Previous General Faculty Members in the Spotlight

Bob Gibson

 

General Faculty Member: Bob Gibson

 

Before coming to Sorensen in March of 2008, Bob Gibson was a political writer, columnist and editor at the Charlottesville Daily Progress for 30 years, where he specialized in covering local, state, and national politics. He is the winner of several Virginia Press Association awards, the 1993 Virginia Bar Association Award in the Field of Law and Justice and the 1993 Southern Journalism Award for investigative reporting about racial disparities in sentencing. He is also familiar to many Virginians as a guest on public radio WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show in Washington and as a host of Evening Edition on public radio WVTF. 

1. Describe your career and typical activities associated with your position as a non-tenure track faculty member?

I came to the University of Virginia as a student in the late 1960s. I fell in love with a journalism career through my extra curricular activities with WUVA, a student-run radio station that taught me how to engage in the lifelong love of journalism through radio news gathering and broadcasting, a start that four years later evolved to include print journalism. In 1974, I became a full-time radio reporter and news director at WCHV. Two and one-half years later, I applied to be the beat reporter for police and courts coverage at the Daily Progress. I switched beats next into political and local and state government reporting and eventually became the city editor overseeing a ten-person staff covering all local news at the Daily Progress. By 1991, I became the special projects editor at the Daily Progress and conducted a two-year study of racial disparities and sentencing in the local courts. This led to a week-long series of stories that helped show the need for reform in our local court system through creation of an office to handle indigent defendants instead of a purely court-appointed system. This resulted in public defender officer in Charlottesville and Albemarle and better qualifications of representation for some criminal defendants who were short-changed by the old volunteer system. As a result of the series, in 1993 the Virginia Bar Association presented me with its award in the area of law and justice and the series won the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting. After the series, I went back to full-time political reporting of state government and politics, a position I held as a weekly columnist and daily reporter from 1993 until 2008. I came on board as Sorensenís executive director in March of 2008 in part through the great admiration I'd had for Bill Wood, Sorensenís founding executive director, and the programs he ran and showed me. I have always been impressed with the Sorensen mission of finding and training future political leaders in Virginia. The programs were balanced and stressed ethics and respect and bipartisan discussion. I found the individuals who graduated from the program and entered politics to have gone into Sorensen for the right reasons and were able to work together across the partisan political aisle.

2. Why did you choose to build/or continue your career at UVA?

I already had a lifelong love of UVA beginning with being a participant in Virginia High School League state debate tournaments held on Grounds and also loving sports, especially basketball, and attending state basketball tournaments here as a student from Arlington and later for dozen years as a UVA basketball season ticket holder. It was a logical progression to take my journalism career to a non-partisan leadership-training program, and I had the advantage of knowing many state political figures through their political careers and enjoyed working with many people in both major political parties and promoting the program.

3. What are the most significant advantages/rewards associated with your career at UVA?

I cannot think of a better place to work in Virginia politics than at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and at the University of Virginia. Where else can you come to work with as many people as bright, friendly and engaged as here?

4. What are the most significant challenges that you face (or have faced) in your career at UVA?

Fundraising has been a great new challenge for me. Reporters traditionally have always stayed as far away from engaging in this as possible. I am learning how to be a fund-raising true believer and am finding that it can be a very pleasant and natural thing to do. I am also challenged with staying current in the fields of journalism, ethics, higher education and leadership training, and this is a wonderful challenge.

5. Please share anything else that you would like to add.

I love working with the staff and students at UVA and sharing a common purpose. I am also enjoying the UVA educational benefit by taking a class a semester at the Curry School. I am exposed to students from around the world and all across Virginia who have different perspectives in the classroom. These students include teachers and athletes and people who want to make learning a lifelong process. I have also had the privilege of taking the classes with Sarah, my wife, which adds an extra dimension of enjoyment to UVA. I also enjoy co-teaching a course on Virginia Politics with Marc Johnson, which opens a new door to the community where I can meet many bright and well-educated individuals who also choose to walk through that door and study current trends in Virginia politics together.

To view previous General Faculty Spotlights, click here.