Gideon Yago’s career as a correspondent for MTV News began when the network handed him a camera and told him to cover the 2000 presidential election.
That year, Yago was one of six college students across the country who was asked by MTV to cover the campaign.
“I never thought it was going to be a long-term experience [at MTV], but the subsequent year, after the attack on Sept. 11, there was a much bigger need to do current events than the kind of stuff they were doing,” the 30-year-old said.
Yago, who began working at MTV when he was 22 years old, will visit Bradley on Oct. 22 to give students “a look at how a major media company tries to cover politics for young people in this country,” he said.
“If you’re pissed off at the way the coverage happens, I’m going to give you a little bit of insight from behind the trenches,” he said.
He will also speak about the upcoming election, as well as other pressing issues for college students.
“If there’s someone interested in not just the election, but they’re interested in some sort of grassroots cause, maybe they could just come and hear me talk about what I tried to do with that channel,” Yago said.
He said he is proud of the work MTV did that focused on regular people who were suffering.
He said stories that focus on “people dealing with drugs, people dealing with sexuality, people dealing with huge business ideas … that was always more rewarding than sitting across the table from Rapstar X.”
And after Sept. 11, he said he had the opportunity to cover more current events, or the kind of stories he was interested in covering.
“We would get all of this data that would say that the audience looked at us like they were our friend,” Yago said. “We tried to treat that with an incredible amount of respect.”
He said he found Baghdad to be the most dynamic place he had ever been.
“I think it’s very hard to go and see a place like that and not have your conviction in every possible way challenged or changed,” he said.
He said when he returned from Iraq, he made reporting on veterans a large part of his career.
“If you just experience [war by] watching the TV… no matter how many books you read … there was just so much that got left out,” he said.
He said it’s important for college students to be “active participants” in the world around them.
“Not just sitting on the sidelines and thinking that without your involvement … things will all turn out in your favor,” Yago said.
He said journalism is a craft not a science.
“The craft is to give information and supply understanding to your audience, and if you’re not giving information, just contributing to confusion, you’re not doing your job,” he said.
He said the most difficult aspect of being a journalist is the fact that news never stops.
“If you really want to make a career out of it, you need to reconcile yourself with the fact that you’re not going to live a normal lifestyle,” he said.
Yago was a correspondent for MTV News for seven years before leaving to work at CBS.
“It was like running away with the circus, and I don’t regret that at all,” he said.
Yago’s visit is part of the Robison Lecture Series designed to bring working print or broadcast journalists to campus.