Meet Michael (Mikey J) Smith, Storyteller and Activist

What drew you to studying journalism?

For as long as I can remember, my goal in life was to be a local TV news anchor.  When watching the evening news, the anchor seemed like the pinnacle of what a put-together person was supposed to be, and from a very young age, I just knew that was what I wanted to do.  I started college at St. John’s University in New York City, but I ended up hating that school, so I transferred to University of Maryland, which has one of the best journalism programs in the country.  As I got more into my major, what kept me going was the ability to meet people and learn their stories.  Journalism is really dependent on your ability to tell stories, and the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, live through their emotions, and give them a platform, is such a beautiful thing. 

How does your journalism degree help you in your current role?

It definitely taught me how to speak with everyone.  I’ve always been a relatively social person, but to speak to someone in a way that makes some one immediately comfortable with you is a skill you have to learn, and journalism definitely taught me how to connect with people in a way that they can trust you with your story.  It teaches you how to speak with people from all different walks of life, even people you have nothing in common with.  Without my training, I don’t know if I would be as effective from a relationship management standpoint that I am.

What’s the most challenging part of starting a new job in a pandemic?

The inability to walk into a room and meet my coworkers.  This was my first step into my career post-graduation, and I was super-excited to have this opportunity to take on work that’s interesting and engaging.  Starting a new job all from home was sort of a let-down because I was looking forward to meeting with my coworkers and learning.  I’ve been able to do this to an extent remotely but being secluded in my home and having to keep my spirits up has been difficult.  I’m a social person – I like to be around people, speak to people, laugh, joke – and that’s hard to do remotely.  

What’s some of the best advice you’ve received?

Be blunt.  Part of my nature is to be very tactful.  What that means is I’m not always going to get to the heart of an issue because I want to make sure I’m not offending anyone or stepping on anyone’s toes.  That’s not always helpful, and sometimes you just need to state what’s going on to get past something, especially in business.  Someone once told me I sugarcoat things way too much, and you need to just tell them what’s going on to make a decision.  That’s helped me a great deal, both in journalism and business, because people know what I’m actually trying to say to them.  And I’m learning more and more every day that it’s not bad to not be tactful. 

What else should we know about you?

During my entire college career, I was active in social issues, and one of the organizations I worked for was Preventing Sexual Assault (PSA).  I was part of the team that was able to bring in Victoria Valentino, a noted survivor and Bill Cosby accuser, to campus to speak about her experiences and offer an ear to people going through such a hard time in their lives. That’s one of my passions – to make sure that issue is never forgotten.  It’s a hugely important issue, especially on college campuses, and there’s so much more work to be done.  It’s definitely one of those projects I’m going to continue working on, because I want to see true change happen before I leave this planet.