HCC Director Debra McGaughey Speaks to Aspiring Journalists at Texas Southern University

Debra McGaughey speaks to Anthony Ogbo’s Journalism class at Texas Southern University – MLK School of Communications Room 215 from 9:15 A.M. to 9:50 A.M.

TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY- On April 10, 2019, Debra McGaughey was invited this morning as a guest speaker for a Journalism class at Texas Southern University. McGaughey is the Director of Communication Services for Houston Community College Central. She shared her experience in the field and discussed topics on marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Debra McGaughey began the lecture by asking the class if they knew “exactly” what they were going to do in their lives. Her original career path was not Journalism but Sociology. In 1975, she graduated from high school in New York and decided to attend the State University of New York, Cortland in Upstate New York. She registered as a Sociology major because of her experience with the subject in high school. However, she struggled with the Sociology field. Suddenly, a professor changed her life. After she did a class assignment, her professor praised her skills and wrote on her paper “Have you considered being a journalist?” Thereafter, she immediately changed her career path to Journalism. She transferred to Boston University to study Journalism. After graduation, she moved to Dallas to work for The Dallas Morning News. While working in Dallas as a reporter she learned about writing under pressure, covering different types of stories, communicating with others, being on time, staying late, and periodically working on the radio.

After working in Dallas, she moved to TV News in Houston where she worked for CBS 11 News as Debra Martinez (née). She worked for TV news for twelve years and enjoyed all those years. However, she states that TV news is not solely based on glamour or appeal but rather hard work. As a TV reporter, she learned that one must learn to write for television, get soundbites for interviews, write faster, and be assertive and aggressive.

More than a decade after working for TV news she pursued higher education where she became the general manager of HCCTV. The responsibilities of a TV manager are calling shots, using creativity, learning to edit for TV, managing creative people, and helping the community.

Afterward, she was unsure about the future of the TV station which is why she pursued a career in marketing and became a public relations director at the Houston Community College. She has been in this position for around seven years. Her position in public relations is the most creative job of all because she is responsible for the writing, editing, television, storytelling, managing, and caring aspects of the campus. She showed one of her tasks to the class where she was responsible for editing and improving an advertisement for an event.

Before closing the presentation, she provided the class with advice on doing a self-assessment on each career field she was part of. Aspiring journalists and news reporters must have good writing and communication skills, be pushy, think fast on their feet, and be able to speak in a well and believable manner. Individuals who aspire to be TV managers must be good leaders, comfortable with speaking to notable people (e.g. politicians, business leaders, influences), able to create a vision, interested in trends and technical aspects of TV, good at working with budgets, and willing to make a difference. People in the marketing and public relations fields should ask themselves if they are good at writing, selling, being creative, graphic design, interacting with people, doing reports, and other aspects of communication.

To be able to achieve those qualities, McGaughey instructed the class with overall ingredients of good communicators. Good Communicators are:
  • Good Writers
  • Good Speakers
  • Creative
  • Good with Other People
  •  Natural Storytellers
  •  Able to See “The Big Picture”
  •  Able to Work Independently and in Groups
  •  Persistent and Driven
  •  Assertive
  •  Problem Solvers
  •  Make Something Out of Nothing
  •  Wanting to Make a Difference
Debra McGaughey answering questions from aspiring Journalists. 

After concluding her lecture, McGaughey advanced to a Q&A session where aspiring journalists asked questions. Some of the questions were:

QUESTION: “You said that you had some experience on the radio. How was that experience?”

MCGAUGHEY: “Adding in a soundbite and read. You know, judge your voice. A lot of times, I mean it’s not the way it used to be. It used to be “you had to sound like Diane Sawyer or Carole Simpson.” These are old-school folks. But you really had to have a good deep voice. And when I started in TV news, I used to sound…not good. But you learn to develop the deeper tones of your voice and I used that for radio. As well as writing that copy and reading it to a mic and not popping it.”

QUESTION: “Have you ever had to cover a story in a subject you didn’t know much about?”

MCGAUGHEY: “That’s pretty much every day. When you’re in TV news and you get an assignment from the assigner’s desk, it may be on a subject you know nothing about. That’s when being assertive and pushy comes in the way. Say you’re out there in a chemical plant fire. You know what’s coming out of the plant? No. You have to ask: “What is butane?” “What effects does it have on the body?” You have to be an instant expert on anything and that is a daily thing. You have to be a quick learner. Remember thinking fast on your feet, you have to know how to ask the question that gets you something that you will be then telling the public.”

QUESTION: “For someone interested in going on television, what would you say the hardest task for someone new to come along?”

MCGAUGHEY: “I think live shots are the hardest. To be able to speak extemporaneously, adlib, on a situation that’s ongoing. The hardest part will be to be able to speak without a script, without a teleprompter, without any of that.” 

Vidal Argueta
Senior Student at Texas Southern University. Psychology major and History minor.  Born and raised in Houston, TX.