As a PR professional, I am constantly educating those around me that do not work in the industry about what public relations is and does. Even those who work in other facets of marketing often cannot describe PR with confidence. In honor of school years ending, and in light of the fact that education never stops, […]
In what seems like a move of sheer, brazen nepotism, today I bring you the wonder that is Ted Iliff.
In tight circles, he is more affectionately known as “Cousin Ted”. Or as my friend and colleague Kristen deemed him (after leading us on a 15-hour private tour of Venice, Italy and enlightening us at every water-laden turn), “Encyclopedia BriTedica,” or “B-Ted” for short.
Growing up, the stories of Cousin Ted were as legendary as they came. He was elusive, and clandestine, and I thought that maybe one day I would be as cool as he was, or at least as interesting – minus the mustache.
His resume ranged from CNN and USA Today to TV channels in Montenegro and Albania. He inaugurated a nonprofit’s international division, introduced TV news to the Voice of America, professionalized official news media in Iraq, and designed a Web-based radio news service in Kosova. He taught journalism in Turkey and Armenia, mentored counselor educators in Afghanistan, keynoted conferences in China and Malaysia, emceed conferences in India and China, and conducted media relations seminars across the United States.
How could a twelve year old possibly live up to that?
While I’ve gotten over my initial feelings of intimidation – growing up does have its advantages – I haven’t gotten over my perpetual need to listen to and learn from this amazing man.
Fresh on the heels of the recently released “Out of the News: Former Journalists Discuss a Profession in Crisis”, where he sheds light on his path out of journalism to teaching and consulting with author Celia Viggo Wexler, here is B-Ted’s take on everything from journalism, to news media, to the definition of PR.
When did you get bitten with the journalism bug?
Ted Iliff: I knew when I was young that I wanted some kind of career path that would take me overseas, specifically to Germany for family reasons. I nibbled the journalism bait in an introductory course at Kansas University (KU) my freshman year. The first semester of my sophomore year I took the beginning news writing class, and that was it. At the end of that semester the Topeka, Kansas paper hired me as its KU freelancer, and I spent the rest of my college years concentrating on freelancing, the school newspaper and summer internships. I left without a degree (I got one years later) because I just wanted to work in journalism.
Did you always know you were a storyteller/writer? What were some early signs?
TI: I always did well with writing in school, but I didn’t think about it much as a career path until college.
In your opinion, has the practice of journalism changed since your days at CNN? How so?
TI: First, I have to say that I consider myself an “old-school” dinosaur in the profession. I worry about (and teach) language precision, accuracy and fairness. Those principles appear to be pushed to the background in favor of personality, opinion and “sizzle.” I understand how audiences are attracted and held, but broadcast business models don’t seem to have much room right now for important issues and events unless they raise blood pressures or activate sweat glands for viewers. And most of all, accuracy (facts and language) seems to be optional. At least there is plenty of evidence to support that allegation. Continue reading…