By Beth Ward
“Would you consider being a professor here?” asked Frank Quine, assistant dean for external affairs for the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, at the end of the evening.
Bob Schieffer, anchor and moderator for CBS’s Face the Nation and legend in broadcast journalism, chuckled good naturedly then said that his alma mater, Texas Christian University, was naming its journalism school after him.
Even though Schieffer will not be joining the faculty at the University of Maryland, the approximately 100 students who gathered to hear him speak at the Society of Professional Journalists event Feb. 1 gained an education about the journalism profession.
“(This is) just a good opportunity to hear from someone in the business who knows where it’s been and knows where it’s going,” said Daniel Lyght, a senior journalism major.
Over the course of the hour and a half event, Schieffer took the opportunity to tell some of his most exciting and entertaining stories from his career. A particular crowd-pleaser was when he explained how he scooped Barbara Walters on a story about then President Gerald Ford and his flu shot.
“Anytime you beat Barbara Walters, you know you’ve done something,” Schieffer said with a laugh.
Schieffer took the opportunity to not only regale the audience with stories from his past but also offer advice for the future to the crowd of aspiring undergraduates.
“People, I find, are the happiest when they followed their passion,” Schieffer said. “Do your job well, and success will follow.”
Schieffer discovered his own passion to be a journalist when he was in junior high school in Fort Worth, Texas, and saw his byline in the school paper. However, to satisfy his mother’s dreams of him becoming a doctor, Schieffer had a brief stint as a pre-med student. He tells people that comparative anatomy is what drove him into journalism.
Over the course of his career, Schieffer has not only scooped Barbara Walters but he chauffeured Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother following John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, moderated a presidential debate and discoed with King Hussein.
Although Schieffer is widely known for his contributions to broadcast journalism, he actually began his career as a beat reporter for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, working as the night police reporter. Schieffer said that one of the people with the biggest impacts on his career was his editor, Phil Record, who also happened to be a national SPJ president. Ironically, two other major influences on Schieffer’s career — James Byron, the news director at Schieffer’s first television station and Bill Small, the Washington bureau chief for CBS who hired Schieffer — were also national SPJ presidents even though Schieffer was not a member himself at the time.
Schieffer answered a range of questions from the audience, including some about CBS anchor Dan Rather; how commercialization is influencing journalism; and his thoughts on how politics have changed. Schieffer also signed copies of his new book and chatted with the young fans.
Dean Thomas Kunkel summed up Schieffer in his introduction, “He is (one of) the nicest, most down-to-earth, honest people in the business.”