Gonyea shows the reality of having flexible goals

Don Gonyea, a national political correspondent for NPR, addressed a gathering of about 30 students and staff Thursday for a conversation about politics, journalism and traveling in the United States.

Gonyea, who has worked in public radio for 25 years, graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in telecommunications. Soon after, he found himself working as a country western disc jockey at a local radio station — not a position that he would have considered if he had a choice.

“Don’t have too rigid of a career path or set of goals nailed down,” he told the students in attendance. “You’re going to find things you love and things that you don’t really love so much … So many of my friends in journalism are doing things they didn’t anticipate when they were college students.”

After his job as a DJ, he became news director at the radio station. He then moved on to being a news announcer for a public radio station in Detroit while he did freelance work on the side for NPR.

Eventually, he landed a permanent position with NPR as a political correspondent. His first day working at the White House was also the former President George W. Bush’s first day.

Gonyea still covers politics today. One recent story was on presidential candidate Rick Perry’s early life as a Texan farmer.

Gonyea called the upcoming 2012 election “really, really bizarre.”

He explained that the tea party, as a division of the Republican Party, was something previously unseen in recent presidential elections, and its influence on the election’s outcome has yet to be seen.

The audience had the opportunity to question Gonyea about everything from the election process to portraying his writing style through his voice.

“I thought he was really interesting,” said Meredith Staubfreshman in LAS. “It was definitely really cool to hear someone talk about something he’s so excited to be doing. News is important, and to hear someone talk about it like he really enjoys it was really nice.”

Jan Slater, interim dean of the College of Media, also said she was pleased with Gonyea’s presentation.

“I think it’s important for people like Don to come to campus and talk about the day-to-day life of a reporter,” she said. “He’s a brilliant reporter (and) a great storyteller, so it’s one of the great opportunities we have … It’s good for the students, and it’s entertaining for us (faculty).”