Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hotty Toddy

So yesterday, Shepard Smith gave the commencement address at his beloved University of Mississippi~Ole Miss.


As you can guess, I'm quite proud of him.

But not everyone seems to be.

I read a few negative editorials prior to the commencement, and in some ways, I could understand their point of view.

No, no one was sore that someone from the dreaded FoxNews stable was giving the address.

What they were a little perturbed by was the fact that Shepard Smith, while an alumnus of Ole Miss, was not a graduate.

While Shepard attended the University for 5 years, he never moved his tassel from one side to the other and heard the words "you are graduated". He never received a diploma. And yet, he is probably one of the most successful people to ever attend the university.

A man without a college degree was giving an address to those who graduated...with the degree he so obviously lacks.

I could definitely understand why those editorial authors were a bit distressed by the choice of Shepard Smith as speaker. How can you possibly have someone who dropped out of college and became successful address people who worked very hard to earn their degree at their own graduation.

As Warner Wolff would say, let's go to the video tape.

Shepard is highly regarded as the most successful, most watched anchorman on cable news. Recently, FNC rewarded him for this with a huge payraise~an estimated 7-8 million dollars per year. He is top rated, highly praised and easily recognized. He is authoritative, funny, charming (that damn impish grin that totally sucks me in every time!) and unquestionably the best reporter on his feet when on the scene.

But...did he learn the skills to be the best at Ole Miss? Or is it something that lies more within his nature, some skill that he honed and nurtured on his own?

I have nothing against education, as I myself am a college graduate and would not have the job I hold without my degree.

But, is a degree in Journalism something that Shepard needed to do his job? According to Smith himself, he took all of his journalism classes, and was missing only a Spanish class to graduate.

The whole point of a college education, one where we not only take the classes required for our chosen major, but also other required classes in subjects we aren't majoring in, is to get a well rounded education. To be able to be versed in other subjects, which do indeed all come into play at various times in our lives.

Shepard is missing this.

I'm not saying hes not qualified to do his job. I KNOW he is. But, I do know that it nags at me a tweak at times that I know he doesn't have his degree. And it makes me wish he'd just take the darn class online and get it done. But then something happens~a Hurricane Katrina or a war in Israel or a bridge collapse in Minnesota~and there he is, the best reporter on his feet, giving me the details from the scene. And I know that Shepard Smith is the best that there is. He has honed and fine tuned his skills to be the sharpest out there.

And that's when I think, while I'd like for him to have his degree so that he could say YES I DO HAVE A DEGREE IN JOURNALISM FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, I know that having a degree in a subject does not MAKE person good at it. I can assure you, there are reporters out there with degrees in Journalism who are NOT good reporters, just as there are accountants out there with degrees who can't set up a spreadsheet if their lives depended on it.

No, Shepard Smith is a damn good reporter, degree or no degree, and those who graduated yesterday at the University of Mississippi were damn lucky to have him expound on life for them.

I hope they listened and learned.


Ronda said...

A degree is just a document. What matters is what you have learned and practiced. Geez, some people have degrees out there that haven't got a clue about what they are doing.
Journalists don't necessarily need degrees, as some other careers don't... as well as some driven and talented individuals that don't. I've learned about as much as I can in a classroom and I still have a year left (really only 2 major classes left that I can't take in the same semester). If I was driven and confident, I wouldn't be in college now. I'd be out there doing the real thing!
And Shep did say what he learned at the university helped him become what he is today. He did most of his degree. He clearly learned what he needed to or learned what would benefit him.
Being happy in your career is the big deal. The degree is not.

newsjunkie said...

It would have bothered me had Shep been the speaker at my Law School graduation, not because he doesn't have a college degree, but because he's not a lawyer and as many legal stories as he's covered, he doesn't have the experience or the knowledge that comes along with a formal legal education. I'm sure a Doctor would feel the same way.

But he's been working successfully as a journalist for what, 21 years now? He's more than qualified to speak to a college graduating class. And like you said, he was 6 or fewer credits away from getting the degree.

Not to mention that maybe 10 or 12 years ago, Kermit the Frog spoke at Harvard's undergraduate graduation ceremony. I remember a girl commenting at the time that she was glad her parents spent so much money--and she had studied so hard for four years--so she could listen to a green sock talk at her graduation. :) Don't get me wrong, I love Kermit (he's the most awesome Muppet by a mile), but he's not quite qualified to impart wisdom upon graduating Seniors...

That said, one of my favorite speeches ever is a speech Alan Alda gave to the graduating class of Columbia University medical school, when he was still playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H. Text is here:

We read it college in my Freshman speech class and it's stuck with me ever since.

newsjunkie said...

OK I knew that link was going to be too long. Here it is:

Lisa said...

the link didnt work? it's not showing up as a link, actually :(

newsjunkie said...

Try this: