For George Daniels, journalism is about the people you meet along the way. Looking back, he recalls the names of several mentors who helped him develop from high school on to college and in his career. Those five mentors he considers instrumental, saying they shaped his career in broadcast journalism and journalism/mass communication as a professor.
His first journalism experience in eighth grade was learning about meteorologist roles at local TV stations. That interview sparked his interest and future career in local TV news. Winning “Best Story Under Deadline Pressure” during a summer workshop in 10th grade solidified that journalism was a place where Daniels could be successful. After college and briefly working three concurrent jobs in Virginia, Daniels spent several years in the Midwest before moving to Atlanta.
Five years later, the daily newsroom experience felt like a pattern of repetition. Searching for something more, Daniels decided that academia could be the place for him. He pursued a master’s degree and, later, a doctorate at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
Interacting with students as a graduate student was a positive experience. When met with the opportunity to work as a full-time journalism professor at the University of Alabama, Daniels was sold. Live newscasts are still produced several times a day at Alabama, and the WVUA-TV newsroom is a short walk down the hall from the classroom. That was of great value to him.
In his 15 years at Alabama, he has researched diversity issues in the media workplace and change in television newsrooms. As a professor, Daniels teaches students the responsibility of their power to shape an audience’s understanding of issues, especially race and gender. Students in his classes learn the experiences of groups that differ from their own experiences and build a representative list of sources for their stories. Getting more people involved as sources adds different aspects to their stories. For the past four years, he has served as the assistant dean in the College of Communication and Information Sciences.
Though he’s an introvert in his personal life, Daniels enjoys being highly involved in professional organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and others. Since he joined SPJ in 1998, Daniels has served on the national SPJ board in a variety of roles, including as campus adviser at-large, and he previously chaired SPJ’s Diversity Committee.
Hagit Limor, past national SPJ president, said that during their time working together, “On every committee and effort, George always contributed in a thoughtful way and served as a dependable member of any effort. George has a way of navigating even controversial waters with quiet determination and class.”
Of their time serving on the national board — almost a decade — Limor said, “George didn’t speak often, but when he did, everyone listened.”
Daniels said his favorite part of SPJ is gathering with others at the Excellence in Journalism conference. Between the networking opportunities and the training, the SPJ business meetings at Excellence in Journalism make the organization unique among his other memberships in professional organizations.
A self-proclaimed pack rat, Daniels said that collecting newspapers along his travels is a favorite hobby. Every city and state he’s visited in the United States is represented in his stack of newspapers at home.
Looking toward the future, Daniels wants to leave a lasting impact. On his to-do list: writing three to five books that will change media research for future generations. He also hopes to contribute to others’ success as much as his mentors have contributed to his.
Reflecting on his goals, he wants “to have a long list of journalists whose lives I’ve influenced. So far, I can name at least five working journalists who were former students of mine. They’re successful, and I take so much pride in knowing I had a small part in their getting to where they are today.”
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