Michael A.J. Randolph, senior lecturer in the Department of Communication at EKU, is one of nine university journalism faculty members nationwide to receive an Educator of Color Fellowship from the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).
“I am amazed, honored and flattered that I was one of the first recipients of this award, said Randolph. “I know that there are many journalism faculty of color around the country who have been teaching a lot longer than I have, and have probably done some amazing things, but yet somehow the folks saw me fit to be one of the nine selected. I will make sure that their faith in me is well founded.”
Randolph will receive funds to attend IRE’s Data Bootcamp in January 2021, held in Tucson, Arizona. Though he was slated to attend the 2020 session to be held in Chicago, the conference was moved online due to COVID-19.
While Randolph has enjoyed an impressive, decades-long career in journalism, he entered the workforce in another field entirely. He spent his first six years after graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a mass communications degree as an emergency medical technician in New York City. A very involved student, Randolph joined an extracurricular program in which he worked with the Volunteer Life Squad for one year, which funded his emergency medical training. “I was the kind of young person and student in college I tried to get my hands involved in as much as I could,” Randolph recalled.
Upon graduation, Randolph moved back to his hometown of New York City and struggled to find a full-time position in mass communications. As a result, he opted to put his emergency medical training to use, serving the NYC EMS from 1982 to 1986. During his time there, he earned a New York City Vice Presidential Citation and received numerous letters of commendation from the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation for outstanding public service.
Randolph hadn’t, however, given up on his dream of becoming a journalist. Time spent in the communications department of NYC-EMS opened the door to part-time radio reporting jobs, including one as a Stringer Reporter for the first all sports station in the country, WFAN. Those opportunities opened the door to his first full-time journalism job. In 1988, Randolph accepted a position at WDOV in Dover, Delaware.
Though he originally saw himself on television as the next Walter Cronkite, Randolph’s career was built over radio airwaves. He built a long and rewarding career in public radio, where he served as news director, anchor, reporter, station manager for various public radio stations and even helped develop the Tavis Smiley Show for NPR with the African American Public Radio Consortium.
“I've gotten to interview famous people from presidents, to mayors, to governors,” he said. “I've gotten to cover prison riots, Ku Klux Klan rallies, and I have received a number of awards for my work.”
Those awards include recognition from the Ohio Educational Broadcasting association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, and a Resolution of Special Recognition from the Ohio House of Representatives.
It was during that first stint in Dover, though, that Randolph discovered his second great love: education. He took an adjunct teaching position at Delaware State College and immediately saw teaching as a significant part of his career. There was only one small problem: he needed at least a master’s degree to continue, but with a wife and children to support, taking time off to go back to school was not an option. Thankfully, he received the Kiplinger Journalism Fellowship, a fellowship for mid-career journalists pursuing master’s degrees, from Ohio State University. The fellowship paid a stipend comparable to an entry-level journalism position, allowing him to support his family while earning his degree. He continued as a full-time journalist and part-time professor until 2005, when he moved to teaching full-time.
Randolph came to EKU in the fall of 2013, after 25 years in Ohio and a brief stint in Florida. Of the many years he’s spent in the college classroom, those at EKU are among his most treasured.
“In all my years of teaching, my seven years here at Eastern Kentucky have been the most fun and rewarding,” said Randolph.
His students, he said, are a chief reason for that.
“They invigorate me,” he said. “they challenge me to make sure I stay on top of my game to provide them the best education I can.”
Part of those efforts is an increasing emphasis on multimedia capabilities. The rise of the multimedia journalist (MMJ) has led to an increased demand for journalists with a diverse skill set including writing, photography, and shooting and editing video. To prepare graduates to meet that demand, the communication department has taken steps to increase its multimedia capabilities, including building a podcasting studio and video blog studio and enhancing the online delivery of the Eastern Progress. Randolph has already seen teaching those skills pay off: during the COVID-19 pandemic, his students have relied on them to continue submitting classwork from home.
“My job as an educator is to make sure that the students have as many weapons as they can in their arsenal, as many tools as they can in their tool belt,” said Randolph. “Because they are competing with thousands of other students from schools all across the country for a shrinking number of jobs in journalism. It’s my job to continue to learn as much as I can about this new, quickly-changing world and deliver that education to my students, so they can go out and be successful.”