“Good words, good spirits, good friends make for a good life.”
Malcolm Gibson, journalist

      I came to the University of Kansas in August 1996 to begin my new career as a full-time professor of journalism after 34 years as a reporter and editor at newspapers and The Associated Press. (If you don't really want to know more, that's OK, you can skip the next seven or eight paragraphs. But, please, after skipping the PR, read what's left. It's mildly important. But some words of advice: It's nice to know a bit about the person who'll be preaching the “gospel of journalism” to you, so read on.)  Or if you'd like to read another short biography, read “Ode to garlic and etaoin shrdlu” or head to my blog, “Going over Sixty.” I also write essays, most recently for the Virginian-Pilot, which I delivered as a kid in my hometown of Norfolk, Va. You can find my efforts here.

Malcolm Gibson
Photo taken in 2011
“It's impossible to teach anyone to be a journalist because most of the skills necessary to be a good journalist — an insatiable curiosity, a tenacity for the truth and a love of words — must be developed within. Those of us who have chosen to teach journalism don't really teach; we merely light the way.”

    Professional: I began my professional career as a reporter in the U.S. Army and, later, as a stringer for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. I have worked as a reporter, editor or news executive for a number of top-flight organizations, including The Miami Herald, The Tampa Tribune, The Associated Press and The New York Times Co. For most of my 18 years with the Times Company, I was an executive editor — at The Times-News in Hendersonville, N.C., and, later, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. I was a longtime active member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and I continue to be an active member of several professional organizations, including the Inland Press Association, Kansas Collegiate Media, College Media Advisers, Associated Collegiate Press and American Copy Editors Society, of which I am a charter member. In 2001, I was the keynote speaker at the ACES national convention in Long Beach, Calif., and, in 2002, was the closing speaker at the New England Society of Newspaper Editors annual meeting. I am past president of the Kansas Collegiate Media, the statewide organization that represents college media in Kansas.

    The University Daily Kansan: At the end of May 2013, after 17 years at KU, I retired from KU. For the last 11 and a half of those years, in addition to my faculty responsibilities, I served as general manager and news adviser to the nationally-recognized student-run daily news operation, including the daily newspaper and Web site. I took on those roles in late December 2001 from good friend Tom Eblen, the former managing editor of The Kansas City Star who held the reins at the UDK for 15 years.

    Professional interests: Other than writing and editing, I am interested in the African and African-American media. For example, I'm analyzing work by African-American war correspondents in World War II, and working with another journalism veteran, Jackie Thomas, on an anthology of the best African-American journalism of the 20th century is in the works. I also conduct workshops at newspapers on reporting, writing, editing and newsroom management. And, as noted above, I write essays for Virginia's largest newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot, which I delivered as a kid growing up in Norfolk, Va.

     Africa: I am an Africanist, and I have traveled extensively throughout the world as a journalist, mostly in Africa. While there, I hitchhiked most places and, among other interesting adventures, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak, where you can freeze your butt off even though you're just a few degrees south of the Equator. I have interviewed many interesting personalities, including Nelson Mandela. (Want some evidence? Click here for photo. We sat around and drank beer for three hours at a home in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1993.)  My recent interest is in China. I administered a grant for KU that took me to China to identify and recruit emerging journalists to come to KU.

   Teaching: It's what I love to do, which is why I gave up the big bucks to do what I'm doing....and continue to do it in “retirement” for a lot less compensation (though the School does give me an office, which is nice). Just FYI: In addition to a number of teaching awards, the class of '03 recognized my effort by selecting me as a finalist for the H.O.P.E. award, which is given to the top teacher at KU as voted by the senior class. I was one of seven finalists (which everyone says is just like winning. Right!) I, along with the six other finalists, went on the football field (and, yes, it was during halftime on a game day in front of a crowd) to announce the final selection. I wasn't it. A math professor won. From my view, the math prof should have won because (a) it's the first time a math professor had ever won the award, and (b) if you can teach math effectively AND get people to vote for you as “teacher of the year,” you deserve it.

     Gator Country: I earned a degree in African Studies in 1977 and my master's in mass communication (with an emphasis on international journalism) in 1994, both from the University of Florida, home of the “Fightin' Gators.” My graduate thesis was “Gatekeeping, AIDS, and the African Press: Watu waache kutangatanga (People should stop playing around).” During my studies, I taught reporting at UF. Earlier, I also taught reporting at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  And for five years, I was a member of the Journalism Advisory Council at UF.

      Call me “Professor Gramps”: I have been married for more than four decades. (Joyce and I were married in 1971). We have two children. Jennifer, who was born in 1972, is a certified pharmacy technician. She lives in Nashua, N.H., with her husband and our first (and, so far, only) grandchild, Adam, who was born a few days from my birthday in 1998. Our son, Ian, who was born in 1978, attended KU and graduated from Washburn University with a degree in finance. He's a Pike (Pi Kappa Alpha), plays pickup basketball as often as he can and likes to play golf with me. A short time after graduation in 2002, he followed his then-girlfriend, a KU alumna, to the wonderful mountain town of Tsuyama, Japan, where she was teaching English. Ian also picked up a job teaching English and picked up a lot of the Japanese language, too. Ian now works in San Francisco with his California-born and -bred companion, Andrea, whom he met while they were working in Australia.

      Bow ties and juggling: And, yes, as you'll likely hear, I am mildly proficient in Swahili, love baseball, golf, old movies, books and music (everything from good ol' rock 'n' roll to opera), relish Ethiopian food, have jumped out of perfectly good airplanes (as part of my job in the Army as the skydiving columnist for the post newspaper), drove a '79 MGB roadster virtually every day (until I traded it in recently for a safer and more reliable Mazda Miata GT, which we drive, top down, all over the country), officiated at many weddings (most for former students with my 16th is coming up this August), believe the practice of journalism should be fun, and once taught an entire newsroom, as well as the occasional New York Times visiting editor, how to juggle and tie bow ties (not at the same time). In addition to being the GM and adviser to the UDK, I'm the faculty adviser to the KU juggling club. And for Christmas one year at my newspaper in North Carolina, my staff gave me a unicycle to ride in the newsroom. I still have it (but still have difficulty riding the darned thing; c'mon juggling club members — teach this old dog a new trick!).

     My goal: Silliness aside, I take my role here — as I did in my newsrooms — seriously. My specific goal is to assist students in developing the skills necessary for successful, productive and, yes, profitable careers. 
     To do so, I will attempt to convince you that the only way to succeed is to become a truly literate person. That ultimate goal can be realized, I believe, by practicing my basic philosophy, summed up so eloquently by Goethe (1749-1832), the German philosopher:

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song,
read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible,
to speak a few reasonable words.”

Links to Professor Gibson's Web Sites and Blog
International Journalism Making Words Work
Advanced Reporting The Gibson Gazette (personal)


Updated Dec. 6, 2013