Dean Fiedler reveals his plans after stepping away from COM

Lauded journalist to retire, volunteer on Booker campaign

By Naa Dedei Coleman
BU News Service

Thomas Fielder, the outgoing Dean of the Boston University College of Communication, said he plans to volunteer for the 2020 presidential campaign of Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey.

In an exclusive interview with students from COM lecturer Andrea Kremer’s Art of the Interview class, Fiedler spoke about his decision to step away from his position for the last decade and divulged what he wants to do next.

“I have spent much of my career as a journalist, someone who criticizes or reports on, maybe in a more neutral way, people who are in the political arena hoping to make some kind of a change,” said Fiedler. “I will have the opportunity after I leave here at Boston University to do something with someone who is trying to make change directly.”

Fiedler sees this role as an opportunity to work in an unfamiliar position, something he was unable to do because of the neutral expectations that came with being a journalist prior to his branching into academia.

When it came to picking a candidate with whom to work, Fiedler said, “I was looking for someone who had personal views that are aligned with mine, a person of integrity.”

He decided on Cory Booker, the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey. “I think he embodies all the qualities of the candidate that I’m looking for,” said Fiedler. “A person whose both life story and, I believe, his positions, are ones that I think would make him a good president.”

Booker has been a senator since 2013, after being mayor of Newark for seven years. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and graduated with a law degree from Yale in 1997. Post graduation, Booker chose to work as a non-profit attorney. He served on the Newark City Council for two years and then ran for mayor in 2006.

“Senator Booker is very interesting to me in a number of ways. He’s extremely intelligent,” said Fiedler. “After graduating from Yale, I think unlike many who go to elite law schools and go on to major firms, he moved into one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Newark because he was determined to help people who were struggling with everyday issues of housing and drugs and justice.”

Like former President Barack Obama, Booker worked as a community organizer before running for political office, but Fiedler thinks the candidate comes to this campaign even more prepared than the former president.

“Cory Booker brings to this campaign some experiences that Barack Obama didn’t have. Barack Obama was in his first term as a U.S. senator,” said Fiedler. “I think Cory Booker’s two terms as mayor of Newark, one of the largest cities in the country, gives him an understanding of executive management, how to run a big organization. Barack Obama never had that experience.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Fiedler has been close to a presidential race. In 1987, Fiedler was a veteran political reporter at the Miami Herald when he broke the story of Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart’s extramarital affair, which led Hart to drop out of the race.

From this experience, it is important for Booker to realize that, “in this era of social media, the spotlight is never off and it can grow intensely and very hot very quickly, much more than it would have back in that time,” said Fiedler. “So the idea or the importance of comporting yourself, I think, with dignity and appropriately, is extremely high.”

Fiedler is still in discussion with Booker’s campaign as to what role he will play. “There’s likely to be some media relations that I could be involved in. Possibly also in writing. Campaigns produce a lot of press releases and speeches. I think, perhaps, my talent as a writer would be of some use to them,” said Fiedler. “ But if they want me to go around the neighborhoods and knock on doors, and say vote for Cory Booker, I can do that, too.”

After decades as a journalist and academic, Tom Fielder is ready for his next challenge. “One of the hardest things to do as a journalist is to try to keep your own feelings about someone, either positive or negative, from actually getting to the point where it interferes with your ability to tell a straight, very objective story. There’s a lot of self discipline that goes into that. Not having to worry about that, I think, feels liberating.”

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