Meet Jill Geisler, the inaugural Bill Plante Chair of Leadership and Media Integrity
By Kristen Torres | Student reporter
Jill Geisler has done it all.
Journalist, author, media trainer, and the voice of a podcast with more than 13 million downloads, Geisler has been around the communications world—and then some. Geisler was named the inaugural Bill Plante Chair of Leadership and Media Integrity in 2015, after a 25-year newsroom leadership career and 16 years on the faculty at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank and training organization in St. Petersburg, Florida. Now, she’s sharing her experience and knowledge with students in Loyola’s School of Communication.
Here, she talks about getting her new position, what students need to succeed in today’s media landscape, and why she’s so excited about launching a new podcast for Loyola.
How exactly did you end up at Loyola?
Don Heider (the dean of the School of Communication)—that’s how. He sent me the description for the Bill Plante Chair of Leadership and Media Integrity, and I immediately started thinking of people I knew who would be great for the job. In passing, I told him, “It’s a shame I live in Milwaukee or I’d apply.” Then Don said, “Jill, it’s only a 90-minute train ride.” And suddenly I realized how right he was.
How has being the inaugural Bill Plante Chair been so far?
It’s wonderful. It’s definitely something I have to live up to, but I love the position. I’m able to go do things like pro-bono teaching for media leaders in the tiny country of Bhutan, an emerging democracy. Whenever I’m invited like this, I go to Don and tell him, “They want me to do this,” and he is exceptionally supportive. It’s a wonderful position to be in—to be able to teach students but also to continue doing media training in the field.
What course will you be teaching?
I’m teaching Ethics and Communications. Because of my reach in the industry, I’m excited to be able to connect students with real-world leaders in all forms of business and the ethical issues they face. For example, a good friend is the CEO of Make-A-Wish of Wisconsin and she’s meeting with my class. Each day, she navigates the competing goals of showcasing her organization’s good work while also respecting the dignity of children with life-threatening diseases and their families. Competing goals and values are always a delicate balance, whether you’re in community service, public relations, advertising, or journalism.
The media landscape is constantly changing. What’s your advice to students who want to break into the industry?
You need to learn how to write and think critically, but you also have to understand that the core expectations of people hiring you vary widely across the communications field. One organization may need you to mine data and have exceptional math skills; another may want a traditional investigator and interviewer; another may expect you to have digital experience. You need to be open to positions that demand a contemporary tool kit.
Your “What Great Bosses Know” podcasts on iTunes U have been downloaded more than 13 million times. Did you have any idea they would be so popular?
That is just amazing to me. After its launch I started getting e-mails from people saying, “You go on jogs with me” and “You drive to work with me.” That’s why I’m so excited to be launching a new podcast for Loyola. It’s called “Q&A: Leadership and Integrity in the Digital Age.” Each podcast will ask and answer one question—anything from, “Should a manager be friends with employees on Facebook?” to “Should a leader ever lie?” It’s the perfect intersection of leadership, integrity, and communication. And those are the strengths of our school.