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  • Sincerely, Southern

Reed Smith continues passion for learning through teaching

By Aniya Hatten

Photo courtesy Dr. Reed Smith

Reed Smith, Ph.D is a professor in the Communications Studies Department at Georgia Southern University and is one of the department’s oldest professors and has been at GS for more than 25 years and he is also an author of multiple books.

Smith decided to pursue a career in broadcasting and communications back in high school. He said that he was motivated by a local sportscaster back in his home state of Ohio who hosted local basketball and football games. Smith would also pick up clear channel stations and listen to the rock and roll stations from surrounding areas such as Cleveland, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois and New York.

“I really liked the music, but I also really liked the disc jockeys and what they had to say,” said Smith. “Most of them were funny and very personable and I just thought ‘boy, it would be really neat to do that.’”

Smith went to a broadcasting trade school directly after high school for about 4 months. This allowed him to get his first job in broadcasting as a radio announcer on weekends while he received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University.

Later, Smith was encouraged by a professor from his undergraduate to get his master’s degree. That same professor eventually asked him to come back to OU, while he was working in broadcast full time, and teach one course part time in the evenings.

“I really enjoyed it and the students seemed to react positively to the way I taught,” Smith said. “That same teacher, unfortunately, died a few years later due to cancer and I was asked to take her place…which I did. ”

This resulted in Smith becoming a full-time professor and broadcasting part time for about five or six years. Smith eventually came to terms that he had to make a decision between teaching and broadcasting. He knew teaching would require a Ph.D. but he said he didn’t want to get one at the time.

“I sort of took a side route at that point and I took a job as a public radio station manager at Northern Arizona University,” said Smith. “There was a bit of a power struggle there between trying to get the station going and the administrators at the campus. So I only stayed there for two years, and returned to Ohio.”

Smith then decided to get his doctorate in mass communication from Ohio University part time while teaching there. Once he completed this degree, Smith said that he wanted to teach at a larger, regional university in a warmer part of the country so he came to Statesboro.

Melanie Stone, Ph.D met Smith in the spring of 2005 when she came to the university for a job interview. Stone said that Smith is very kind, professional and that his passion for teaching is unmatched.

“I remember he was the one to drive me back to the airport when I came here to interview and he just had a paper accepted to be published. This was a huge deal,” explained Stone., who now is an associate professor at GS. “I asked him would he not rather work at an institution where the main emphasis was research rather than teaching and he told me no… this was very impressive to me. A lot of people who are good researchers don’t necessarily care about teaching but he has always put his students first.”

Smiths’ expertise in broadcasting communication and teaching over the years has allowed him to write many books and journal articles. Smith is co-author of a broadcast announcing worktext, “A Media Performance Guide,” which was published in May of 2020.

He also authored “Cecil Brown: The Murrow Boy Who Became Broadcasting’s Crusader for the Truth,” published in 2017. During his undergraduate years, he took a course about broadcasting history and he was introduced to a man by the name of Edward R. Murrow, who was known for organizing the first radio news team during World War II. Murrow’s crew was set up in different parts across Europe and Cecil Brown was a part of that team.

“Dating back to about eight years ago, I first came across his name as being one of the members of the team, but no one had ever done any real research on him,” said Smith. “So I started poking around to find out about him and learned that his wife, 100 years old, was still alive!”

Smith arranged a series of interviews with Brown’s wife and took several trips to the Wisconsin Historical Society, where Brown donated all of his records, to write the autobiography. The book took about four years to complete according to Smith.

The first book he ever wrote was also a biography called “Samuel Medary & The Crisis: Testing the Limits of Press Freedom,” which was published in 1995. He originally wrote an abbreviated version of Medary’s story for his doctoral dissertation and then his advisor urged him to work on it more so it could be published.

“There have been these great people along my journey...through my career and through my teaching experiences who have made these suggestions to me that I never dreamed I was capable of doing,” said Smith. “But I was able to follow up on them so that’s been the result of numerous things I’ve done…including these books.”

Smith is currently working on news media coverage of the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. He plans on generating a journal article from this information and to have this done by summer 2021.

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