It’s the first day of Video 1, and the graduate students are just getting to know me. Professor Maxfield, Jen, whatever they want to call me– as long as they are listening, and feel like I am listening to them. We spend the morning reviewing the syllabus, setting expectations for the course, and reviewing the three assignments and the multiple deadlines and drafts embedded in each one. My co-adjunct, Thomas Xenakis of CBS News, does a session on editing troubleshooting. We break for lunch and the eleven student journalists file outside into the beautiful fall day on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. Our guest lecturer will be with us when we return.
An hour later, everyone is back in the fifth floor classroom after lunch and I dim the lights. This is before COVID-19 will make this everyone’s reality, but today’s guest is virtual. We turn on the projector and there’s Meridith McGraw of ABC News, standing just outside the White House, ready to take us inside the press room we’ve all grown so accustomed to seeing during Presidential news conferences. A murmur ripples through the room as Meridith begins to show us around: the press briefing room (much smaller than expected), the podium where the Press Secretary takes questions, and the tidy row of White House Lawn positions where network correspondents deliver their evening reports. She guides us and takes student questions for almost an hour before getting back to work. A few months later, she will join Politico as a White House reporter.
Four years ago, Meridith was a student in Nightly News, where I taught as an Adjunct Professor. Like her classmates, Meridith rotated weekly through several jobs in the newsroom– reporter, writer, photographer, anchor, editor, and producer. Seeing her thriving in her post-graduate career is thrilling as her professor, and also so inspiring for current Columbia Journalism students. If she can be working at the White House for a national network within four years of graduating, then so can they.
Having now been an Adjunct Professor for five years, I am so enjoying having these full circle opportunities with my former students. Now they are the teachers. My former students are my colleagues at NBC, my competitors at ABC, and people whose work I admire. They are role models to the next generation and it’s truly my privilege and my pleasure to have played some small role in helping them advance in their dream career.