Meet Instructor Who Returned to Teach Where He Learned His Craft

Meet Instructor Who Returned to Teach Where He Learned His Craft

Rick Brunson joined the Nicholson School of Communication’s journalism program in 2003 to help develop future print journalists in the place he learned his craft. He teaches reporting, editing and ethics and advises the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

He earned his bachelor’s at the University of Central Florida, where he majored in sociology and minored in journalism, and earned his master’s degree in American history from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Brunson began his career as an obituary reporter for The Sanford Herald and went on to work as a reporter or editor at several newspapers in Central Florida, including the Tampa Tribune, Daytona Beach News-Journal, and Orlando Sentinel, where he still works as a production editor. He also serves as the advisor for Centric magazine, a student-produced magazine that publishes an issue each fall and spring semester. The latest issue of Centric debuted this week. For an online edition of the magazine, go to http://centric.cos.ucf.edu/.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at the Nicholson School of Communication?

The opportunity to be in the people-development business. Effective communication really is the key to all kinds of success and fulfillment in life – from your marriage and family to the way you earn a living. I know it sounds corny and probably suspect, but I get to work with young people in the foundational years of their adult lives when they’re in the process of moving into careers and lasting relationships. It’s an amazing privilege to be part of that process and an influential part of their lives during those critical years between 18 and 22. 

What inspired you to leave your career as a full-time copy editor to teach journalism?

Well, journalism is kind of like the mob – you never really do get to leave. I’ve continued to work as a professional journalist on a part-time basis – either at the Orlando Sentinel or WFTV Channel 9 – since I joined the journalism faculty in 2003. But I’ve got to say the opportunity to return to UCF to teach the craft I love where I learned the craft was just too good to pass up. How many people in any field get that chance? How cool is that? I feel like the luckiest guy in town.

How do you keep the content of your courses current and cutting edge in the ever-changing world of journalism?

It helps that I’ve been fortunate to continue working in a newsroom on a weekly basis where I’m observing and participating in the revolutionary changes in this field. When my students see my own reporting on the Sentinel’s website – a story I’ve written or a video package I’ve shot with my iPhone – they go, “Oh, the old guy really does know what he’s talking about.” It gives me a level of trust and credibility that is invaluable as a teacher. I’m in the trenches of a changing industry, getting my hands dirty, then walking into class and teaching them what I know they’re going to need to know — now and five years from now.

What can we see in Centric magazine this semester?

Expect to be surprised. That’s what we always hope to deliver to our readers. We like to say there are 60,000 stories on this campus – and we’re going to bring you a few you didn’t know about that just may inspire you and make you feel good about going to school here.

What do you feel is a common misconception of print journalists?

That what print journalists do is “dead.” It’s simply not true. How people get their news has changed – we’re all reading the news on smartphones and tablets and sharing it with friends on social media. But you can trace the origin of almost any news story that’s of any value or significance to a newspaper reporter who knocked on a door, dug through some public records or asked a tough question. Nothing will ever replace the act of original reporting by trained, ethical, smart, curious and thoughtful journalists. That’s why I’m still here.

What is something that few people know about you?

My media career had an inauspicious beginning – I was a contestant on WFTV’s “Bozo the Clown’’ show when I was 10 years old. I’ve been clowning around ever since.