Mike Leary used the money he made from his first news story at age 6 to buy his friends Cherry Cokes.
Leary is now a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, and he discussed his career in media with students Tuesday as part of Mass Communication Week. Leary directed a Philadelphia Inquirer team effort that won a 2012 Pulitzer for a series on school violence.
Leary, who has reported in 35 countries and all 50 states, talked to students about his journalism career, which he said is a rare job where “Work is not work.” He said journalists are both witnesses and participants of history.
Major national issues are unfolding in Texas, specifically in the border region, he said. About 60,000 Mexican nationals have moved to San Antonio to seek better futures for their children, which has significantly changed the Express-News’ audience, he said.
Leary said when looking at the license plates of cars near shops at La Cantera in San Antonio, where he lives, it is apparent that Mexican nationals are becoming the new audience.
“We need to cover that border-region more because our audience is changing,” Leary said.
He said the Express-News wants to be the principle newspaper covering the border region, and it intends to more aggressively cover the area.
Leary also talked about newspapers making the transition from print to digital form. He said many newspapers in the country have not made the move to the Web, which is a large part of why they are losing subscribers.
“Bottom line, readers are looking for unique and indispensible coverage,” Leary said.
Leary said the Express-News now has a stabilized circulation of 139,000 subscribers. There are 130,000 print subscriptions and 8,000 or 9,000 digital ones, he said.
Leary believes digital subscriptions will increase significantly from new technology like iPads, which provide the reader with more enhanced material than print versions of the newspaper. He said the Express-News is in a transitional phase right now, which could also cause digital subscriptions to increase.
said videos are also going to be an increasingly important form of
journalism. At the Philadelphia Inquirer, Leary directed and edited a
print and online series about school violence titled “Assault on
Learning,” which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public
A video that was part of the series was shown during the event. Leary said the video drove home the importance of narrative reporting.
Leary said a large component of journalism is reporting in the public interest. He said it is the journalist’s job to show the truth.
“You get in the business partly because you are idealistic,” Leary said. “You want to see the world in a better place. By reporting and showing what’s really going on, you are making a positive change, which is rewarding.”
Katharina Guttenberg, mass communication freshman, said she went to the event out of interest in hearing Leary’s experiences as a newspaper reporter.
Amber Sanchez, mass communication electronic media freshman, said she enjoyed Leary’s talk because he shared information that is pertinent to her career choice. Sanchez said she wants to be a news broadcaster.
“It was great,” Sanchez said. “He discussed how it is beneficial to be bilingual and know Spanish because of the market for journalists. He talked about how it isn’t safe in the border towns and south of Texas, but it’s a good place to start off at if you want to be a news broadcaster.”