Scoobie Ryan’s penchant for asking questions led her into the field of journalism.
“I asked people a lot of questions and I listened to things I wasn’t supposed to be listening to,” she said. “I like to find things out.”
As the associate director of the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, Scoobie teaches basic news writing, media law, journalism history and broadcast news. One of her classes works with WRFL-FM to produce news and public affairs programming for the station.
Scoobie earned her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a master of arts degree from Antioch School of Law. She has reported and produced broadcast news at radio stations in Indianapolis, Boston and Denver. She also taught and advised publications at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She serves on the board of directors for UK’s campus newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. In May she received the 2016 Ken Freedman Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award.
Scoobie spent much of her journalism career in radio.
“I’ve always been a broadcast baby,” she said. “In college I did a lot of on-air work at KBIA, the University of Missouri’s NPR-affiliated station.”
Many of her students aspire to be on-air TV news anchors, but Scoobie warns them anchoring is tough.
“Anchors have to stay calm,” she said. “You can’t lose it on the air. People are watching you, depending on you. You can’t get hysterical if you’re an anchor.”
To help students understand phrasing, cadence and musicality, Scoobie has them listen to recordings of iconic broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.
“The students are struck by how much he crammed into 35 seconds,” she said. “We listened to his report right after Buchenwald was liberated and they were just stunned because of some of the small details he included — like the numbers tattooed on children — and by what he didn’t say. Just the little he described, but those details represented so much horror.”
Scoobie is a strong believer in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
“Freedom of the press and freedom of speech: I like both of those,” she said. “People get freedom of speech confused because it’s about what the government can regulate. People often mistake it for the ability to be rude to other people. That’s not what freedom of speech is about. It’s about the relationship between you and your government; it’s not an excuse to be rude in public to other people.”
In the same vein, Scoobie believes the press should also be free.
“What is confounding these days is the way the courts years ago decided broadcasters were second-class citizens and cable operators have a few more rights than broadcasters,” she said. “They’ve never quite
Scoobie has been at UK since 1996.
“I enjoy my students very much,” she said. “We have a great group of students here. I really like working with them and pushing them into a newsroom.”
Even though journalism and newspapers have changed, some things have not, Scoobie said.
“I still get the Sunday New York Times and I go through it page by page,” she said. “I have a lifetime subscription to Rolling Stone. I’m just afraid it will die before I do. I hope not. I need my Rolling Stone.”
Preparing for a Career in Journalism
Scoobie Ryan supervises internships for journalism majors. She gets frequent requests for producers to work at stations across the country — and they’re needed immediately.
“Some jobs people think of when they think of traditional or legacy journalism might not be as plentiful as they used to be,” she said. “I tell all my students if you’re a producer, you are worth your weight in gold. If you are a good multimedia journalist, a good social media producer, you can write your own ticket.”
Producers must have strong skills in diverse areas.
“Producing is all about good news judgment,” Scoobie said. “You have to be able to write. You have to be able to anticipate where the story’s going. You have to be able to find facts and you have to have a good sense of ethics. Producers have to do it all.”
Certain traits and characteristics will help aspiring journalism students get a foot in the door and move up the ranks.
“If students want to succeed in journalism, they need to be curious,” Ryan said. “They need to be voracious readers. I also think they need to be respectful of not just their audience but of all people. I don’t think you could tell somebody’s story unless you listen to them — not just with an open mind but with an open heart.”
Ryan is always proud to learn her students have made their marks in the world of broadcast news. One former student is now a sports director at a station in Bowling Green. Another works at a station in Salt Lake City and has won some prestigious journalism awards. A third directs NPR’s All Things Considered program.
“There are jobs out there,” Ryan said. “We care about our students, really care about them, and we want them to succeed.”