Monday, July 2, 2007
Journalism instructor earns spot in Hall of Fame
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
When Gene Fogel was in college, he worked at his radio station and thought he would someday be a great disc jockey. Soon Fogel’s goal changed and he wanted to be a great sportscaster. Newscasting was on the bottom of his career interests. This spring, however, Fogel was honored for more than four decades as a great newscaster with an induction into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Throughout his career, Fogel has received a number of awards in recognition of his accomplishments. He has received a Peabody Award and awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Bar Association and the Wade McCree Advancement of Justice.
“It’s nice to have these awards, but it is so much nicer to know that I have helped people,” Fogel said.
Fogel, who retired from full-time work at WJR-AM Radio in Detroit last year, worked for the station for 36 years as a reporter, uncovering a number of stories that really made an impact in the Metro Detroit area. His 1972 investigation of irregularities in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court led to resignations, indictments and an overhaul of the system. Some of Fogel’s other investigations freed two men serving life prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.
“I learned early on when you work in news, you can walk into the newsroom every day and a new editor will give you an assignment. Or you can come up with your own stories. That’s what I did,” Fogel said.
Later in his career, Fogel headed up the internship program at WJR and then an opportunity to teach at Oakland University came along, and he took that on as well.
“For a free democracy to succeed, we need a free press to watch over it,” Fogel said. He added that he sees many students who want to be the next Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Seacrest or host of one of the reality TV shows. “I want to show them that those are nice dreams to aspire to, but journalism can be so much more.”
The added responsibilities kept Fogel busy. He worked a 4 a.m.- noon shift at WJR and then came to OU to teach classes in the afternoon. But the work hardly felt like drudgery to him.
“I wanted to make sure the younger people were getting the education they deserved. I felt I had a lot I could share about the profession,” Fogel said. “I went from having a job I loved to teaching about a job I loved.”
After graduating from college, Fogel took a job in television broadcasting in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“I like to write. Television was all about the pictures. I felt like I wasn’t getting a chance to do any creative writing,” Fogel said.
He turned to radio where there was a new set of challenges. With television, people can see the pictures. With newspapers, they can re-read the story if they don’t understand something. With radio, it can be much more complicated.
“You become a storyteller. I wanted people to listen to my stories,” Fogel said. “I wanted to grab the audience’s attention in the first sentence and then tell the story in a simple, informative, entertaining way. In every story I write, I look at it and ask ‘is this the best way to tell this story?’ You really have to challenge yourself to make it the best story you can tell.”
Fogel was nominated for the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame honor by his former WJR colleague Rod Hanson. They worked together for 35 years at the station and Hanson is a fellow Hall of Fame inductee.
The inductions were held in April at Michigan State University. Fogel was inducted along with four other journalists.
Fogel retired last year from full-time work at WJR. He is still anchoring on Saturday and doing investigative reporting on his own. Fogel also is still teaching during the fall, winter and spring semesters at Oakland. Fogel said he is enjoying the freedom in his job and he hopes to do even more in the future, even if he doesn’t know what that is right now.
“I have a theory in life. We all have regrets. You can spend your whole life thinking ‘what if.’ I don’t dwell on ‘what if,’” Fogel said. “Never say ‘what if,’ always say ‘what’s next.’”