My Crisis Communications class became so popular that NYIT featured it in the alumni magazine after the first semester.
The Globe staff is fiercely independent.
The Manhattan Globe was recognized as "Best New Club" in its first year of existence by the NYIT student activities organization
I established for NYIT a chapter of the Society of Collegiate Journalists.
How I Ended Up Back in the Classroom
I never planned on being a college professor. It happened by accident when I was trying to collect money from a deadbeat publisher for an article in 1984. Speaking with another writer who was also stiffed, he asked what I was otherwise up to.
"Looking for my next gig," I replied. "Are you interested in teaching journalism," he asked. "Sure, where?"
"Hofstra, I just became chair of the department." Laughing, I bellowed, "I just graduated from there 3 years ago." I had to be approved by the search committee, most of whom turned out to be my former professors.
I hadn't taken any education courses as an undergraduate, but confident that I could relay to students what I've learned in my short time in the real world, armed with my New York Times and Rolling Stone clips.
I remember buying a used $2 book titled something like Subversive Teaching Methods, offering stupid advice such as "Never let the students know they have the right answer, always keep them guessing." I figured I could do better.
Personality-wise, I always considered myself more an introvert than extrovert.
So I approached standing in front of a class – by the way, that same classroom where a journalism professor had once told me I'd never amount to anything – as if I was a standup comic, opening with a joke every class. It worked at Hofstra, and then again at Penn State, where I won a graduate assistantship that paid for my master's degree.
A major gap in time passed between my leaving Penn State in May 1986 and starting to teach on the college level again in January 2013. As with Hofstra, teaching at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) was pure happenstance. Its School of Hospitality was hosting a benefit with Princess Diana's former butler a few months after I published my first and only issue of UK:Cue.
The event's organizer, an expat Brit, agreed to allow me to place my magazine into the goody bags. At $150 a plate, my aim was to find an investor. Instead, I restarted my teaching career when I was introduced to NYIT's CFO. I told him I was available to write annual reports, speeches, "or I could even teach," which I said almost as an afterthought. He told me to email him my CV.
The next day I received a call from the Communication Arts department chair, who asked if I'd like to teach a new 3-hour night graduate course in Crisis Public Relations. While I had done PR throughout my career, luckily I never faced a crisis. It sounded like a great opportunity.
I have no problem speaking non-stop for an hour or 90 minutes, but holding an audience of students for 3 hours seemed daunting. So I approached the course as if I was producing a television show: An expert guest would speak about a particular aspect of the discipline, and I'd teach the basics from a textbook in the second half of the class. For a midterm project, the students would break into teams, create their own fictional crises and stage press conferences.
The syllabus worked like a charm. I managed to bring to class crisis managers, whose ranks include the press secretary of former [and disgraced] Gov. Eliot Spitzer (now of Edelman), the former editor-in-chief of the New York Post and Daily News (now of FTI Consulting), and the former ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations.
JOUR 101 and Newspaper Advisor
Three years later, I was finally given other Communication Arts courses to teach, including JOUR 101, which served as a precursor to advising a student newspaper. Such a publication hadn't existed on campus in 7 years, purportedly due to a lack of interest.
We proved them wrong, and in the fall of 2016, the Manhattan Globe became the U.S.'s only new college print startup, according to the Society of Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) and the College Media Association (CMA). The name "Manhattan Globe" was suggested by the co-editor, a junior who was born in Sri Lanka, because it reflected the diverse student body on the campus, half of which are international. In fact, 7 countries were represented on that inaugural staff.
Under my watch as editor-in-chief of the Hofstra Chronicle in 1979-1980 (no advisor, incidentally), we were named by SCJ as the Best Weekly in the country. These NYIT students are fiercely independent and reminded me of my Chronicle colleagues. The Globe's editors make editorial decisions, not me.
At the CMA convention the next March I made a presentation on what I learned being a first-year college newspaper advisor, and at another session explained what it was like to publish the 2016 presidential election issue (above left) across the street from a Trump hotel.
No matter what course I’m teaching, my goal is to get students to open their minds to what’s staring them in the face, and dig further to think like journalists, much in the way Professor Kingsfield’s objective in the 1970s law school drama The Paper Chase was to get his students to “think like lawyers.”
I am certain that my teaching has touched the lives of students, at least anecdotally. For example, fellow journalist and college classmate Keith Greenberg, whom I invited to speak at Hofstra, in the mid-1990s ran into a former student of mine, Willy Diaz, who remembered him from 10 years earlier and was at the time an on-air reporter for News1. They were covering the same event. He told Keith that my class was the reason he became a broadcast journalist.
Similarly, my graduate student from Greece, who graduated from NYIT in 2017, told me I’m her mentor, which made me proud. I should also note that for probably half of the students I've taught over the past few years, English is their second language, which takes a special pedagogy skill.
Former students have received internships and jobs through my business connections, and often ask me for recommendations in their job or grad school applications. I would look forward to making that kind of impact on future students.
As much as I relish being back in the classroom, I'd be remiss to not comment on the sorry state of academia, in which adjuncts like myself are viewed as a disposable, replaceable commodity, but meanwhile keeps the institution afloat. Adjuncts teach at nearly every college or university at least two-thirds of the classes, yet receive a quarter or less of what their full-time, tenured counterparts earn and no benefits. I've made it a personal mission to change this and have led the charge to organize my colleagues to challenge the status quo. Stay tuned.
My JOUR 101 class visits Democracy Now, a regular NYIT field trip. Students asked questions to studio guest Chelsea Manning that morning.