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UCF journalism professor Rick Brunson on the state of the media and coaching the next generation of reporters

UCF senior instructor in Journalism at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, Rick Brunson. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
UCF senior instructor in Journalism at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, Rick Brunson. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Central Florida is a dynamic, fast growing place, and that’s reflected in the media landscape here. Rick Brunson, senior journalism instructor at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media joined Intersection to talk about what makes this a unique and challenging place to be a journalist, and on coaching the next generation of media professionals.

"You have a lot of strong media brands here," says Brunson.

"Nothing really happens much here without a reporter knowing about it."

Brunson says there's "kind of a joke" in newsrooms here that there's a Florida angle for any story in the world, "because the world literally comes here. They come here for vacation, they come here to travel, they come here to take in the beaches and our beautiful environment."

"You have rich patterns of immigration, you have lots of folks here from from all over, and then pile all of that into issues of housing, density, pressure on the environment, immigration, it all makes for a really interesting place to be a journalist."

Two years ago, the Nicholson school launched a student-led data journalism project focused on Winter Park. Since then the project has expanded to include a podcast. Brunson says audio reporting takes him back full-circle.

"When I was a little kid, my parents gave me a Sony reel to reel, small tape recorder, and I would go around the neighborhood with a microphone and interview neighbors and friends about whatever they were doing that day. And so the very first kind of reporting that I was ever introduced to was audio reporting. And now I'm 61, and I'm kind of coming back full circle to it professionally. And it's been a blast."

As for the future of journalism, Brunson says what keeps him up at night is "the economic state of the news industry," where hedge funds and private equity companies are buying up media organizations and trying to maximize profits at the expense of the journalists who work there.

"A lot of good young journalists are burned out," says Brunson. He notes they're moving onto sectors like marketing and public relations that are perceived to be more stable and less demanding.

"You used to make that move when you were 40. Now they're making it from 25 to 30. And that concerns me."