After building a successful journalism career that spanned almost 40 years, Dave Neibergall never forgot the people or the institution that helped him achieve success.
Neibergall, a 1980 Cronkite School graduate, was first introduced to journalism during a part-time job he accepted as a score taker for his local newspaper in Mason City, Iowa during high school. At the time, he fell in love with the profession and decided to pursue it as a career with an initial focus in sports journalism.
During his time at the Cronkite School, Neibergall took a job as a copy editor for the university newspaper, The State Press. It was during this time that he would go on to meet many future colleagues who he credited with helping him further his career.
As his career progressed, Neibergall moved away from sports journalism and toward news. He worked at many news organizations in the Valley, starting off at the Tempe Daily News, the Phoenix Gazette and, eventually, The Arizona Republic, which he retired from in 2019.
Now retired, Neibergall continues giving back to his alma mater through his time as a mentor to current students, as well as continuing to donate to both ASU and the Cronkite School.
Question: What inspires you to keep giving to your alma mater?
Answer: When I look back on my career, I think the most important thing that I did was the opportunities that I had when I was a student at ASU and for me, that was the State Press. That was kind of the only avenue that we had (for print journalism), but I worked throughout my career with people that I met working at the State Press. I also had an internship through ASU at the Mesa Tribune, which directly led to me being able to get a job with the Tempe Daily News. So I think it’s just vitally important for students to take advantage of the opportunities they have while they’re in college. And I’m so impressed with the number of opportunities that Cronkite students have today. I mean, those far exceed what was available to me back in the 70s and 80s. So the reason that I want to give back is to help make sure those opportunities continue to exist. I think the things that you do in college can really shape your whole career.
Q: What kind of impact do you hope to achieve with giving back and your overall engagement with ASU and the Cronkite School?
A: Well, it’s not just financial contributions for me. I applied for the mentoring program recently and the reason I want to do that is because I just want to be able to kind of impart that idea, and if I can meet just one student and impress upon them the importance of seeking and taking advantage of opportunities to launch their career, that’s a success for me.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU whether in the classroom or clubs, that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: There’s one particular professor that sort of pushes you down the path and for me, it was a guy named Bruce Itule. I remember being in his editing class. It was basically a copy editing class and you’d walk into the classroom and it’s probably a 9:40 a.m. class or something in the morning. You’d walk in there and kind of bleary-eyed and he’d be ‘it’s a great day for journalism’ and get everybody fired up. He’s the guy who sort of came to me one day and said ‘I hear the State Press is looking for copy editors for the rest of the semester. Why don’t you go? You should think about going and applying.’ I did and I got in there and then finished out that semester and then the next semester, I was on the sports staff there, and the next semester, I was assistant sports editor and then I got a part-time opportunity at the Tempe Daily News. When I graduated, that became full-time. I just never had to really look for a job. Through my connections at ASU, I was always able to kind of move on and achieve what I wanted to. All through my career, people that I met at ASU were very important in helping me further my career, people that I worked with, right up until the time I retired.
Q: What advice would you give to people currently working in this industry, whether they are recent graduates or seasoned professionals?
A: Stick by your principles. Be fair and balanced in the way you work. We all have a role to play and make sure that journalism remains as important today as it was back in the 70s, like during Watergate, or whatever. I just think you’ll remember the principles that you learned in journalism school and carry them through your career.
Q: What would you say to other alumni that are interested in reconnecting with ASU or the Cronkite School?
A: Absolutely, if you’ve devoted your career, your life to the career of journalism, we kind of have a responsibility, I think, to the next generation coming up because they’re facing challenges that we didn’t face. Journalism is sort of under attack these days from some quarters and the more encouragement we can give, and the more we can help prop up the profession is kind of what we owe.
Q: Would you say it’s the previous journalist’s responsibility to help newer, younger journalists that come into the field?
A: Yeah, and just to encourage young people who are interested in journalism. Whether they’re considering majoring in journalism or whether they already are, just to let them know that, with all the noise out there, this is still a vitally important profession. We need smart, capable people to carry on the mission.
Q: Since you’ve experienced the evolution of journalism, what sort of advice would you give now to people that are working in the field?
A: Just to be courageous in what you do. Being a journalist today, I think, takes a lot more courage than it took when I came up and I can’t imagine some of the challenges that are out there these days. That didn’t exist for me, but stick to your principles. As I said earlier, be fair and balanced in how you report the news, but carry on and do the best you can because the world needs you right now.