NM: Having spent over 40 years in the journalism profession, how do you think the career of journalism has changed and how do you think it is going to keep changing?
KG: I think anybody who's a consumer of the media, and especially traditional legacy print media, has seen a tremendous shift in the last 10 or 15 years. The first glimpse came years ago when Craigslist shows up and starts taking away classified advertising from traditional print newspapers.
That was the beginning of the process. And then the whole online journalism world exploded. Legacy media has struggled to make sense of that. They used to do a ton of freelance work on the side for Sacramento Bee, which is a McClatchy paper, and then McClatchy declared bankruptcy and was purchased out of the bankruptcy process by a hedge fund.
We don't know yet what that's going to mean for McClatchy journalism, but it's going to be different. And much of journalism, print journalism, has changed. But I think what hasn't changed, and what I try to emphasize with students, is that you have to be more nimble. You have to have a broader skill set.
You can't just be a word guy. You can't just be a video person. You have to be able to do a little bit of everything. You have to be able to record interviews, throw together a podcast, put together a slideshow, be able to do a little bit of the backend on a website. You have to be able to write clearly and coherently.
You have to be able to speak clearly and coherently. A journalist used to be able to be a little bit more narrowly focused, and I think that's changed for people who still have some interest in going into journalism. You have to be more broadly based. The fact is that most of my students don't end up as journalists.
I've had a handful of students end up in the print world and a couple in the broadcast world, but not a huge number. They've got skills and those skills have broadened over the past 15 to 20 years. They get a little taste of journalism in high school and then they move on.
Lots of my students do go on to work for their college newspapers. I've got lots of students who've worked at UC Berkeley’s The Daily Californian, UCLA’s The Daily Bruin, and at other school newspapers around the country. They may not end up in journalism as a profession, but they've got a skill set that's going to serve them no matter what they do.
Most importantly, they're better citizens. They understand the role of the First Amendment. They understand media literacy. How do you check the facts? How do you check background? What's gone into the content that people are consuming? I think that's critical these days. There's lots of misinformation and lots of disinformation out there. While journalism has changed, the heartbeat of journalism is about truth—making sure what's true and what's not, whether you're a consumer of journalism or a producer of it.
The ease of consumption and the means of production have changed and skillsets are broadening, but the heartbeat of journalism is still what it's always been.
NM: Two months from now, you decide, “I appreciate retirement, but I've been asked by my district to be a mentor for someone new to teaching.” We know that not many teachers are staying in the profession for 40 years. The new trend is for teachers to remain three to five years and then they move on. If you were asked to mentor a new teacher, what advice would you have about how to build relationships with students?
KG: That's a heartbeat question in a lot of ways, because the relationships in classrooms are what make things happen. The magic that occurs in classrooms is because of the teacher and the teacher's ability to connect in a positive way with students.
It's not about content divorced from those relationships. I am a mentor with the Journalism Education Association (JEA), which represents journalism teachers. I've got two mentees at this point. The challenge is, how do you establish relationships on a screen? That's the short-term challenge for teachers across the country on top of all of the absolutely legitimate concern about the virus and health issues. Assuming that's not a problem, take that and set that on the shelf, how do you establish relationships with young people when they're an image on a screen and so are you?
I think that's the challenge. I think that's the hard part. I've seen teachers come up with creative ways to engage kids online using Kahoot! online quiz activities and icebreaker style questions to make sure the relationship piece isn't lost. I think the relationship piece is most important.
I try to treat young adults, young men and women, as young adults. They're still students, but they're figuring out their way. Give them responsibility, guide them, have conversations, coach them as needed, praise them publicly and give them constructive criticism privately. Make sure we all know what the goal is: go out and do good journalism.
And then let them go; let them run. Point them in the right direction as needed. Students respond positively to being treated like responsible young adults and being respected as responsible young adults.
That's what I would tell a young teacher. You make a mistake if you err on the side of content, as opposed to erring on the side of relationships. Those positive relationships allow you to get to the content, allow you to get to the curriculum. But if you focus strictly on the curriculum and you ignore the relationship side of it, I think you'll be less successful.