Alumni Highlight: Lessons Learned at Cronkite School Guide Alumni Through 40-Year Military Careers
More than 60 years after Warren Field graduated from ASU’s Cronkite School, he hasn’t forgotten the lessons he learned as a student.
These lessons guided Field through an Army career that spanned more than 40 years, allowing him to rise through the ranks as an officer and civilian in the U.S. Army. And he shares those same lessons with current Cronkite students and young journalists.
Field graduated from the Cronkite School in 1961, when the journalism program was known as the Department of Mass Communication. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communications related programs, a minor in German, and a commission as an Army Second Lieutenant in the ASU ROTC program. The program became an official school and took the name Walter Cronkite in 1984.
After graduating, his three years of experience at the state press landed him a job at the Arizona Republic copy bureau for the summer. He then traveled to Germany with a former colleague from the state press to meet a mutual friend stationed in Munich with the US military.
Upon his return in November 1961, he was posted to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He got into public affairs and took charge of the Fort Leonard Wood newspaper before attending Defense Information School and deploying to Vietnam in 1964. He retired in 2006 after four decades of service as a army officer and civilian, including two tours in Vietnam, two years. in Taiwan and more than 23 years in Germany, all in public affairs.
Q: What value has the ASU School of Journalism brought to your education and career?
A: I graduated from ASU j-school when The State Press was in the Memorial Union student basement. The principles of journalism that I learned from Dr. Marvin Alisky, Art (Arthur) Matula and Bob (Robert) Lance have stayed with me throughout my career.
The sergeant assigned to Fort Leonard Wood sent me to the public affairs office. They put me in charge of the base newspaper. Well, I had just completed three years at The State Press. I was in my element! And I had no trouble doing my job because I had the background.
What I learned from ASU’s j-school set me on the right path, and these principles have worked for me throughout my 43+ year career in Army Public Affairs. .
Q: What skills or experiences from the Cronkite School have you used the most throughout your career?
A: You can’t go wrong with the five Ws. The basics of journalism, just the basics. And how to construct a sentence. Where does the adjective go? Where does the punctuation go? Do you know how important that is? Sometimes it seems to be forgotten.
Q: Would you say your experience at Cronkite has prepared you well for your career?
A: It put me on the right track. I never forgot what I learned at ASU in j-school. And I used it.
What I learned really, really helped me. And these principles of journalism allowed me to also write press releases for the German news media. We lived in Germany for over 23.5 years, and I worked with the German media, both television and print, during that time. It doesn’t matter what language it is, the principles are the same. In the United States, Vietnam, Taiwan and Germany, I have worked with American and international media. And I published grassroots and unity newspapers and magazines. I had two tours in Vietnam, both as a public affairs officer, and in this case I dealt with the media, mostly American media, but also with publishing.
At the start of my first tour, we published a daily brief in Saigon. It was two pages, front and back, of news that we had gleaned from the news agencies and passed on to the troops on the ground. It was in addition to Stars and Stripes. And then on my second tour, I was the officer in charge of the 25th Infantry Division newspaper. In Germany, I published newspapers for three different military communities. What I learned at The State Press never went away.
Q: What is your advice to new Cronkite students? How about those who are graduating soon?
A: It’s hard to understand in today’s world, where you have an obstacle that we never had. No one has ever called us “the enemy of the people”. No one ever said we were “fake news”. This is what you face today. The only way to counter this is to be sure of your facts.
Q: What inspires you to keep giving to your alma mater?
A: I returned from Germany in 2002 to Alexandria, Virginia, and stayed there for two years before returning to Arizona. I received an invitation from the dean at the time, Chris Callahan. He said, “We meet at the old high school and I’ll show you around.”
Chris Callahan invited Barbara and me (Field’s wife and ASU graduate) to lunch. I wasn’t contributing to ASU until he invited Barbara and me. He kept organizing these events and bringing us back, and we were going back and meeting people. We were going to the presentations and then to the annual Cronkite Award and I said, “Hey, you know, I’m still part of the school and I have to do something to give back.” So Barbara and I both gave back.
If it hadn’t been for Chris Callahan and his contacts with us alumni, I doubt I would have thought to contribute. But we contribute regularly now. And having Dean Batts, now it continues. It brought us back. Reach out and bring back former students.
I will contribute to the Cronkite school because, my God, if you don’t create more journalists, we will be in big trouble.
Q: What would you say to other alumni who wish to reconnect with ASU or Cronkite school?
A: Of course, former students can always contact the school, but I haven’t. I mean ASU was 46 years ago before I got the invitation from Dean Callahan. And we only got our ASU Golden Circle invite in 2011 and it was from the ASU Alumni Association, not the Cronkite school. I think it’s up to the school to reach out to the elders.