Q & A with Professional Advisory Board Member Phil Currie
Professional Advisory Board Member Phil Currie (’62 BA) is a retired Senior Vice President/News, a member of the U.S. Community Publishing Division, and Gannett Co. 2017 UI Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient.
Tell me about your career in journalism.
My first job was as an intern at the Mason City, Iowa, Globe Gazette, which was my hometown newspaper and my first chance to have professional experience. I went to Cornell College and then transferred to Iowa because I wanted to get into the journalism program. My first work was in Rochester, New York, where I was first a reporter and editorial writer before moving on to the city desk as an executive city editor and eventually into the Gannett corporate offices. I did training and recruiting, started working with individual papers, and moved up the ladder to become a vice president and ended my career as the senior vice president for news.
What is the one highlight of your career of which you are most proud?
I spent a lot of time working in my corporate role to increase the diversity of our newspapers, particularly in the top jobs. Our company philosophy was to try to make our leadership reflect our readership. I felt good about that as an accomplishment in trying to make the group more diverse while still maintaining high standards in the process.
Tell me about your role on the SJMC Advisory Board.
I think our primary role is to make sure that we’re up to date on what’s going on in the school. Then, from our own professional experience, we try to offer thoughts as it relates to the changing world. What we want to do is help the school to see the coming trends, how the real world is operating, and what kinds of training and thinking the students need in order to go out into that world and be successful.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing young journalists today?
One of the big challenges for young journalists is becoming a master in so many areas. Understanding the basics and having a strong background are essential. One of the most important things for anybody to do in this area is critical thinking. You have to really be able to think through an issue. I think fake news wouldn’t get as far as it does if we had more people in the country doing some critical thinking.
Where do you see the future of the SJMC going in the next 5, 10 years?
It has to keep adapting, I think it has to keep trying to grow. The board would like to see greater collaboration between the communication efforts within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It’s important for the School to look at what other areas can be of value to the University and students. If you look at today’s media and what’s dealt with in it, versus 10 years ago, you can see how change has come and how we need to be savvy about moving with it. That never takes away the basics; you still have to have the basic stuff. You need to have your antenna out to see what’s ahead.