April is Communications month at University of Maryland University College’s (UMUC) Office of Career Services. Throughout the month, we are highlighting the University’s communications experts to examine career and industry trends, and provide students and alumni a chance to learn about different career paths within this fast-paced industry.
Recently, UMUC Senior Vice President for Communications Michael Freedman answered questions about career trends and opportunities in broadcast communications. Freedman’s responsibilities at UMUC include serving on UMUC’s executive committee and cabinet, advisor to the President, and managing the University’s Office of Communications. Freedman is a 35 year journalist, network executive, professor and higher education administrator. He has served as general manager of CBS Radio Network News and Sports, managing editor for the Broadcast Division of United Press International, leadership press secretary to the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, and vice president for Communications and professor of journalism at the George Washington University. His teams have been honored with more than 90 awards for excellence in broadcast journalism including 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards and the 2012 Grand Award in the New York Festivals International Radio Awards competition.
Q. Over the span of your communications career, what are some factors changing the industry today? How are these changes impacting communications?
A. The digital age represents the most significant step forward in communication since 1450 when Gutenberg’s printing press changed the world. In 2006, TIME Magazine named as its person of the year “you,” as a result of “the many wresting power from the few and helping others for nothing.” Finally, and prophetically, the magazine predicted that the World Wide Web would “not only change the world but change the way the world changes.” Today, anyone and everyone has – at their fingertips – the power to be the media, to be global, and to have an impact on the world.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in communications? What education path did you pursue? How did you begin your career?
A. My Dad passed away when I was six years old. A few months later, for my seventh birthday, my Mom bought me a pocket-sized transistor radio which I put under my pillow every night to help me go to sleep. That little radio became my source of entertainment, information and companionship – and my window to a previously unknown world. I heard my first baseball game, listened to great music and enjoyed hearing far-off radio stations that you could only pick up at night.
Radio came to represent for me – as it has for many others – the most intimate of all media because it offered one-to-one communication, a person behind a microphone talking to one person listening on the other end. It was, in its own way, very romantic and the one medium you could fall in love with. And I did. I worked my way through college as a full time sportscaster and newscaster at a radio station in Detroit, earning my bachelor’s degree in Communications from Wayne State University. My wife and I, who met in high school, were married six days after my graduation and both of our sons were born within five years.
Professionally, over the next 25 years, all of my dreams came true as I became managing editor for the Broadcast Division of United Press International and then general manager of CBS Radio Network in New York. During my tenure with CBS, I brought Walter Cronkite and Tony Bennett back to the network and we produced special programming together, which was so well received by the wonderful listeners on the other end of the radio across the country. Wow! As I segued into higher education, as a professor of journalism and an executive, I never lost my love of broadcasting and radio. Today, I continue (in my spare time) to produce The Kalb Report public broadcasting series at the National Press Club, where I serve as a member of the Board of Governors.
Q. How have some of your career experiences shaped you into the communications professional you are today?
A. We all have the capability of learning from every experience, every boss, every person we supervise, every person we work with and every situation we encounter. Along the way, the most important lesson anyone can learn is to treat others the way you wish to be treated – with respect, compassion and understanding. Be fair and be reasonable. I set an extremely high bar for my team – and myself. When we tackle a project, the goal is to produce “the best.” I have found, over time, people are most productive when they work as a team, when they have fun at their jobs, and when their boss both empowers and protects them.
I always try to create an environment in which my colleagues come to work with a smile, give it their all, leave fulfilled and still smiling, and look forward to coming back the next morning. Work can be fun and yes, your boss can be your friend. I am very proud of the number of people who have worked for me two and even three times in the course of their career. And I have worked at places more than once. When I have moved on, I have maintained relationships with those around me and have continued to be affiliated, in some way, shape or form, with the entity. Very special.
Q. With today’s competitive communications landscape, what advice would you give a UMUC student getting ready to enter the communications field?
A. Be curious and occasionally skeptical, but never cynical. Always tell people what you know – not what you think or what you feel. Never be afraid to ask questions. Always tell the truth. Never do something wrong in the name of something right. Pay attention and listen! Have fun. Enjoy every experience. Be flexible and open in your choice of jobs but never compromise your integrity.
Q. For UMUC students and alumni already working in communications, what advice would you give them on how to keep climbing both the corporate ladder in their current organization and the professional ladder within the communications field?
A. Aim high. Don’t settle for “okay” when you can do better. Any project worth doing is worth doing right. And I would repeat: be curious and occasionally skeptical, but never cynical. Always tell people what you know – not what you think or what you feel. Never be afraid to ask questions. Always tell the truth. Never do something wrong in the name of something right. Pay attention and listen! Have fun. Enjoy every experience. Be flexible and open in your choices but never compromise your integrity.
Q. Any final thoughts or recommendations you want to share for UMUC students and alumni currently working or entering communications industry?
A. Evolution has become revolution in communications. It is a very exciting time to be in the field. Remember that with the power to be the media comes responsibility. Gather and sort before you report. Don’t write anything you do not wish to have “go viral!” Great good luck!
For more information on career opportunities and resources available to UMUC students and alumni from the Office of Career Services, click here.
Jennifer Tomasovic is the director, Communications for Career Services and Alumni Relations at University of Maryland University College. She has spent career crafting communications strategies and messages using both marketing and public relations tactics to enhance the brand and reputation for both the clients and organizations she has represented.
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