Network Television Producer, Class of '87
The graduate advisor teaching my freshman Great Books class in the fall of 1982 told us that everything we learned and discussed in this class and at the University of Michigan really did not mean a thing unless we could relate that information to anybody we met, a person at the gas station or someone sitting in a bar. These lessons about the Iliad translated from ancient Greek were not something to be treasured in the world of academia, but rather practiced and shared in the real world and the way we lived our lives. As a career network news producer for ABC News 20/20 and Primetime and now CBS News 48 Hours that’s a lesson that sticks with me every day. None of the material I produce and write for broadcasts watched by millions of viewers means a thing if I cannot relate that message to whoever happens to turn the channel or click on our website.
At my job as a network television producer, I find myself meeting people to evaluate their tales of tragedy or triumph, digging through records to unearth investigative revelations, directing camera crews to catch the action as it happens, or sitting at a keyboard writing a script or an article. Whatever I’m doing my goal is always the same, I’m trying to identify, prepare and present a story worth telling. As an English major at U-M, I took classes for English credit in film, literature, creative writing, poetry and others. In each and every case I was honing my skills at developing a sense of story. Back in my day, counselors, professors and advisers at U-M always urged students to trust in a classic education, not to get hung up on practicality of the courses, but rather to focus on learning and experiencing a wide range of classes. It seemed like a risk, but at this stage in my career there’s nothing more valuable to me than the sense of story I honed as an English major at U-M.
In my field of television journalism a directly relatable degree in communications or journalism is arguably more practical, but I do not think I would have earned the same broad appreciation for style, history, composition (even vocabulary) that I can leverage as a U-M English major. There is no amount of practicality that I would trade for the inspiration that came from a film class on Stanley Kubrick and Prof Baulin’s magical talent for dissecting the powerful sense of story from a film such as Clockwork Orange, or the majestic memory of looking out the window at the Diag as (finally) a spring breeze blew through the window while classmates speculated and debated the story immersed in a poem. The University of Michigan English Department is a place that brings literature and ideas into the real world where they can be practiced and shared.