Alumnus Charts a New Path in TV News

Ryan Cooper, Managing Dir. for Digital at Spectrum Networks West

June 15, 2020
Ryan Cooper ('20)

In an era of social media, fake news, and opinion hosts on cable news, I knew it was time to chart a new path in my beloved profession.

Like so many others, my viewing habits had changed over the years. No longer would I wait to turn on the television to find out what was going on in the world.  Instead, I found myself scrolling through my customized Twitter news feed first thing in the morning or scanning news apps for fascinating stories. 

I never thought TV news would go away in my lifetime, but it was undoubtedly evolving. And I wanted to embrace the change.  So, I set out to develop my skill set and test new muscles with a master’s program. I knew from the start that I didn’t need another journalism degree. Twenty-two years at CNN in Atlanta, London, and Los Angeles had given me a professional master’s of sorts.  I had spent more than a decade as a newsroom leader, managing producers, writers, and anchors, and I wanted to develop my leadership skills while also focusing on the evolving digital landscape.

I researched several programs, but the progressions were rigid and the course descriptions uninspiring.  Somehow, I stumbled on Gonzaga University’s Master's in Communication & Leadership (COML) webpage.  That small school in the northwest with a first-rate basketball program?  I grew up in Indiana and got my Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at Indiana University during the Bobby Knight era. My high school mascot was a bulldog. Everything was coming full circle.

Immediately, I gravitated towards the electives. Students could customize their coursework to suit their professional and personal interests, and the Digital Media Strategies Concentration seemed perfect. Courses would be a mix of communication, leadership, and digital content creation. The online aspect was also crucial; I worked in Los Angeles, and I wanted something that I could do alongside my job.  I spoke to people in the department, and someone described the degree as an MBA for communications professionals. I loved that, and I knew this was the right program for me.

My timing was fortuitous: a few months after starting the COML program, the winds of change blew into my life. My bosses had decided to relocate my team back to Atlanta in a cost-cutting move. Everyone got to keep their jobs, but moving cross-country again was less than desirable.

After much deliberation, I decided to stay in LA, where I would become a full-time student and freelance on the side. Fifteen months later, I wrapped up the program with my capstone project and set out to search for new career opportunities.

Less than three months after graduating, I began interviewing for a dream job. Ultimately, my digital media strategies concentration paid off: I am now the managing director for digital at Spectrum Networks West, where I oversee teams of journalists in LA and Texas. I am responsible for our digital storytelling, social media strategy, and content creation – all elements of the COML program.

It’s a new world now in many ways. GU allowed me to enhance my skills and blaze a new trail for the “second act” of my career.