experiences into the classroom and, in return, I have the opportunity to learn how students view the media ecosystem and their place in it. this one.
I hope more journalists consider the classroom. Good teachers are needed more than ever in the journalism industry.