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SEMO Hosts Annual Michael Davis Lecture With Guest Speaker Keith Robinson

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The Department of Mass Media
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Keith Robinson

The Department of Mass Media at Southeast held its annual ‘Michael Davis Lecture’, a presentation that recognizes the contributions of African Americans in the media. The event honors the late Michael Davis, a journalism student at Southeast Missouri State University who died as a result of a hazing incident.

The then Department of Mass Communications held the first Michael Davis Lecture in 1997 to honor his memory as part of the University’s Black History Month activities. The Department has annually highlighted an African American professional working in public relations, TV or film, news and other media related fields.

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Nicolette Baker
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Students and staff of Southeast Missouri State University watching the virtual lecture.

The lecture was presented by Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Mass Media at Southeast, as well as a former friend and classmate of Michael Davis.

The evening’s guest speaker was St. Louis native and former SEMO Alumni Keith Robinson who began his career in media working as sports editor for the then Capaha Arrow newspaper on campus.

Robinson currently works as a producer at Turner Sports, a broadcasting company for sports content including MLB on TBS, The Arena, Inside The NBA, and NBA on TNT Tuesday.

Robinson spoke on his position and referred to it as his ‘dream job’ stating since he was growing up, sports had always been a big part of his life, and that he knew he always wanted to work in professional sports in some capacity.

During the lecture Robinson described how the small town feel of Cape Girardeau and the scale of Southeast allowed him to network and create unique bonds with staff providing him opportunities to grow in his profession.

“When I came to SEMO, I was able to have personal relationships with people like Dr. Buck who took me under their wing and even to this day always checks in on me, and I don't know if I would have gotten that type of kinship from a larger-scale college in the region,” said Robinson.

Robinson explained to the student audience the importance of taking advantage of your resources not comparing opportunities.

“SEMO has everything you all need, the professors have everything you all need to make it where I am today, you don't have to think you need to compete with all these other top notch programs, you’re talking to someone who went SEMO who now works with Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley. You all can be here with me and I encourage you to push the limit to do so” said Robsinson.

Shortly into the conversation, Robinson began to advise students on the benefits of being a flexible worker in their professional life and adapting to situations, when the lecture was 'Zoom-bombed' by an unwanted attendee who began broadcasting offensive and racist content.

The discussion took place both in person and on a virtual Zoom broadcast, allowing users to comment and speak openly. The live chat was also overtaken and spammed with insensitive content. University staff worked quickly to remove the users and the lecture resumed.

Robinson later continued his presentation by emphasizing the ability to be flexible.

Comfort with the feeling of rejection was another takeaway from Robinson's discussion.

Robinson said accepting rejection not only in the industry but as a principle of life, provides the opportunity to continue to grow and learn.

“I got rejected from my first real job interview as an associate producer. I didn't get the job, and quite honestly I didn't deserve it, I didn't prepare for it,” said Robinson. “Here at Turner it was a long process, it was a 45-minute interview, they gave me a homework assignment, I had to write a 2-page paper. I wrote 5 pages. I was learning my lesson from the rejection I had before.”

One of Robinson’s final points was to break away from comfort zones.

Robinson, who was a student specializing in print and written content, explained taking one TV Film class changed the course of his whole career.

“Don’t be afraid to do the same things with your career, if you are an advertising major, take that radio class, take those TV courses, because you never know where your path is going to lead you,” said Robinson. “I thought I was going to be a writer for a newspaper organization, here I am working for a sports entertainment company.”

Robinson said that while growing up having conversations with family and learning about community members inspired him to get involved in the field.

“Why I wanted to be a journalist, and what drives my passion for media is just storytelling. Everybody has a story, everybody comes from something, everybody has something unique about them and I think it's important that we are able to share those in a way that's unique, that's honest, that provides a little access behind the scenes,” said Robinson.

Daria Lawson is a 2021 Graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, with a Minor in Music.