Student highlight: Online degree allows Cronkite student to pursue increased opportunities

After 16 years of working as a journalist, Paul “Red” Miller wanted to finally get a degree in the career that he considered his calling. 

So he enrolled at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he expects to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies in May 2023.

Miller, 42, started writing for an online news service founded by his friend, who valued Miller’s yearbook experience. He also worked as a freelance journalist and research assistant but found job opportunities limited.

“As I was looking at all the different schools, I realized that ASU, Walter Cronkite specifically, has a standing in the community. You know, any major publication from Politico to the New York Times, people know who Walter Cronkite is. They know what kind of journalists that school puts out,” he said. “The opportunity you have before you have a degree is limited. It’s really about hard work and the hustle. School doesn’t make the hustle any easier, but it does open up opportunities more so than you would ever have without a degree.”

Miller currently works with The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle and gained some extensive experience prior to enrolling at the Cronkite School.

Miller wrote investigative stories and other in-depth work. He covered everything from drug trafficking to homicide and events, and even received death threats because of his stories.

What always kept him writing is his constant search for the truth. 

“I will tell the truth, always. But it’s not the truth of how I perceive it; it’s the truth of what happened, and that’s one of the things that I’ve learned at the Cronkite School,” Miller said. “Always tell the truth.”

Miller, an active member of the Society of Professional Journalists, always uses at least three on-record sources in addition to supplemental materials to tell the truth, he said.

“I hold those ethics dearly. To me, it’s like a Bible,” Miller said. “I make a joke that there are three people who are lied to more than anybody: priests, cops and journalists.” 

Aside from being a journalist, Miller is also a father and he takes care of his elderly parents, all while attending school online. That’s why it was so important for him to consult his family before going back to school. One day he sat down with them and said he wanted to go back to college for a degree that would further his opportunities.

“I sat down with my parents and told them that I needed to get a degree. And without any hesitation, they were like, ‘Get your degree,’” he said.

Miller’s father said attending classes online allowed his son the flexibility to pursue his degree while still spending time with his family.

“There wasn’t a single thing that was insurmountable” about the family transition into the back-to-school life, said his father James Miller. “It’s a lot of encouragement that way. When we fail, we fail together. But when we win, we win together.”

Miller might continue on in his education beyond his bachelor degree. His father said their family wouldn’t be surprised if he continued on to a master’s or even a doctoral program.

Miller’s advice for current journalism students is to “find the person who has been doing it, who does it well and ask them questions.” 

“It’s never too late to ask questions. It’s never too late to learn. And the best journalists are the ones who are inquisitive,” he said.

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