Grady graduate encourages Class of 2017 to celebrate personal journeys in speech at UGA Fall Commencement

There was a time when donning a cap and gown as a college graduate seemed like a dream out of reach for Samuel Peraza. As a first-generation American growing up for much of his life in a single-parent household, he faced many barriers. But it was his triumph through adversity that ultimately led Peraza to not only graduate from the University of Georgia but also to be honored as the Fall 2017 Commencement Student Speaker.

“My story, like each of yours, is comprised of trial and triumph,” said Peraza, a public relations graduate who also earned a Public Affairs Professional Certificate. “This is a culmination of years of hard work, and I celebrate and commend you equally for that accomplishment.”

Peraza gave an impassioned speech to the Class of 2017, urging fellow graduates to continue in the celebration of their personal journeys by practicing three things: basking in the ambiguity (the freedom that comes with choice afforded by college degrees), facing the future confidently and loving well.

“Our definition of success may change over time, but the one thing that will remain true is the power of a meaningful relationship,” he said.

Peraza’s speech came to a touching conclusion with a bilingual tribute to his mother, thanking her for the many sacrifices she’s made for him and his family.

“My hope is that one day I’ll be able to give you the life you deserve, because you have devoted your entire life to your children, our family and ultimately my education,” he said.

Watch Peraza’s speech in its entirety below.

Peraza plans to move to New York City and pursue a career in public relations.

First MFA and Emerging Media graduates among those recognized at Fall 2017 Grady Convocation

Pictures from the Fall 2017 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGA Grady Flickr gallery:

Master’s degrees, Advertising, Public Relations, Journalism, EMST

Nearly 175 students graduated from Grady College this semester, many of whom were recognized at the Fall 2017 convocation on December 14, 2017, at the Hugh Hodgson Performing Arts Center.

A student celebrates with a moment of victory as he crosses the stage at the Grady College Convocation ceremonies.
Sports Media Certificate graduate Patrick O’Shea celebrates with a moment of victory as he crosses the stage at the Grady College Convocation ceremonies. (Photo: Chamberlain Smith)

Among graduates were 28 master’s students, including Grady’s first graduates of its Master of Fine Arts program and its new Emerging Media master’s degree.

Undergraduates who were recognized included 32 students with an advertising degree, 20 with a degree in public relations, 59 from the journalism program, two who studied digital and broadcast journalism, 28 from the entertainment and media studies department and five with a mass media arts degree.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, giving an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and praising the students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Jody Danneman (ABJ ’88), executive producer and president of Atlanta ImageArts and a member of the Grady Board of Trust, addressed candidates with a speech that compared the five principles of journalism — who, what, when, where and why — and challenged the graduates to ask themselves questions to determine what their personal story is.

Danneman explained that much of this is rooted in the values and principles you hold dear.

“If you can find your ‘why’ and you can be rooted in your values, you are going to be happy when you get up and go to work every day,” Danneman advised.

He also challenged the graduates to “let people know by the integrity of your work, by the quality of your work, by the camaraderie and friendship that you have with your co-workers, that you are a team player…that you are a Grady graduate.”

“I am Grady, you are Grady and it is a great day to be a Grady Dawg,” Danneman concluded.

The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the spot, was Gabrielle Cowand, a journalism major and communication studies minor, who is working toward her master’s in Emerging media, as well.

“Grady didn’t teach us the ‘it’ factor; we already had that,” Cowand said. “It simply taught us how to use our talents at max capacity. It opened our minds to what we didn’t know to do or create. We have learned how to constantly strive to reach our full potential and that we have no limits.”

“We have to create our own circumstances,” she continued. “We define the rules. We write our own story. A whole lot of legwork is required on our end, but the good news is that we have a whole lot of people behind us. Grady really is a family.”

Bryan Harris (MA ‘03), outgoing chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college.

“The real education is just beginning and members of the Grady Society will be with you every step of the way,” Harris said.

He encouraged the students to stay in touch with the college and give their time, experiences and talents to future students.

Harris finished his thoughts with this advice: “Stay engaged and raise your hand when Grady calls.”

Eight Grady College alumni to be honored at 2018 Bulldog 100 Awards

Eight graduates of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication representing seven businesses will be honored by the University of Georgia Alumni Association at the 2018 Bulldog 100 awards ceremony in January.

The annual program recognizes the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.

To be considered for the award, a company must be in business for a minimum of five years, have verifiable revenues of $100,000 or more for the calendar year 2014, and operate in a manner consistent with the Pillars of the Arch and in keeping with the values and image of UGA, according to criteria set by the UGA Alumni Association.

The following Grady College alumni and their businesses will be recognized:

The final rankings—determined by a compounded annual growth rate over the last three years—will be released during the ceremony.

The public, including UGA alumni and friends, is invited to celebrate the Bulldog 100 honorees Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. The evening will begin with a reception, followed by dinner and the awards ceremony. Registration is open at alumni.uga.edu/b100.

Grady College holds memorial tribute to Don Carter, commemorates Endowment for Journalism Excellence

Grady College faculty, alumni and friends celebrated a memorial tribute to alumnus Don Carter (ABJ ’38) and commemorated the Don E. Carter and Carolyn McKenzie Carter Endowment for Journalism Excellence Oct. 12, 2017, in the Peyton Anderson Forum.

“Today we are privileged to remember Don and gather with people who will testify to his hope for journalism and for the students who will follow him at Grady College,” said Dean Charles Davis.

(l.-rt.) Kent Middleton and Terry Readdick reminisce about their friend, Don Carter.

Kent Middleton, professor emeritus of journalism and friend of the Carters, spoke about Don’s hopes for journalism’s enduring values.

“For Don, excellent journalism was simple. It was truthful, timely information delivered by smart, curious reporters in clear sentences,” said Middleton. “He reminded students and board members regularly about the importance of getting the story right, naming sources and explaining the importance of journalism to the community.”

Continued Middleton: “Don trusted the Grady College to employ his and Carolyn’s gifts to perpetuate factual, ethical and fair journalism. And, of course, there’s never been a time when the public has needed that kind of journalism more.”

Janice Hume shares the vision and plans for the Carter Endowment for Journalism Excellence.

Janice Hume, head of the Department of Journalism and Carolyn McKenzie Carter and Don E. Carter Chair for Journalism Excellence, discussed the vision and plans for the Endowment for Journalism Excellence.

“Our mission is to use this transformative gift to pass those values along to our students and to strengthen our industries,” Hume said.

The Carter gifts have been used to establish a course in journalism credibility, fund faculty research, support an intern at The Brunswick News—Don Carter’s hometown newspaper, launch a “Best Summer Stories” student contest, fund student travel for training and networking, and help to send students to cover the Paralympic Games in Rio, with much more to come, she said.

Terry Readdick, another longtime friend of the Carters, shared some of his fondest memories that illustrated the couple’s shared sense of humor and zest for life.

“(Don) and Carolyn loved life, more than anybody I think I’ve ever met,” Readdick said. “I discovered they traveled to every continent. They traveled to all but a handful of countries…they had so many friends and they did so many things.”

Among those in attendance at the memorial tribute were members of the Grady Board of Trust. Member Jim Zachary devoted a column in the Oct. 15 issue of The Valdosta Daily times to Carter, which he titled “Walking in the shadow of journalism greatness“. The piece is published here with permission.

Don Carter was a truth teller.

He died at the age of 99 and was still telling the truth right up until his death.

He was a journalist.

In fact, Carter was a journalist’s journalist.

At the Grady Board of Trust meeting held on the campus of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia Thursday, we listened to stories about Carter and his love of Grady and for journalism.

A Grady grad, Carter found himself at The Atlanta Journal in the early 1940s and that is how he found the other love of his life, Carolyn McKenzie, who competed with him for coverage while she was reporting for the Atlanta Constitution.

Their rivalry was more than friendly, it became a lifelong love story, and they were married for more than 60 years.

Don was always — and first and foremost — a reporter.

By the end of his illustrious newspaper career, he was vice president of news for Knight-Ridder.

For many years, he sat on the board of directors of The Red & Black newspaper that serves the University of Georgia campus.

As chairman of the board that Carter shaped for so many years, it is impossible not to feel the weight of his shadow and to be humbled by it.

Don Carter is newspaper royalty.

When he spoke, people listened.

Carter believed in the importance of factual and unbiased reporting.

He thought it was absolutely essential that hard news reporting and editorials be clearly separated.

He died at his beloved home on Sea Island and left behind an incredible legacy and large endowment for Grady College and the educating of future journalists.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted President Jimmy Carter at the time of Don Carter’s death, “Rosalynn and I mourn the loss of my cousin and lifelong friend Don Carter. Don and I grew up together in Plains, and he supported me throughout my political career. He will be remembered not only as a superb journalist and newspaper executive, but as an advocate for the important role that journalists play in our democracy.”

Newspapers have a rich tradition as the Fourth Estate, providing a check on government while serving as a public watchdog.

That important role in democracy depends on journalistic integrity.

Journalistic integrity depends on accuracy in reporting, naming sources, correcting mistakes and clearly distinguishing between news and editorials.

Don Carter believed news reporting was about telling readers who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how and not about telling readers what to think.

Opinions are for opinion pages.

News pages are for news — for truth telling — the thing that Don Carter did best.

See more photos from the tribute on the UGA Grady Flickr account.

AdPR Week alumnus profile: Neil Hirsch (ABJ ’00)

In honor of AdPR Week, we are profiling select Grady College alumni who are using their Grady education in the creative industries they serve. In this series, they discuss their career paths and offer advice to current Grady students.

Neil Hirsch, APR, graduated from Grady College in 2000 with a degree in public relations.  He is the director of corporate external communications for the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group. Hirsch was part of the inaugural Grady College AdPR Advisory Council in 2014.

Grady College: What are some of your everyday duties?

Neil Hirsch: I’m responsible for external communications for InterContinental Hotels Group across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes corporate media relations, issues management and executive visibility.

GC: How did you get your start?

NH: My first full-time role after graduating from Grady was in a mid-size PR agency in Atlanta. It was a great place to start – you’ll never work alongside more PR professionals than in an agency environment.

GC: What skills did you learn at Grady that have helped you throughout your career?

NH: Grady provided me with a solid foundation for my career in public relations. Beyond what I learned in the classroom, it’s what I learned and the relationships I created through my involvement in PRSSA, Grady programs and my internships that distinguished me from my peers.

GC: Is there any additional advice that you’d like to give?

NH: Take every opportunity you have today to prepare you for your career. Ask questions. Make meaningful connections with professionals and with your peers. Have a vision for your future, but also be open-minded about where your career may take you.

 


See more in this series:

AdPR Week alumna profile: Jackie Herr (ABJ ’82)

In honor of AdPR Week, we are profiling select Grady College alumni who are using their Grady education in the creative industries they serve. In this series, they discuss their career paths and offer advice to current Grady students.

Jackie Herr, a 1982 advertising graduate, is the co-founder of PICFARI, LLC, a website and mobile app “that appeals to anyone who loves to travel and take photos.”

Herr is a longtime supporter of Grady College. She served on the Grady Board of Trust and is part of AdPR’s The Second Century Club, which is comprised of individuals who make an annual contribution to the AdPR Excellence Fund of $1,000 or more.

Grady College: Which courses or professors were most helpful in preparing you to work in the industry?

Jackie Herr: Professor Ron Lane’s Campaigns course was pivotal. He taught us the importance of knowing your audience, how to establish your presence, how to effectively communicate concepts and strategies in a meaningful, memorable and measurable way. This course really tied the ribbon around all the creative, strategy and research classes

GC: How did you get your start?

JH: During college, I worked for a radio station as a receptionist, DJ, copywriter, and sales-kind of a Jackie of all trades! After college, with Professor Lane’s help, I landed a job at an ad agency as a media buying assistant.

GC: What advice would like to give to students?

Engage and stay engaged with key professors, administrators, bosses, clients and colleagues. They form the basis of a very influential network of next jobs, next clients, and next opportunities. This is where you begin to establish your A-list network. I’m not talking about the hundreds you have in your social media networks, I’m talking about those key people in your life who will go out of their way to help you be successful and not just press the button on Facebook or on Instagram. This is usually a small, but very influential group. One of my best job connections came from a chance meeting with a media rep who had been kept waiting for over an hour to see one of my colleagues. I felt sorry for him and a simple conversation turned into a connection that led not only to my next job, but the source for amazing client referrals.

Work hard to get those internships, preferably before junior year. Demonstrate that you have a “go-getter” attitude. The more you engage now, the more successful you’ll be later in life.


See more in this series:

AdPR Week alumna profile: Melina Baetti (ABJ ’07)

In honor of AdPR Week, we are profiling Grady College alumni who are using their Grady education in the creative industries they serve. They discuss their career paths and offer advice to current Grady students.

Melina Baetti, a 2007 public relations graduate, is a manager of brand and business communications at The Coca-Cola Company.

Grady College: What are some of your everyday duties?

Melina Baetti: My role on the Brand PR team, part of our larger External Affairs team in Coca-Cola North America Public Affairs & Communications, is to help tell and amplify the story of our brands through a variety of PR programs and initiatives. That comes to life in many different ways on a daily basis—some days I’m writing a press release and reviewing media/influencer lists to target for our next program launch, other days I’m responding to media calls about a particular brand-related issue, which means drafting a statement, getting internal alignment, and then sharing it with the journalist (as well as following up and tracking coverage). I work with a slew of different internal team members across our marketing/brand teams, content and social teams, legal department and many others. The work changes day-to-day, which keeps things interesting!

GC: How did you get your start?

MB: The summer between my junior and senior year I applied and was selected for a PR internship at Coca-Cola North America. The internship is only offered to Grady College PR students. I spent that summer learning the ins and outs of PR at one of the best known companies and brands in the world. I also met and networked with many people that helped me get my first jobs and additional career opportunities, and eventually found my way back to Coca-Cola after spending five years working at a PR agency abroad (in Paris, France).

GC: What skills did you learn at Grady that have helped you throughout your career?

MB: The classes I took at Grady taught me to hone my writing skills, do research before planning a program, and also the importance of having attention to detail. In addition, being inquisitive and creative and going beyond what was right in front of you to make campaigns—from messaging to design— to stand out and break through. Almost all of those elements are key in my work today, and though our industry is constantly changing, leaning on those skills while continuing to learn and change along with my work has helped make me successful.

GC: Is there any additional advice that you’d like to give?

MB: Take time to build relationships with people around you. It may not seem like some people are connected to your work or will help you in the immediate, but in the long run, people will remember how you interact with them and your genuine interest in them as a person. Take time for lunch or coffee, to meet new people and to get to know them beyond their work.


See more in this series:

Recent Grady College graduate James Thompson named Fulbright Scholar

It’s tough enough being a reporter right out of school and finding the right words to tell a compelling story, but imagine doing that in a country that does not speak your native language.

That is the challenge that James Thompson is embracing. Thompson, a recent summa cum laude graduate of Grady College, was named a Fulbright scholar and has accepted a journalism assignment in Germany.

“International experience is a very large asset to journalists,” Thompson said of the year-long grant. “I think it’s good for people who are reporting and interpreting current events to have a broad range of experiences and knowledge.”

Thompson, a journalism graduate, interviewed the sportscaster Verne Lundquist during his visit in April 2016.
Thompson, a journalism graduate, interviewed the sportscaster Verne Lundquist during his visit in April 2016.

Thompson, a native of Screven County in Georgia, originally heard about the Fulbright program when he was meeting with Maria de Rocher about an honors program scholarship. As UGA’s Fulbright coordinator, de Rocher told Thompson there was a Fulbright program for journalists in Germany, a perfect combination of his dual majors of digital and broadcast journalism and history, and his minor in German.

With his interest piqued, Thompson submitted his proposal which had to include an independent, journalism-related project and an internship affiliation.  Although the projects are subject to change, Thompson’s application and proposal were accepted.

Included in the project proposal are the production of a short documentary film, along with an internship with a daily newspaper in the German city of Freiburg. The film Thompson proposed closely aligns with a subject he wrote about for his senior history thesis: an examination of German faith communities’ outreach efforts.

“In Germany, like most of Europe, religious participation is noticeably less than in decades past,” Thompson explained. “My project would aim to examine how religious congregations seek to engage with those not active in organized religion.”

For the second part of his Fulbright scholarship, Thompson proposed an internship at the daily newspaper in Freiburg, the Badische Zeitung, where he will submit video features for its website.

“I expect to use the exact same video journalism skills that I learned at Grady to tell stories in Freiburg,” Thompson said. “I’ll have to find story ideas, shoot b-roll and do interviews. My German is respectable, but it will certainly be an adjustment to do interviews in German instead of English.”

Thompson’s interest in German began in high school, where he learned from Screven County teacher Jim Sheppard. During this time period his family also hosted German exchange students. While he didn’t have the opportunity to travel to Germany as a high school student, the experience presented itself in college when he spent six weeks in a study abroad program taking a language course at the Goethe Institute and studying sustainability efforts in Freiburg. Thompson looks forward to returning to Freiburg and reconnecting with families he met during his previous travels.

Thompson poses with the Zeuner family during his last visit to Germany
Thompson poses with the Zeuner family during his last visit to Germany

Thompson’s Fulbright studies will also include an immersive 1-1/2-month language course at Phillips University in Marburg.

It is rare to hear the German language spoken in the streets of Georgia, but Thompson admits seeking out those who speak it.

“Whenever I hear German being spoken here, I follow them and make them talk to me,” Thompson said.

One of the aspects he enjoyed most when he was previously in Germany was getting to interact with Germans in their own country. “Getting to be fully immersed in their culture and speaking their language on their turf really allowed me to improve my language skills. It is such a perspective-altering experience to participate in other cultures.”

Thompson is spending his summer before his Fulbright travels working as an intern in Governor Nathan Deal’s Office of Communications, where his duties include assisting with press releases, social media and speechwriting. Politics is an area that Thompson has an interest and he expects to get a lot of questions about the current state of American politics.

“It should be interesting,” Thompson said. “Germany and the U.S. have been strong partners on many fronts. Journalists with a knowledge of both nations will be vital to interpreting that relationship in the future.”

Thompson will leave for his Fulbright travels in early August 2017 and return in July 2018.

Thompson is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English, and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-2018 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Six Grady alumni among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2017

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has unveiled the 40 Under 40 Class of 2017. The program began in 2011 and celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates who are under the age of 40.

This year’s class includes the following Grady alumni: Mariel Clark (ABJ ’01), Amelia Dortch (ABJ ’06), Katie Jacobs (ABJ ’05), Joshua Jones (ABJ ’08), Tucker Berta Sarkisian (ABJ ’00) and Maria Taylor (ABJ ’09).

The honorees will be recognized during the seventh annual 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon on Sept. 14 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead. Ernie Johnson, a 1978 UGA graduate, will serve as keynote speaker for the event. Johnson is a co-host on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and is the lead announcer for “Major League Baseball on TBS.” He delivered UGA’s 2017 undergraduate Commencement address in May. Registration will open for the awards luncheon at alumni.uga.edu/40u40 in the coming weeks.

“We are excited about this year’s 40 Under 40 class,” Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations, said. “These young alumni are making a difference in the classroom, boardroom, operating room and everywhere in between.”

Nominations for 40 Under 40 were open from February to April, and nearly 400 alumni were nominated for this year’s class. Honorees must have attended UGA and aspire to uphold the Pillars of the Arch. Additional criteria are available on the UGA Alumni Association website.

“We received hundreds of nominations, and our graduates have made some incredible accomplishments,” Johnson added. “It is more difficult every year to narrow the list down to 40, and that is a testament to the caliber of our alumni. We are so proud.”

This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees, including their graduation year from UGA, city, title and employer, are:

  • Casey M. Bethel, 2005, Lithia Springs, Georgia Department of Education Teacher of the Year, New Manchester High School
    Travis Butler, 2009, Athens, president, Butler Properties and Development
    Eric Callahan, 2005, Griffin, owner, Callahan Industries
    Mariel Clark, 2001, Knoxville, vice president, Home + Travel Digital, Scripps Network Interactive
    Andrew Dill, 2006 and 2007, Marietta, director of government affairs, Lockheed Martin
    Amelia Dortch, 2006 and 2012, Auburn, Alabama, state public affairs specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Katie Dubnik, 2003, Gainesville, president, Forum Communications
    Rebecca Evans, 2010, Savannah, equine veterinarian, Evans Equine LLC
    Rebecca Filson, 2005, Roswell, regional vice president of operations, BenchMark Rehab Partners
    Matt Forshee, 2000, Evans, region manager for community and economic development, Georgia Power
    Nicholas Friedmann, 2006, Washington, D.C., private client relationship manager, Citibank
    James Gates, 2001 and 2004, Atlanta, partner, Bell Oaks Executive Search
    Christine Green, 2002, New York, general counsel, Leadership for Educational Equity
    Lauren Griffeth, 2005, 2008 and 2013, Athens, administrative director of agricultural leadership, education and communication, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
    Destin Hill, 2002, Phoenix, physician, Arizona Sports Medicine Center
    Dominique Holloman, 2001 and 2004, Atlanta, independent consultant
    Katie Jacobs, 2005, Athens, owner, Cheeky Peach Boutique
    Jonas Jennings, 2000, Athens, director of player development, UGA Athletic Association; president, JJ 75 Properties LLC
    LeRoya Chester Jennings, 2001, Atlanta, managing partner, Chester Jennings & Smith LLC
    Adam C. Johnson, 2016, Atlanta, senior consultant, Cognizant
    Joshua Jones, 2008 and 2016, Atlanta, president/CEO, Red Clay Communications Inc.
    Marcus Jones, 2009, Detroit, president, Detroit Training Center
    Kasey Knight, 2005, Quitman, pharmacist/owner, Lee & Pickels Drugs
    Matt Koperniak, 2002 and 2004, Sugar Hill, director of bands, Riverwatch Middle School
    Dorian Lamis, 2003, Atlanta, assistant professor/clinical psychologist, Emory University School of Medicine
    Dan Ludlam, 2004 and 2007, Atlanta, senior manager, real estate attorney, Chick-fil-A Inc.
    Gordon Maner, 2004, Charleston, South Carolina, managing partner, Allen Mooney & Barnes
    Maritza McClendon, 2005, Atlanta, senior brand marketing manager for OshKosh B’gosh, Carter’s Inc.
    Behnoosh Momin, 2015, Chamblee, health scientist, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Travis Moore, 2003, Kirkwood, Missouri, senior brewmaster, Anheuser-Busch InBev
    Wes Neece, 2000, Atlanta, merchandising vice president for lighting, The Home Depot
    Julian Price, 2000, Watkinsville, physician/partner, Athens Orthopedic Clinic
    Tim Puetz, 2006, Silver Spring, Maryland, operations manager, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center
    Tucker Berta Sarkisian, 2000, Atlanta, director of public relations, SweetWater Brewing Co.
    Maria Taylor, 2009 and 2013, Charlotte, North Carolina, sports broadcaster, ESPN
    Alissa Vickery, 2001, Mableton, senior vice president for accounting and controls, Fleetcor Technologies Inc.
    Sam Watson, 2002, Moultrie, managing partner, Chill C Farms/Moultrie Melon Co. ; state representative House District 172
    Laura Whitaker, 2007 and 2010, Watkinsville, executive director, Extra Special People
    Whitney Woodward, 2000, Covington, vice president for total rewards, RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.
    Alex Wright, 2008, Byron, overseas research fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The UGA Alumni Association
The UGA Alumni Association supports the academic excellence, best interests and traditions of Georgia’s flagship university by inspiring engagement through relevant programming, enhanced connections and effective communications. For more information, see alumni.uga.edu.

Oney discusses the secrets of good magazine writing, fireflies and the future of journalism

August 31, 2017: Steve Oney will sign his new book, “A Man’s World,” at the University of Georgia Bookstore this Saturday, September 2, 2017, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. He will be joined by former UGA football coach Vince Dooley and former Bulldog football player Rennie Curran at a book signing before the football game.

 

A well-written magazine feature can be deceiving.

“The goal is to write a piece where you don’t see any of the work,” Steve Oney said during a recent reception honoring him and his new book.

Oney's new book is available at the UGA Bookstore and on Amazon.
Oney’s new book is available at the UGA Bookstore and on Amazon.

Oney (ABJ ’79) admits to putting a “back-breaking” amount of work into his writing, but the goal is to not let the work show.

Oney was in town to sign his new book, “A Man’s World: Portraits—A Gallery of Fighters, Creators, Actors, and Desperadoes,” a collection of 20 of his best magazine features written for magazines including “Time,” “Esquire” and “Playboy.”

In addition to reading brief passages of the book, including a portion of the introduction that illustrates UGA campus life in the 1970s, Oney shared his experiences at Grady College, the profiles he is most proud of and his thoughts on the future of journalism.

Oney’s education at Grady

“Everything I am as a writer and a person really stems from my years here in Athens at the University of Georgia,” Oney said of his journalism major and English minor. “I got an extremely good education.”

While at UGA, Oney was influenced by professors including John English, Wally Eberhard and the late Dan Kitchens.

English did a good job “exposing us to the outside world of writing and thinking and creativity, not just in the classroom but by his very presence.”

Oney credits Eberhard with helping him “become a more rigorous thinker and better reporter and a more honest human being, and training me in the virtues of making your work add up. You have to be creative and you have to be imaginative, but you can’t take any fliers if you are writing journalism. It has to add up. It’s about a factual presentation of the world.”

Oney’s new book

While there are women referenced in each profile, Oney said his book is all about men.

The subtitle is about a gallery of profiles, which is fitting reference to the fact that Oney considers himself a portraitist.

“When I go to a museum, I am immediately drawn to the portraits,” Oney said as a preface to his writing style. “I am trying to do a study. If it’s one of the big pieces, it’s a very well-realized study like an oil painting of somebody.”

Oney’s new book is divided into four sections, which he described:

Fighters—“I’m talking about what it takes to marshal the gumption to get through the world; what it takes to fight to achieve something in life.”

Creators—“It’s about what you do actually after you are in the game. How you give something back. How you build something new. How you excel. I think all men have to create.”

Actors—“These are profiles of five famous actors. It’s about how we present ourselves to the world.”

Desperados—“This could be called ‘fighting your demons,’ or it could be called ‘walking on the wild side.’ It’s about the times in your life when you go emotionally off-roading. When you leave the script and you have to face down something that’s been be-deviling you, or you have to take a risk and you have to do something wild that is just an urge that you have to satisfy. You have to try to do something every once in a while that is dangerous or spectacular.”


“This was a firefly that I caught in the summer but it remains alive when you open the book back up. You can see just a little flicker or a little light and you think ‘oh, that’s who that was and that’s what it is to be alive.’ “

–Steve Oney


Oney also described his thoughts on profiling Andrew Breitbart seven years ago (“it feels prescient reading it today because most of what I thought was insane seven years ago did come true”); one of his first interviews as a young journalist with Harry Crews (“he was funny and vulgar and great. He was a wild man”); and his most ambitious features profiling Craig Raywood, which took him nine months to write, and Chris Leon, a Marine killed in action (“I wanted to answer the question, what is it like to lose a human life?”)

About writing

Oney was asked what he hoped that readers would take away from “A Man’s World.”

“I want them to enjoy it. Maybe I also want them to think whether my premise is correct. Do they need to fight; do they need to create; do they need to act? They should think ‘are these gender-specific?’ Is this a man’s world or is it a human world? I am not a moralist. I am not trying to prescribe or teach. I am really most interested in delighting you.

I’m hoping you read these pieces and that you catch a glimmer of life. This is a little life that was caught. This was a firefly that I caught in the summer but it remains alive when you open the book back up. You can see just a little flicker or a little light and you think ‘oh, that’s who that was and that’s what it is to be alive.’”

About the future of journalism

“The future of journalism is dire,” Oney began.

He went on to cite the fact that newspapers don’t publish Sunday magazines as they once did and that there are only a few long-form vehicles still being published including “The New Yorker,” “Vanity Fair,” “Esquire” and the online vehicle, “Bitter Southerner.” He said it is challenging to earn a living writing for magazines.

“There’s an appetite for storytelling,” Oney adds, turning to the positive.

Oney said some podcasts like “Serial,” for example, are very similar to long-form storytelling.

“The venues may change, the forms may mutate, but as long as there are complicated interactions in life and people are fascinated by other people there will be an appetite for great magazine writing.”