By Robyn Vincent
When you center your life on learning and exploration, it can become something of an eternal obsession. For COJO professor Dr. George Gladney, this healthy fixation has defined his career and will decidedly shape his future, even as he concludes his chapter of teaching at UW.
Although Gladney will retire at the end of this year after a long and fruitful career at UW that began in 1991, he will continue to foster his passion for writing and people. Gladney, who just returned from teaching Media Ecology at Shanghai University, China, says he will embark on one of two paths. He’ll either teach in Poland, where in 2005 he served as a Fulbright Scholar, or he’ll settle into some Wyoming digs and try his hand at writing fiction.
“There’s an old saying that every newspaper writer has a half-written manuscript in their dresser drawer,” Gladney said. “I think we all want to write something that’s for ourselves.”
Gladney holds a Ph.D. in communication from University of Illinois, a master’s in journalism from University of Oregon, a bachelor of journalism from University of Missouri and a B.A. in English from Waynesburg College. The former newspaper reporter and editor plans to keep some of his roots planted at UW, a place where he has left an indelible mark on his students, friends and colleagues.
“Well, I had a hunch at the start that I could someday be an effective journalism instructor, teaching aspiring journalists how to ‘think like a journalist,’” Gladney explained. “I wasn’t sure about transforming myself into a scholar, but I was willing to give it a try. That involved a whole different way of thinking and writing. I have always loved life on campuses, with young people all around and colleagues specializing in all sorts of interesting things.”
Robert Schaller, a former COJO graduate student, said Gladney impacted his career as a journalist and teacher. “Dr. Gladney believes in doing things right, doing things correctly, because attention to detail is so important to him and it becomes engrained in his students,” Schaller said.
Gladney’s Media Ecology course “was the single most important class I took – it was about the evolution of communication, and it connected everything from morality to the telegraph to modern times. The way he taught was outstanding,” Schaller said.
Enriching his students’ understanding of media and communication – whether lecturing about freedom of speech and the press in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, or Greece, or taking UW students to study in Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Austria, or the Czech and Slovak republics – is just one of Gladney’s many accomplishments.
He is also a renowned researcher who has published several seminal articles on media law and ethics, sociology of news, and media ecology. Gladney said that because of his long professional experience working for newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the Jackson Hole News and the Colorado Springs Gazette, he has focused on research concerning print media. His most recent scholarly work was just published in the Newspaper Research Journal. The article, Gladney explained, addresses improvements in the use of anonymous sources following high-profile news fabrication scandals in 2003 and 2004.
COJO Department chair Dr. Ken Smith noted that Gladney’s international focus – opening doors for UW students to study abroad and his time teaching abroad – is an important achievement for UW in an increasingly globalized society. Smith also said that replacing Gladney is not going to be easy. “He is a challenging teacher, yet students still really like him. To have students like you when you’re a challenge is a difficult feat,” Smith said.
Gladney’s advice to future journalists:
On studying abroad:
“Wyoming is an extremely homogeneous culture; sometimes foreign students are the only people who are really different. There is a big, wide world out there, and until you go ‘there’ you won't know what a fantastic world you're missing. You make a big mistake if you assume that the rest of the world is backward and inferior to America. If you can't find a job in the United States, consider looking at foreign countries. You will have one valuable advantage: You will be perfectly fluent in American English (more valued than British or Australian English). But first, instead of taking just two semesters of a foreign language, you will need to try to actually master that language. Many students in other parts of the world speak not two languages, but three and four.”
On getting it right:
“For journalists, nothing is more important than ‘getting it right.’ Double-check, then double-check again. Verify, verify, verify. And be persistent but fair with sources. The number one rule is: Never start writing about something you are unsure of. Make a few more telephone calls until it is clear to you.”