Prof. Leonard Ray Teel, winner of multiple awards including an Emmy as member of the CNN team covering the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, has a few words of advice for students pursuing a career as journalists.
“One, be respectful of the edict that ‘truth comes from a multitude of tongues,’” he said. “Two, continuously try to write more persuasively; and three, publish books as well journalism to establish your career solidly.”
It’s advice he has followed – particularly the last part. Teel has written four books: Erma, the true story about a black woman’s hardships, triumphs and tragedies; the textbook Into the Newsroom, which has been translated into Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Armenian; Ralph Emerson McGill, about the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution, and The Public Press, a history of U.S. journalism. He’s in the process of writing a fifth, about U.S. journalists’ reporting of the Cuban revolution.
Teel, who graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in journalism in 1964, is a professor at Georgia State University, where he is the director of the Center for International Media Education and teaches a capstone and graduate course in history of news media.
He has led training and faculty and student exchanges in the Middle East, North Africa and China and is the founding editor of two journals, the Journal of Middle East Media and the Atlanta Review of Journalism History. Most recently, he has been working with engineers at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell on an interdisciplinary project to develop jobs for youths in the Middle East.
“For the Middle East and North Africa, it was fate,” he said. “In 1994, I applied for a grant and, that year, nobody applied for the Middle East and North Africa. The grant led to my founding the Center for International Media Education. For China, it was connections made through my graduate students from China, who said I go there and set up the first appointments in 2005.”
In addition to his academic work, Teel has been a writer and editor for a number of newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the Washington Evening Star, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale News, and the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era. But he recalls his days at the Miami Hurricane as essential in his training.
“The entire experience with Miami Hurricane was invaluable,” he said, “from my first assignment to write about the Blue Chip Club to being editor in chief.”
Teel also received a master’s in European history from UM, and then went on to graduate from Georgia State University with a Ph.D. in British History in 1984.
Looking back recently at his career, he recalled a lesson he learned as a young man from much-admired Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller.
While interning as a police reporter at the Herald, he approached Miller, who had just won his second Pulitzer Prize for articles that won the freedom for two prisoners on death row.
“When I congratulated him, he modestly discounted the significance of the prize,” Teel recalled, “and said, ‘That was yesterday.’ He preferred to stress the importance of doing something every day.”