UNCG Campus Weekly

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Times editor shows students where hard work, curiosity can lead

022713Feature_NYTThe New York Times foreign editor did not start out in journalism – had never written for student newspapers, etc. “I’d never written an article in my life till grad school,” Greg Winter told the UNCG audience at his Feb. 19 evening talk.

Hard work and curiosity will take you in funny directions, he said.

As an undergraduate at Brown, he decided to major in architecture, with a focus on public policy. His thesis was on “Section 8,” a federal financing program. Soon, his job was focused on public housing in San Francisco, where he was director of public policy at the Hamilton Family Center. “I was bringing classroom discussions to life.”

He got burned out, and was ready for a career change. No one wanted to publish what he wanted to write. “I like to write. I like social issues,” he thought, so he decided to go to journalism school.

“Man created graduate school, to recreate yourself,” he joked.

He was soon freelancing as a journalist, and then interned with the Wall Street Journal. That led to his reporting for the Business desk of the New York Times.

All along, he drew on his interests, his background – and what he’d learned in each part of his education and career.

And that was a big part of his message to the UNCG students attending the talk. You can’t really predict what will happen, he said. One example? There was a time when attending law school was a very safe bet; not now. Another example? When he was in grad school in 2000, few foresaw to what extent the internet would change the world of journalism.

He is now foreign editor at the New York Times. He listed and explained many critical international stories they’ve covered. “I never imagined I would be doing this,” he said.

Hitting deadlines. Following your instincts. Digging for that stellar story. Drawing on your entire background, your personal stamp. These are some of the lessons the UNCG students heard. And one more:

“The more you hustle, the more doors will open for you.”

A few additional notes from his UNCG talk and Q&A:

  • Journalism does have values. “It’s not just information.” The highest honor in their field is the Pulitzer Prize in public service, he noted.
  • Paranoia and utter terror are good things in journalism, he wryly explained. One bad mess-up on a big story, and your career could be over. At the same time, you have the deadline and you have to deliver. “I don’t care how much you triple-checked your story, you get nervous.”
  • ‘International’ is our brand, he said, responding to a question about The New York Times. At another point in his talk, he spoke of “investigative journalism” as their brand identity. He explained that he does not make business decisions, but it is a business decision of his newspaper to devote resources to international coverage and investigative journalism. Those two carry a cost, but “we might make it back in brand” he explained, when people decide who to subscribe to.

The editor spoke at this event and one exclusively for students as part of the “New York Times in the First Year” program. UNCG has leveraged the program to help broaden students’ perspectives and develop critical thinking. Some classes use news stories to promote discussions related to topics such as global issues, leadership, civic engagement, diversity, ethics and global issues.

Afterward, Dr. Steve Roberson, UNCG’s dean of undergraduate studies, explained the value to UNCG students.

“I am extremely pleased that UNCG is one of nine universities in the nation–including Gonzaga and NYU – participating in the New York Times in the First Year program. Giving our students access to the daily print version of the Times, along with electronic access, is sensational. Interactions with New York Times reporters and editors, whether via Skype or in person, is transformative.”

Faculty and instructors interested in using The New York Times in the classroom – both the “First Year” and “Leadership” programs – should contact Laura Pipe at lmpipe@uncg.edu. “Currently, many faculty and instructors formally and informally use the paper on campus,” Pipe said. “However, events like Greg Winter’s visit to campus are the product of a number of committed faculty and staff.” Faculty and instructors who formally designate their course as using the paper receive a free Monday-Friday home delivered subscription during the semester, she noted. Additionally, having more courses formally using the paper allows the university to hold more events and video conferences with journalists from The Times. Faculty may explore current uses of the paper at http://nytimesinthefirstyear.com or http://nytimesinleadership.com

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Chris English, of Winter immediately after speaking with UNCG students in an afternoon session. Joseph Abraham, sports editor for The Carolinian, is to his left (with blue backpack).