Robert Rivard tells students how "one person can change the whole landscape"

By Erika Guerra

On the final day of Texas State’s Mass Comm Week, students got the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from Robert Rivard, current editor at the San Antonio Express-News. In a session titled “In times of crisis, get creative,” Rivard shared how to plan to succeed after graduating even when times are tough.

“It looks bleak out there,” Rivard told his audience matter-of-factly. He told the students that it comes down to how badly they want it.

Rivard shared his background as a blue-collar worker, attributing his first job of working at a slaughterhouse, a Volkswagen mechanic and a door-to-door vacuum salesman. He eventually fell upon an ad in the paper for a job opening at the Brownsville Herald to be a sports writer. His interview process was by no means traditional by today’s standards. He, along with four others, was given the task of writing an imaginary story over a fake basketball game on the spot. Rivard came out the victor.

And his pay? $3 an hour, working 5 a.m. to noon with no lunch break. It didn’t matter, Rivard told the audience. Coming from an upbringing of drug addiction and abuse, he used working at the newspaper as an outlet from it all. And if given a choice to turn back time and have a chance to work at a big newspaper such as the New York Times, Rivard didn’t hesitate to say he would stay at the Brownsville Herald. He was allowed to develop the writing skills he lacked (he didn’t graduate from a university until he was 44 years old) at a small newspaper which ended up being an invaluable experience.

His humble beginnings serve as inspiration to many aspiring journalists, eager to get their foot in the door after graduating. Rivard touched on the success of social media and technological advances throughout the years. “I don’t know what the next big thing is,” he said. “But it always comes from unheard of people.”

Offering some good news, Rivard assuredly told the group that he is still hiring journalists today. Not only that, but he has only been hiring 20-somethings who have a natural skill set for doing things such as tweeting and being interactive on Facebook. “I’m glad I got in when I did,” he said, causing laughter from the attendees. Rivard also offered some advice for what he looks for when interviewing a candidate – he wants to know that they read and understand how the world works.

“You have to be wordly,” Rivard said. “And know what you want, and know what you don’t.”

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