After building a successful journalism career that spanned nearly 40 years, Dave Neibergall never forgot the people or institution that helped him succeed.
Neibergall, a 1980 graduate of the Cronkite School, was introduced to journalism during a part-time job he accepted as a note-taker for his local newspaper in Mason City, Iowa, while in high school. At the time, he fell in love with the craft and decided to make a career out of it with an initial focus on sports journalism.
While at the Cronkite School, Neibergall accepted a position as an editor for the college newspaper The State Press. It was during this time that he would meet many future colleagues who he believes helped him further his career.
As his career progressed, Neibergall moved away from sports journalism and into current affairs. He worked at numerous Valley news agencies, beginning with the Tempe Daily News, the Phoenix Gazette, and ultimately The Arizona Republic, from which he retired in 2019.
Now retired, Neibergall continues to give back to his alma mater throughout his time as a mentor for 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 I did was the opportunities I had when I was a student at ASU and for me, that was the press of State. It was kind of the only avenue we had (for print journalism), but I’ve worked throughout my career with people I met while working at the state press. I also interned through ASU at the Mesa Tribune, which directly landed me a job at the Tempe Daily News. So I think it’s vitally important for students to take advantage of the opportunities they have while they’re at university. And I’m so impressed with how many opportunities Cronkite students have today. I mean, these far exceed what was available to me in the 70s and 80s. So the reason I want to give back is to help ensure that these opportunities continue to exist. I think the things you do in college can really shape your whole career.
Q: What kind of impact do you hope to achieve through giving back and your overall engagement with ASU and the Cronkite School?
A: Well, it’s not just financial contributions for me. I recently applied for the mentorship program and the reason I want to do this is that I just want to be able to convey this idea, and if I can meet just one student and make them understand the importance of seeking and taking advantage of opportunities to launch their career, that’s a success for me.
Q: What did you learn at ASU, whether in class or in clubs, that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: There’s one teacher in particular that kind of pushes you down the path and for me that was a guy named Bruce Itule. I remember being in his editing class. It was basically a copy review class and you walk into the classroom and it was probably a 9:40 class or something in the morning. You’d walk in there and you’d have watery eyes and he’d say “it’s a great day for journalism” and get everyone excited. He’s the guy who came up to me one day and said, “I heard the state press was looking for editors for the rest of the semester. Why don’t you go? You should think about going there and applying. I did and I got in there, and then I finished that semester, then the next semester I was on the sports team there, and the next semester I was an assistant sportswriter, then I got a part-time opportunity at the Tempe Daily News. When I graduated, it became full time. I never really needed to look for a job. Through my connections at ASU, I was always able to move forward and achieve what I wanted. Throughout my career, the people I met at ASU were very important in helping me to further my career, the people I worked with until my retirement.
Q: What advice would you give to people currently working in this industry, whether they are recent graduates or seasoned professionals?
A: Stick to your principles. Be fair and balanced in the way you work. We all have a role to play in ensuring that journalism remains as important today as it was in the 70s, like during Watergate, or whatever. I just think you’ll remember the principles you learned in journalism school and apply them throughout your career.
Q: What would you say to other alumni who want to reconnect with ASU or the Cronkite School?
A: Absolutely, if you’ve dedicated your career, your life to the career of journalism, we kind of have a responsibility, I think, to the next generation to come because they’re facing challenges that we haven’t been confronted. Journalism is kind of under attack these days from some quarters and the more encouragement we can give, the more we can help sustain the profession, that’s kind of what we owe.
Q: Would you say it is the former reporter’s responsibility to help newer, younger reporters entering the field?
A: Yeah, and just to encourage young people who are interested in journalism. Whether they are considering majoring in journalism or are already doing so, just to let them know that, with all the noise, it is still a vitally important profession. We need smart, capable people to carry out the mission.
Q: Since you have experienced the evolution of journalism, what kind of advice would you give now to people working in the field?
A: Just be brave in what you do. Being a journalist today, I think, takes a lot more courage than it took when I first arrived and I can’t imagine some of the challenges these days. It didn’t exist for me, but respect your principles. Like I said earlier, be fair and balanced in how you report the news, but keep going and do your best because the world needs you right now.