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David Sloan (NCAS ’76) is an Emmy Award–winning executive producer at ABC News who has worked side-by-side with some of the biggest names in broadcast journalism, including Barbara Walters and John Stossel.
His rise to the top of his profession was steady. After graduating from NCAS with a degree in political science and attending NYU’s Graduate School of Journalism, Sloan began as a researcher at “Good Morning America.” He moved up the ranks of the show during the ’80s, serving as consumer producer for Stossel and managing special oversees projects. In 1989, he joined “20/20” as a producer.
Along the way, he won Emmy and GLAAD Awards for a 1992 report on gays in the military with Stossel, and a Peabody Award for a series of specials on actor Christopher Reeves with Barbara Walters.
In 2000, he was named executive producer of “20/20,” and currently holds the same titles for “Primetime,” a new series he just developed called “i-Caught,” and all of Walters’ news specials.
Last year, Sloan decided to give back to his alma mater with a $10K gift to create a new digital-journalism lab. The gift was a game-changer for the Rutgers-Newark Journalism Program, which has been expanding steadily over the last three years, enabling students to build the multimedia skills necessary to compete in a rapidly changing field.
Sloan recently followed that effort with another $10K gift to the Journalism Program for a new state-of-the-art classroom-newsroom to help it modernize and better serve students. In both cases, Sloan’s employer, Disney Company, matched his gifts.
We sat down with Sloan recently to get his thoughts on why he gives to NCAS, the changes sweeping through his profession, and what the newsroom means to the Journalism program.
* * *
What inspired you to begin giving to the Journalism Program at Rutgers-Newark?
What motivated me was a simple taking stock of the spectacular things that the campus gave me. My time there was a springboard to life, a life that’s been very good to me. When Rutgers honored me with a Distinguished Alumni Award a few years ago, I realized I hadn’t given anything back. That embarrassed me. I had reached a point in my television career where I had the means to make a gift. It was high time I did, and it has given me a lot of personal satisfaction in return. I recommend it to any alumnus or alumna. And late is always better than never.
Your first gift, in 2012, helped bring about the digital journalism lab. Your current gift is making the newsroom-classroom possible. Why a newsroom-classroom, and why now?
The newsroom-classroom is all about practical applications—putting students in authentic news-gathering, news-production settings. It’s critical to make skills-acquisition situational. Students learn by doing. It’s not unlike carpentry: The more you do, the better your craft.
This class is vital now because there’s been a seismic shift in the way we consume news: You can get it anywhere now, on demand, all the time, and you no longer need your news expensively constructed, curated and vetted in traditional ways by traditional media. That has changed the economics, to say the least. Every working journalist is doing more with less on tighter deadlines. In this new context, journalism education at Rutgers-Newark has to enable students to hit the ground running on that first day of work
How else is the Rutgers-Newark Journalism Program preparing students for this rapidly changing field?
The digital and social-media tools journalists now depend on are perpetually morphing into new and better versions of themselves. The tangibles are changing at lightning speed. But what doesn’t change is the need to be facile and fearless. I think the Rutgers-Newark program places a premium on those intangibles.
These two projects have been game-changers for the Journalism Program. How does that make you feel, knowing the kind of impact you’re having at your alma-mater, and what kind of feedback have you gotten from the students?
Last year, I visited campus and the digital lab I helped fund. I was flabbergasted by the enthusiasm students had for developing a craft and investing in a career—not so much in the quick fix of just a job. I had the privilege of being invited to a class in session, and I was impressed with how sophisticated their questions were and how earnest their intentions. I feel grateful for the opportunity to make a contribution that was so visibly important to them.
Any chance of getting you into the classroom to share your passion, knowledge and experience?
I got so much satisfaction from visiting the journalism program last year that I’d welcome the opportunity to return to campus and teach someday when I’ve had enough of TV news. Or, when it has had enough of me.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
I enjoyed it. Thank you.