June Nicholson is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She teaches senior-level undergraduate capstone journalism courses and the International Journalism course in the School’s multimedia journalism master’s program.
She has been a leader on diversity and other issues for many years in her work with the national Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), which is the largest organization for print and broadcast journalists in the country. She was chair for seven years of the national SPJ Journalism Education Committee and is serving during 2011-2012 as vice chair. She also was chair for two years of the national SPJ International Journalism Committee and continues as a member. She has been a member of other national SPJ committees. Nicholson is former president of the Virginia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She has helped to educate professional journalists and developed and has been a moderator or discussant for more than 40 seminars and workshops at national SPJ conventions over the years.
She is also a former vice president of Virginia Press Women and a recipient of the VPW Communicator of the Year Award. She also is active in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which is the leading organization for educators in journalism and mass communications. In 2008, she was named recipient of the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Award from AEJMC for her work in promoting diversity in America’s newsrooms. In 2008, Nicholson received the Distinguished Service Award from the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences for service to the journalism profession and the University.
Nicholson is the lead editor of The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press, which was published in 2009 by the University of Illinois Press. This was the first book published in about 20 years to broadly address issues and challenges for women in the news industry and the impact of women in contemporary newsrooms and news companies. Nicholson began her journalism career at the News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C. where she was a general assignment and city hall reporter. She later covered the Virginia statehouse for a decade. She was bureau chief for the Alexandria Gazette and founded the Virginia News Service, which provided state government coverage for small and medium –size newspapers. Nicholson received a master’s degree in public affairs journalism from American University in Washington, D.C. and an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her email is jonichol(at)vcu.edu.
Nicholson was interviewed by Abby Leetch, 20, a junior at the University of Iowa and is majoring in psychology.
Abby Leetch: Why did you become involved in journalism?
June Nicholson: I always have been curious and extremely interested in current affairs.
AL: How do you define journalism today?
JN: I define journalism as the most important foundation of any civil society.
AL: How has technology influenced or affected your career?
JN: Technology has changed what I teach and how in recent years, given that technology has significantly altered the delivery of news, trends in audience consumption and commercial pressures on news companies. But the most important things that I teach are concepts, critical and creative thinking, analysis, and depth writing and reporting. These are the fundamentals of communicating ideas and information to the broader public.
AL: How will technology affect the future of journalism?
JN: Journalism will change as technology evolves. But there always will be a need for verifiable, credible information about government and about issues for society and the global world. Free expression and freedom of the press are underpinnings of a civil society in every country. New technology will help educate and inform the public and build and improve societies around the globe.
AL: What one word would you use to describe the status of women in journalism today?
AL: What role(s) will women have in future journalism?
JN: Women will progress but will have to fight for every gain, as they have through the millennia.
AL: Do you feel objectivity still exists in journalism?
JN: Yes, absolutely, in the best news organizations. That is not the case in the rest.
AL: Where do you see yourself in 10 to 15 years? Can you see yourself being a journalist your entire life?
JN: I have been always and will be a journalist until I die.
AL: Have you ever felt discriminated because of your sex/gender at any point of your career?
JN: Yes, but I have never dwelled on this nor have many other women of this era who have experienced discrimination, or marginalization. We have just worked hard to achieve.
AL: What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had in your career thus far?
JN: I do not look at things that way. Every day is rich with new challenges, discovery, learning and opportunity. These are the things I like most about journalism and higher education and the things that fuel my professional and academic work.
AL: What drives you to work at a University instead of a newspaper company or in a newsroom?
JN: I am fiercely dedicated to advancing journalism, a free press around the world and helping young journalists build careers. I am extremely fortunate in that my University work has allowed me to experience and bridge both journalism and academe.
AL: What advice would you give to young aspiring journalists?
JN: Work hard. Do your best on every assignment. Stay connected. Develop mentors. Set goals and be strategic about your career goals and advancement. Learn other languages and as much as you can about other cultures.
AL: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like us to know about women in journalism?
JN: We owe a huge debt to women pioneers in journalism and to contemporary women who are leaders today in the news industry. Women are in charge of some of the best newsrooms and news companies in the world. But women and men with a dedication and passion for covering serious news and issues are needed to build and advance the press for the future.
This is part of a series of profiles of JAWS members by University of Iowa students. For a complete listing, see this page.