From the J-school to the real world: an interview with David Ryan
Tell me a little about yourself:
I was originally born in Basingstoke, Hampshire and left England when I was 18 months to move to Australia. I lived there until 2000 and have lived in US since 2001; I became a citizen in 2011.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in journalism?
I’d always loved writing. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. The furthest I ever got was 40 pages, then I realized I hated every single character and what they had become. I’d always loved the BBC News website and their broadcasts and thought I could do that. Then, as a high schooler, I was able to write a few pieces for The Banner
in Braxton County, and the writing bug stuck with me.
The School of Journalism offer choices among print, TV/broadcast, PR, etc…How did you know print journalism was the emphasis you wanted to chase?
Print journalism allows you to grab people with your written words – what’s not to love about that? There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone discuss something you’ve written or catch someone looking at your content as you pass them in public.
Were you involved in any clubs or activities in the J school?
I was briefly in the Society of Professional Journalists, but dedicated most of my collegiate career (both in my News/Ed degree and my Professional Writing & Editing degree) to The Daily Athenaeum. After submitting a guest column in 2006 I quickly found myself becoming more entrenched in the almost 125 years of history the building has and contributing to one of the best student experiences on campus.
Iwas Opinion Editor for two years, Editor-in-Chief for one year and A&E editor for my final year, as well as being a writer. Applying for that job has paid me infinite dividends, giving me real-world experience on campus through an entirely student-run process. Making important editorial decisions as a staff without adult supervision or influence was always nerve-racking but absolutely essential groundwork training for this business.
What are you currently doing post-graduation?
I found gainful employment in journalism – it is possible! I am currently the Public Relations Specialist at WVU Arts & Entertainment. I’m loving every minute of it. In my final year at The DA I was Arts & Entertainment editor. Through some amazing luck a position opened up with a department I’d come to know very well through covering University events and I was lucky enough to be interviewed twice before finally getting the job.
Do you feel the School of Journalism adequately prepared you for this career?
The school of journalism definitely prepared me. I accredit much of my confidence as a journalist/public relations writer to Bonnie Stewart (former public affairs professor), John Temple and Cathy Bonstetter. All of those professors helped guide me into a narrative style and better understanding of journalism. Bonnie’s relentless passion for cold-hard facts scared me at first but quickly grew on me. Temple and Bonstetter also encouraged my enthusiasm and passion, and that was a great influence.
Of all the skills you learned as an undergraduate, what do you find yourself utilizing most frequently?
Being able to talk to the public. I think print journalists are inherently introverts – they’d rather let their work speak for them. Having Stephen Colbert mock my accent on a conference call was a genuine highlight for overcoming any nerves.
(laughs) Wait, can you elaborate on that?
I was able to interview Stephen Colbert as part of a conference call for the rally to restore sanity
The DA was a big proponent in that.
So how did the mocking come about?
I said “fearful” and it had my accent and he said “Feahful? Is that an accent I hear? Are you an American sir?”
That’s classic! Thank you for your time today, David, and congratulations on your success!