Friday, December 9, 2011

J-SCHOOL: Speak up now; it'll help later

I wasn't a natural talker when I was in college in the 1970s. I'm still pretty quiet, but I learned to talk when I need to.

Going to Radford College (now University), I took journalism under Charles Millsaps (I'm fairly sure of the spelling), and Charles (yes, I called him Charles, but not in class; his call) required J-school students to talk.

Every time he made a statement, I rebutted it. If he asked a question, I tried to answer it. It got to the point where Charles would say something, then smile slightly and lean his head my way, assuming I was going to speak up. And I usually did, if I could think of anything to say.

It surprised me, but I actually learned a lot from having to talk. It forced me to think, something necessary for journalists. I learned to do the same in other classes, and it helped there, too.

I watched a lot of my friends and classmates go to class after class and never speak up. They were probably making B's and were happy with them. I'd take a B if I had to, but I was always shooting for an A.

I remember one special A. The class was Journalism Law, and my average was hovering around 93.5 (you needed a 94 for an A in that class). I was taking 17 hours that quarter, and J-Law would decide whether I'd make the dean's list.

I needed an A on my final test to ace the class. When I got the test back, I noticed that Charles had given me one point and added a note that said that he gave me the point for speaking up in class. It turns out the point gave me an A on the test, and that gave me an A for the class.

And that helped give me an A for the quarter, plus my only visit to the dean's list (I was more interested in working for the college newspaper and the college information office; that's where you learn).

The moral? Talking at the right time made a difference in college, and it's helped me through a long (and sometimes distinguished) journalism career.

Time to be quiet again.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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  1. Good for you! My dad and a newspaper recruiter told me I was too meek and quiet to be a journalist. I proved them wrong. Now people can't shut me up.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lisa. (She contacted me on Twitter.) One of my college friends said I was too sensitive to be a journalist. Fortunately, he was wrong, too.