Professors are supposed to be the inspiration for students, the driving force to make them want to learn the subjects, in my case, journalism. But professors need inspiration too, and I got a full dose of it on the recent trip to the College Media Advisors conference in New York City.
Byron Pitts is a pretty well-known CBS broadcaster who recently landed his dream job as a “60 Minutes” reporter. But his story of how he got there is little known.
At age 12, Pitts was illiterate and he stuttered. In college, when he told classmates his goal was to be a 60 Minutes reporter, they laughed. One college professor told him to quit school, because he was wasting his time and the state’s money trying to become a broadcast journalist.
But thanks to another professor, who took him under her wing, two decades and countless awards later, Pitts reached his goal.
Pitts started his keynote address at the conference with that story.
He said “talent is overrated,” and that passion and a will to succeed can make up for learning deficiencies and a lack of talent that others may possess.
I loved that. I preach that every day in class, that desire is a must in order to succeed.
He went on to talk about how journalists can make change, like with his video story of a hulking soldier who was mistreated by military doctors and died eight years later from skin cancer, an emaciated and broken man.
His death wasn’t in vane, though, because thanks to Pitts’ story, the government is considering a law that would hold the military accountable – like private doctors are held accountable – when patients are incorrectly treated.
He showed a story he did on USC football coach Pete Carroll, which highlighted Carroll’s early morning ventures into the streets of L.A. to try to convince gang members to stop fighting and become positive citizens.
And he made the audience relive Sept. 11, which brought me to tears, having worked in a newsroom that day when there simply was no time for tears.
He sees his role as a journalist as one to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
What really impressed me, was at the beginning of the event, he gave the 400 or so people in the audience both his e-mail address and cell phone number and told them if they needed help or had questions, they could contact him.
That, he said, stemmed from the English professor who gave him faith to continue pursuing his dream.
I hope I sound inspired.
-David Blow, Spartan Advisor