Steve Smith, journalism and mass media professor at the University of Idaho, will be retiring May 2019 after eight years of teaching. Smith said he always had a passion for reporting – ever since watching Superman as a kid.
“From that point on I just had this thing about being a reporter,” Smith said. “From about 6-years-old that’s all I ever wanted to be.”
He grew up producing his own newspaper for his neighborhood in Eugene, Oregon. Smith went on to have a successful career, traveling to the Ukraine and becoming editor of the Spokesman Review in Spokane.
After almost 40 years of reporting and editing, Smith quit his job. The economy tanked, the tech bubble burst and newspapers went through extreme downsizing.
“I got tired of laying people off,” Smith said. “It was horrible. I would go home and throw up.”
Smith had to do two rounds of mandatory layoffs at the Spokesman-Review. He was forced to cut about 30-percent of his staff – his colleagues and friends who had been working there for years.
“I told my boss I’m not going to do this again,” Smith said. “And so I laid myself off.”
He wanted to see if the academic world had some potential, so Smith became a professor at the University of Idaho in 2010. Smith was recruited by journalism and mass media professor Kenton Bird to teach media ethics. He said it was a wonderful move.
Instead of ending careers, Smith now starts careers. He said he loves working with young students who see journalism from a different perspective and create a new path for the future of this industry.
“I get to work with people who don’t have the baggage of memory and regret the past,” Smith said. “I get to work with young people who are all about the future which keeps me young.” Smith says the career paths have changed and his career path doesn’t exist anymore. However, he said there is a spike in the interest of journalism. He believes people see journalism as important again and because of that, he is very optimistic.
“I’m sad about newspapers but it’s pointless to dwell about it because there is so much more ahead of us,” Smith said.
Sierra Rothermich can be reached at email@example.com