Frank Mankiewicz, a former press secretary for Robert F. Kennedy and past president of National Public Radio, told about 100 aspiring student journalists not to major in journalism in a lecture Thursday night.
He encouraged students to “take a real major” like economics or psychology to gain a background in a subject to help with future reporting.
Mankiewicz said reading the newspaper and listening to the radio will teach students more about journalism than they can learn in a classroom. He added that being updated on current events makes you more impressive and marketable when interviewing for a job.
Even signs, grafitti and obituaries “can tell you a lot about our culture,” he said. “You can learn an awful lot from just keeping your mind open.”
Mankiewicz discussed his experiences in the media and stressed the importance of reading and staying in touch with the news and American culture. The lecture was sponsored by the Press Room living and learning community and Triple Play.
“You’re not going to be a success if you don’t read,” he said.
Currently vice chairman of Hill and public relations firm Knowlton Public Affairs Worldwide, Mankiewicz has also worked as presidential campaign director for former Sen. George McGovern and regional director of the Peace Corps for Latin America in the ’60s.
“He was able to give some inspiring words for students interested in journalism,” freshman David Grossman said.
As president for National Public Radio for seven years, Mankiewicz started “Morning Edition,” a two-hour morning news program.
He attributed the success of “Morning Edition” to people’s “need for solidity” in the morning and their hope that the “pillars of the world are still there.”
He called news radio “a much more focused medium” than television or the newspaper.
“Radio is an interpretive medium,” he said, “It appeals to only one sense . television appeals to many senses and you are distracted by many things.”
Mankiewicz told students to enter journalism, noting that there are more jobs that require journalism skills in D.C. than anywhere else. There are 535 press secretaries on Capitol Hill and each has a deputy, he said.
Mankiewicz described Kennedy as “the shyest man I ever knew.” He also said Kennedy would have eventually been elected president if he was not assassinated.
Mankiewicz, a Democrat, complimented President George W. Bush, noting he was doing a “good job communicating with the people” so far.
He praised the Bush administration for being “very restrained” and understanding “the (Sept. 11) attack wasn’t an attack on democracy (as initially believed) but on our foreign policy.”
Christina Koury and Veronica Perretti, freshmen members of the College Republicans, said they attended the lecture to get a different perspective on the media.
Perretti said Mankiewicz was very honest and “knew how to face the facts.”
Koury said the lecture made her want to read the newspaper.
Grossman is a College Democrat and one of the 33 members of the Press Room who organized the event. He said he was able to invite the former press secretary because Mankiewicz once worked with his father.
The Press Room, located on the third floor of the Hall on Virginia Avenue, holds meetings twice a week. Grossman said the group tries to organize events three times a month.