The "World News Tonight" anchor knew he wanted to be a journalist from an early age.
At 42, David Muir is the youngest person to anchor a network evening newscast since Peter Jennings in the 1960s. In nearly two years in the chair at ABC’s “World News Tonight,” Muir has overseen a ratings rise and scored high-profile sit-downs with President Barack Obama, Tim Cook of Apple and Pope Francis.
But it all began at the Roy H. Park School of Communication at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where Muir, class of ’95, landed an anchor seat on the student newscast as a freshman. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Start early: I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was 12. I began writing to local journalists, and started interning at the TV station in Syracuse when I was 13. I’d find myself carrying the equipment, sitting in the back seat, and going out in the field with reporters and photographers. The station was in between news directors. I believe to this day that the reason I was able to stick around was because there was no one there to tell me I couldn’t.
You don’t have to know what it is you want to do at 12 or 13. But I did have a passion, and I always tell people to try to follow at least one of their passions, to turn an interest into a career.
Sweat the small stuff: I firmly believe that when you intern somewhere you ought to be known, by the time you’re done, as the intern willing to do even the most menial of tasks. I was always willing to do anything: carry the tripod, rip the scripts, log the interviews. I fetched Cokes from the Coke machine for the anchor. It all thrilled me.
Stumble: The great thing about Ithaca was they encouraged you to step out of your comfort zone. We were practicing the craft almost immediately, and making mistakes almost immediately. We all make mistakes, even at this level. That’s how you grow, that’s how you get better.
Expand: I had a minor in political science, and I went to the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University for a summer. I interned in Washington at the Department of Health and Human Services, to see a vantage point from within government. I was also studying Spanish.
Go abroad: I traveled to the University of Salamanca in Spain for a semester. That was so pivotal. This was living with a family, attending school in Spanish. Last year, I sat down for an hour with Pope Francis and conducted a town hall completely in Spanish. That experience all those years ago came back to help me in ways I never could have imagined. (Since 2008, Muir has sponsored a scholarship at Ithaca College that funds study-abroad experiences.)
Give back: I Skype once a semester with Ithaca journalism majors. I try to write back to as many of the young people who tweet me or write me, about hoping to be journalists one day. I still think of that kid who was waiting. I would walk out to my mailbox every single day hoping for one of those letters in return.