Be on time, answer the phone when it rings and make a career out of something you have fun doing.
It’s important for student journalists to learn to be on time because “everything we do is based on a deadline,” Schieffer said.
As far as the phone, Schieffer learned early in his career the importance of answering it and being open to the message on the other end of the line.
Schieffer worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He answered when a woman called the newsroom asking for a ride to Dallas. He initially told the woman that they ran a newspaper, not a taxi company. He had no intention of giving her a ride, until she mentioned that she needed to get to Dallas because her son, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been arrested for shooting the president. Needless to say, Schieffer decided he could play taxi driver. He picked up Marguerite Oswald and interviewed her throughout the day.
It’s adventures like the one described above that Schieffer said have kept his career fun for more than 50 years.
“In what other job could you have adventures like that? In what other job can you interview people who you’ve always wanted to talk to,” Schieffer asked the crowd of more than a thousand convention attendees.
Schieffer, who has interviewed every president since Nixon, advised students to do something they really loved and not to worry about success.
“If you get good at it, that will come,” he said.
Schieffer didn’t shy away from encouraging the students to become journalists. He said being a journalist is “very important.”
“I’ve never tried to take myself very seriously, but I’ve always taken being a journalist very seriously,” he said.
But Schieffer warned that journalism is changing.
“Everybody who has a phone is a publisher,” he said. “The main problem is separating truth and fiction on the internet.”
This problem makes journalists’ vetting and editing of information more important than ever before, Schieffer said.
Journalists always have been under pressure, especially from politicians, but that’s been true before, Schieffer said.
“We’re always going to be under attack from those who don’t like what we report about them. As journalists, we don’t pay much attention to that,” he said. “But, what we do pay attention to, whether it comes from someone in the highest position in the land or in the darkest corner of his mother’s basement, is questioning our credibility.”
The changing nature of political news and how it’s reported is the subject of Schieffer’s new book, Overload: Finding Truth in Today’s Deluge of News.
The future of journalism lies in the student journalists in Schieffer’s audience. He gave them just three more pieces of advice in closing: “Don’t report anything unless you’ve checked it out, don’t read your cell phone as you’re walking across the street and don’t smoke.”