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Busby abandoned baseball for journalism, teaching

Roy Busby, Mayborn School of Journalism, 50-year service awardBy Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

Roy Busby received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1959, and then spent two years in the U.S. Army.

When Busby, above, returned to campus in fall 1961, area businesses were adding university to their names, and faculty, staff and students were excited to be a part of the newly and prestigiously named North Texas State University.

Cheerleader Sandra Palmer was crowned Homecoming queen. She later would join the Ladies Professional Golf Association and win the U.S. Women’s Open. And in the spring of 1962, debaters Anne Hodges and John Swaney placed fifth in the National Debate Tournament.

  • On May 7, Busby will be honored as this year’s longest serving employee - 50 years - during the Service Awards Ceremony.
  • The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. in the Gateway Center Ballroom. Busby will join more 500 employees honored for reaching service milestones from April 2011 to April 2012.

Busby, interim dean of the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and a Regents Professor, joined UNT in 1961 as assistant director of the university News Service, now part of the Division of University Relations, Communications and Marketing. He also served in administration in the Office of the President and with the Board of Regents.

How did you get a job in the News Service?

I had worked in the News Service under Jim Rogers (author of The Story of North Texas, published by UNT Press) when I was a senior undergraduate journalism major. I passed up being editor of the student newspaper to take the job. When I left the Army, Rogers offered me a job. I wrote general news about the university and I was a graduate student, working on my MBA.  (Busby also received a doctoral degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma.)

Telex machine, circa 1970sYou became director of the News Service in 1968. What were some of the challenges?

There really had not been an aggressive, day-to-day plan for working with the news media until I became director. I spent my first six months on the job going to news media offices. At that time, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, there was lots of student unrest on college campuses, and you had to build your credibility with the media.

There were no electronic devices to get information to the news media, so the News Service rented a Telex machine, right, like the ones that almost every news outlet had in its office. One morning, I got a call from the city editor of the Dallas Times Herald. He told me even though a spaceship had just dropped into the ocean - it was one of the splashdowns from a NASA space mission - the only news he was receiving was from North Texas State, not his reporters.

What big stories did you handle?

When Phyllis George, our first student to become Miss America, appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1971, we wrote a telegram that congratulated Phyllis and listed the name of every student at North Texas. At that time, we had 7,000 to 8,000 students, and we stayed up all night typing the names. The NBC studio didn’t have a Telex machine, but Madison Square Garden did, and we knew someone who worked there, and that person agreed to carry the huge telegram to NBC. And during the show, Ed McMahon (Carson's announcer) said he had stayed at Chilton Hall for military training during World War II, so we sent him some photos, and we got even more coverage.  

When did you begin teaching journalism? 

When I became director of the News Service, I taught a class every semester and I taught when I was in administration. When I left administration in 1979 to be a full-time faculty member, I was tenured.  

How has teaching journalism students changed?

Students are more worldly. When I was in school, most students came from small towns. Now we have freshmen who have traveled abroad, and they know much more about the world, thanks to electronic media, the Internet and social media. But they don’t know how to use that to their advantage in journalism. So our faculty and staff have to stay updated on the latest technology to properly train our students.

Students no longer declare a journalism major with the idea of being in a certain job. They look at the field with an entrepreneurial approach because they can write, edit, take photos, design, place and create ads, blog and use social media, which equips them for many jobs. We encourage students to go and find their niche, and, at the graduate level, most of their courses match individual career choices.

Students still must learn and practice good writing style, grammar, spelling and accuracy. They also must be very careful and accountable for the sources of information that they use today because there are so many sources that might be based on opinion, not facts.

What do you see as the biggest change at UNT?

There’s a much stronger sense of ownership and pride. Students increasingly say that UNT was their first choice. That’s been true in the journalism program for a long time, but students in other majors are saying it, as well. They’re very proud and glad to be here and say that coming here is the best decision that they made. The faculty and staff feel the same way.

What other career would you have chosen?

I played high school baseball and was a pitcher on a semi-professional team in Dallas. I had been lucky enough to pitch three no-hitters. A scout offered me $1,000 to sign a contract with the Cincinnati Reds farm system. But I’d always wanted to go to college and be a sportswriter, and as much as I loved baseball, I thought there would be other chances to play the game, which I did in the military.

When I left administration, I thought I would go back to the corporate world. I had worked in corporate advertising and public relations for Texas Instruments in Dallas, but during my first semester of full-time teaching, I got my first consulting assignment. I would receive 50 consulting assignments during the next 30 years, and it was a great mixture of being able to able to advise professionals and teach students at the same time. It allowed me to bring real life experience into the classroom. It’s what we still strive to do today in the Mayborn School of Journalism and Mayborn Graduate Institute. 

(Editor's note: Writer Nancy Kolsti was honored for 20 years of service at the May 7 ceremony.)

(Busby photo by Michael Clements)

Posted on: Thu 03 May 2012

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