Q&A: Prof fosters new media
Rice helps usher in changing journalism landscape
Published: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 12:10
Elizabeth Evans, lifestyles writer, talks with journalism lecturer Dale Rice.THE BATTALION: Why did you get into journalism?
RICE: I know it’s going to sound corny, but I got into journalism because I thought it made a difference. You have to understand that my formative college years were during the Watergate era and so I saw journalists as being able to contribute to a better democracy, a better performing government, to serve a valuable watchdog role to keep the citizenry informed and I thought this was something I’d really like to do. That’s what prompted me, these kind of lofty ideals.THE BATTALION: What was one of your favorite moments or stories as a journalist?
RICE: If you asked me about memorable news stories I was involved in, when I was at the Dallas Times Herald as the education writer, we did a project that the then-secretary of education called the most important project in education that an American newspaper had ever done. We gave a test to a group of American students that were the national average on nationally norm standardized achievement tests — 12 year olds. We got the test given in a variety of other industrialized nations: Japan, France, Switzerland, Germany. Anyway, we had the test given in a number of places around the world to see how American students stack up to their counterparts worldwide. These tests were designed by Nobel laureates and other people famous in their field who designed a test of what they thought 12 year olds should know. All of the networks sent reporters to Dallas to come into the newsroom and interview me and the team that worked on the series they did, because they considered this such a huge deal.
THE BATTALION: Why did you decide to become a journalism professor?
RICE: Because it offered a great opportunity to help the next generation of journalists through what I see as a very difficult transition period in journalism. We’re moving to a time in which a very wide skill set is needed for journalists. The average journalist now has to be able to produce a story for print, write a blog, write other online versions, take video while they’re out doing a story, maybe even take the first photographs on the scene and upload those to the website before the photographer arrives. So you have a huge amount of responsibility now as a journalist and I thought that given my 35 years in journalism, all the reporting, writing and editing that I’d done, as well as being among the early bloggers that made the foray into more and more online presence, that I could make a contribution to journalism education.
THE BATTALION: What has been your most life-changing moment?
RICE: Given the way my life has gone, I would have to say my most life-changing moment was running out of money in my first semester of graduate school and having to apply for a job. One of my friends said, “You know, you ought to apply to the newspaper, you’re a journalism major.” I said, “Oh, I don’t think I have enough experience.” I called the editor of the paper in Syracuse and asked, ‘Do you have any openings, I’d like to apply.’ He said, “As a matter of fact, I do have one. Come on in.” So I went in and he did an interview initially and then said, “Okay, now I’m a sergeant in the police force and there’s just been a bad accident, question me about it and then write the story.” And so I asked him all kinds of questions and he sent me off to a typewriter and I wrote the story and gave it to him and he called me the next day and offered me a job.
THE BATTALION: What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone wanting to pursue journalism?
RICE: My advice would be to get a broad education that includes journalism, so I very much endorse the kind of interdisciplinary approach that we take here, because I think that in the 21st century, it’s absolutely critical for journalists to think on their feet, to react quickly to changing aspects of a story or an event. It shows how important critical thinking skills are and I think that getting a broad education, especially in the liberal arts with the journalism education that helps you learn how to write in a particular way and report stories, that is one piece. The other piece is to really take advantage of a variety of internships and other practical experiences that give you a leg up on the competition.