Margot Winick is an adjunct professor in the School of Communication. She has an impressive background in journalism, PR, and academia, and also is a VP of Communications for the University of Miami. Margot kindly answered some questions for our blog.
Question: You’ve lived in Miami for a while. You went to grad school here, you worked at The Miami Herald, you’ve worked in corporate PR and TV news production in Miami, and now you teach here. What makes Miami an appealing place for a student and practitioner of communication?
Answer: Miami is a great town for news and sports, and is a sophisticated media market. There’s a lot of Latin American networks and newspapers produced here, and the Caribbean is so close that outlets such as the New York Times and NPR have theirMiami bureaus covering theCaribbean from here. Also, as cliche as it sounds,Miami is the future American city in terms of the rich mix of cultures and immigrants. Attending school inMiami exposes you to the world.
Question: In addition to teaching at UM, you also work in the university’s communications department as a media specialist. How do you feel it better equips you for classroom instruction when you have this everyday real-world experience “in the field”?
Answer: I try to bring my day job into the classroom as much as possible as illustration for what goes on when you work in an in-house PR office. Students relate to the University’s image and how that image is maintained in news stories. In a sense, students are my clients.
Q: When you worked at The Miami Herald, you were an editor for a team that won a Pulitzer. How have experiences like that inspired creative classroom assignments for your courses?
A: That experience taught me that even as a lower level staffer, you can learn from your experiences and make great connections that could help you later in your career. Fresh out of school and a victim of Hurricane Andrew myself, I was so appreciative to even answer phones for the newspaper, which amazingly appeared on my doorstep the morning of the storm. Especially in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the newspaper provided an amazing public service. Some of my colleagues from those days went on to work at the Washington Post, L.A. Times, Boston Globe, etc. Never burn your bridges is an important lesson when you’re just starting out in your career.
Question: Every semester you teach a popular course, “Media Relations.” Everyone from PhD and MA grad students, to undergrad students across campus, enjoy taking your class. What is the most gratifying thing about teaching?
A: I really enjoy getting to know the students – from all walks — and love interacting with them. The class helps reinforce what I have learned, and what I continue to learn in the course of my day. The class gets to see the news clips of the day and can reflect on the job I did earlier that day. Bringing real life into the classroom is what gets the students jazzed about the coursework, and later in their careers. I stay in touch with many students and relish their successes.
Q: It’s no secret that the realm of communication is changing rapidly in this social media age. How are technologies changing the future for academics who study and research the human behavioral sciences?
A: This is a time of great change in our industry, and communicators must learn to both push and pull messages via social media. It’s fascinating to see how companies listen to and manage customer issues.
Q: In light of this era of Facebook & Twitter, what words of caution do you offer prospective students applying for grad school?
A: I’m a big fan of using both — professionally and personally — but you must remember that they are third-party sites, so the material you share on these sites becomes property of these sites. I caution students about what they post because it is in essence, a public place. If you are hoping to impress employers and clients, remember that what you post will always be traceable. That said, I would be hard-pressed to hire someone who has no experience using social media.
Q: What advice do you have for prospective students who are applying/enrolling, as they prepare to take the leap to Grad School here at UM? For example, what should they be reading on a daily basis? What media networks should they be up-to-speed with?
A: Read anything and everything you can get your hands on to keep current and to have an educated opinion on what is happening in their world. I urge students to read their community’s daily newspaper, watch the news, listen to radio. Find out what your peers, professors and potential employers read. Specifically, PR students should monitor aggregate sites such as Mediabistro.com, the PRSA Daily, and Mashable, among others.