This is an article from the spring 2018 issue of LSA Magazine. Read more stories from the magazine.
LSA alumnus Robert Yoon (A.B. 1995) wants people to know two things. First, that journalism isn’t a dirty word. And second, that journalists can be pretty different.
A longtime political journalist and researcher, Yoon has worked on five presidential campaign cycles and 30 different presidential debates, producing work that has been recognized with two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and other accolades. He was CNN’s director of political research before the prestigious Knight-Wallace Fellowship brought him back to Ann Arbor, giving him time to think about what he wants to do next in his career.
Back in Ann Arbor, Yoon ran into WCBN’s general manager, LSA junior Jason Young, by chance, and the two started talking about Yoon doing a show on the student-run station. Young suggested a public affairs program. Yoon was particularly interested in journalism as a topic, especially given current conversations about the media.
Yoon’s show, The J Word, featured nationally recognized reporters and anchors such as Judy Woodruff, Bernard Shaw, and Candy Crowley, as well as local journalists—including the outgoing editor-in-chief of the Michigan Daily and writers from U-M’s humor newspaper, the Every Three Weekly. A conversation with radio journalists explored getting good tape in the field, and a roundtable with international journalists cataloged the mortal threats they face around the world from gangsters and corrupt governments.
“There are a lot of different types of journalists, and in many ways their jobs are very similar, but they can also be very different,” Yoon says. “Deciding who the guests were each week was one of the best and also most stressful aspects of doing the show.
“I’ve had a great experience as a Knight-Wallace Fellow,” Yoon says. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve studied coding, Korean language and history, and video and audio production, which are all things that I’d never have time to focus on with the demands of daily journalism. And the program allows me the flexibility to tweak and adjust my professional development goals and also tackle unexpected projects like The J Word.”
Yoon will remain in Ann Arbor next year as the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism in the Department of Communications, and he is hopeful that the show’s voice and perspective will continue after his fellowship year ends.
“I would love to continue the show next year because there are still a lot of great journalists I’d like to interview,” Yoon says. “I have to focus first though on developing courses that are worthy of the university and its students. But I’ve always loved the idea of recording people’s stories and life experiences for future generations to learn from, and that’s something I’d like to continue.”