NORTH BRUNSWICK – Learn something new every day. Keep dreaming your dreams. And stay in contact once you graduate.
Steven A. Miller’s advice to/request of his graduates from the School of Communication & Information (SC&I) at Rutgers University may seem simple, yet has a profound effect on not only the thousands of students he has mentored, but also the entire Rutgers community.
The beloved professor has been selected by the Rutgers Alumni Association (RAA) as one of six recipients who will receive the Loyal Sons and Loyal Daughters of Rutgers distinction in 2019.
A 60-year tradition, the Loyal Sons and Daughters are comprised of individuals who have made a meaningful and long-standing commitment to the betterment of Rutgers by exemplifying extraordinary alumni service or by making a significant impact on university life and culture.
Nominations are made by existing Loyal Sons and Daughters, and the finalists named by a special selection committee, according to information provided by the RAA.
Miller, a North Brunswick resident, attended Rutgers from 1975-79 at the urging of his father, and spent time writing for The Daily Targum and working at WRSU-FM while majoring in history.
“Journalism chose me,” Miller said, crediting a high school teacher with forcing him to write for the school newspaper because of his writing skills. He had the only column in the paper, and wrote a five-act play in iambic pentameter in English class.
“Once you get the journalism bug, it never leaves you,” he said.
Miller taught history and English at the high school level and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education from Boston University.
He was teaching Broadcast Journalism at Columbia High School in Maplewood and running the cable access television station when he suddenly found himself out of work.
In August 1987, three weeks after his daughter was born, she was not breathing and spent five days at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, New Brunswick.
“It changes your life when you see that happen to your child when she’s three-and-a-half weeks old,” he said.
His wife continued to work in New York while he stayed home with his daughter, before receiving news from a family friend that the SC&I (then the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies) Audio/Visual Lab needed personnel. He worked 10 hours a week for $10 an hour, but the real draw was being able to bring his daughter with him to work every day.
Miller began teaching media courses while still running the A/V Lab.
In 1996 he was finally made a full-time employee.
“I am fortunate enough that my bosses have let me be who I am and do what I have to do,” he said.
Miller is currently the director of Undergraduate Studies in Journalism and Media Studies at the SC&I, while still teaching Introduction to Media and Television Reporting.
“I’ve been very fortunate in that people have given me the latitude to be able to work with undergraduate students,” he said. “I want to help them achieve what they want to do. … The focus has, and always will be, the students because that’s what schooling should be about … trying to enable young people to learn and to grow and to become who they want to be. … It’s not about me, it’s about how well our students do.
“You make this department, this school, the university and me look so damn good,” he said of his students.
Miller is also the internship program coordinator, as well as chair of the Curriculum Committee for his department.
In addition, he helped start the department’s Sports Journalism Specialization and currently teaches Critical Issues in Sports Media. He is an academic mentor for softball, women’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball. He has served on WRSU-FM’s Radio Council for more than 25 years.
Miller said the journalism industry “has changed tremendously, but fundamentally the job is the same, which is getting the news and getting it right and getting it to the public.”
He said much the way newspapers transitioned to radio and then television, the internet is the newest conduit for how a consumer gets his/her news.
He also said “fake news” has always existed in the form of entertainment news. However, “false news” is the real issue, as in lies and falsities that are spread, rumors and innuendo that are believed, and sources that are not verified. He said this causes trust value to be diminished.
He called it a “cacophony of noise,” or “public relation-ization,” where the only way to get heard is to spread outrageous, outlandish news.
He said media literacy should be taught to children beginning in elementary school.
As for the Loyal Son designation, Miller said it is the third highest honor he can receive in life – the first being a father, and the second if he were to be named to the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
The Loyal Son honor is especially fitting, as it coincides with the 40th anniversary of his graduation from Rutgers, and on the 100th anniversary of Paul Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers College, he said.
“It is one of the greatest honors I could get. In a way I’m embarrassed,” he said. “That’s why I’m here today, I’m on the shoulders of giants. … The Journalism department is family and we take care of each other, and they’re taking care of me.
“The names of the people who are in this group are who’s who of the best of the best … It means so much to me …
“There’s no place like Rutgers. … What Rutgers does for people is amazing,” he said.
Miller joins 2019 Loyal Sons & Daughters honorees:
• Michael W. Azzara, Rutgers College Class of 1969
• James F. Dougherty, DVM, Rutgers College Class of 1974, Graduate School of New Brunswick 1975.
• John J. Healey, PhD, Graduate School of New Brunswick (Engineering) Class of 1970.
• James R. McRobbie, Rutgers School of Engineering Class of 1979.
• Thomas Struble, Cook College Class of 1981.
The honorees will be inducted during a “scarlet-tie” affair to be held at the Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick, on April 13. For more information about the RAA, visit www.rutgersalumni.org or call 732-932-7474.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com.