The e-mail startled me about a year or so ago. Bill Ward, the professor of journalism (print) at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, sent an e-mail to me through Facebook.
“Joe, you look like a senator in the photo,” he wrote. (It’s the same photo I use on this blog.)
Professor Ward retired many years ago, but he left a tremendous legacy. Friday was his 82nd birthday and it was wonderful to see so many old friends wish him well on his Facebook page.
Hundreds of journalists and public relations professionals credit Professor Ward with helping them succeed. I was blessed to benefit from his instruction and counsel. After graduating with majors in print journalism and television and radio broadcasting, the professors at SIUE said I had a portfolio that would almost guarantee continuous employment.
After graduating in 1984, I’ve only been out of work for only three months during the recession of 1990. (Looking back, it was a blessing to move from newspapers to public relations at that time.) In today’s communications landscape, rarely a week goes by when I don’t use my broadcasting skills in combination with print journalism.
Here are 10 lessons that Professor Ward taught me and countless other communications and public relations professionals who are leaders in their organizations and industries:
- Discipline: Meet the deadline and never lower your own expectations.
- Thoroughness: Get all of the facts and then get more
- Become an extrovert: Always be curious about others and their stories.
- Remember your reader: The best writers don’t write for themselves; they’re always working to serve the reader.
- Be meticulous: The slightest sign of sloppiness communicates a lack of professionalism.
- Take a good photograph: There’s no better experience than looking at a striking image while reading good writing.
- Persistence: Never give up. Writing is rewriting.
- Courage: Ask tough questions and pursue the facts.
- Develop a thick skin: Don’t take it personally when an editor is rewriting or reorganizing your text. Every story or article could be improved in some way.
- Confidence: Work hard enough to show others you’ve done your best.
Thanks, Professor Ward, for caring enough to be a demanding teacher.