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Michael Lyle Jr.

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Michael Lyle Jr: Journey from journalist to adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University

Michael Lyle Jr likes to keep busy and prides himself in balancing the career opportunities that come his way. Currently, he is a news anchor for New England Public Radio, which encompasses regional news for central, southern and northern New England WFCR 88.5 and on NEPR.net. In addition to this role, he is a weekend and fill-in news anchor/reporter at WTIC 1080 AM in Connecticut that covers local Hartford news. And on top of that, he is an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University.

In September, I had the chance to sit down with Michael and learn not only how he juggles these roles, but how he’s navigated his career.

For the full interview with Michael Lyle Jr., watch the video on our YouTube page

In The Zone (ITZ): Thanks Michael for the opportunity to interview you. Congrats on these three roles, just amazed how you are able to juggle of them. Can you talk about that?

Michael Lyle Jr: It’s been quite a ride for me. [I’ve] been in this business for 22-and-half years. I started off in production… After I graduated from Howard University in D.C. I worked at ESPN Radio for six years behind the scenes doing a lot of technical work and meeting some of the professionals you see on TV. It was a great transition being at the network’s headquarters and learning a lot about the business as well.

I did some work outside of there when I went back to Quinnipiac for my master’s degree. I also got to do a lot more local radio which is what I’m doing here in Connecticut and Massachusetts. On the side, I’m teaching and so far it’s been a rewarding and enriching experience. I couldn’t be more blessed for these opportunities, and I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface just yet from the electrical flow and have a long ways to go.

 ITZ: What is most fulfilling about being both a news anchor and adjunct professor?

Michael Lyle Jr: Just having the passion to do what is you want to want to do and loving your job. We’re in trying times right now, [and] certainly the media has been scrutinized in more ways than one could have ever imagined since I’ve been a professional which makes the job a little bit more challenging… It’s my job as a news anchor to give them the information they come to on a regular basis are nothing but the facts and nothing fake. It’s all information combined and pulled from other sources.

Community radio and news still exists and that’s what people come to. Being the voice of the community… Not everybody is going to like what you do but when you get the habit of doing this regularly and enjoy it is the most important thing about the job.

ITZ: You were born in Jersey City and attended Cardinal McCarrick High School in South Amboy. When did you start developing a passion for journalism?

Michael Lyle Jr.: I was born in Jersey City, spent most of my teens and young adulthood in central New Jersey. During my middle school years I spent time in Sayreville and Parlin and rest of my teen years were spent in Old Bridge where my parents’ live right now. We moved to Old Bridge in the fall of 1996.

It was the same school but changed names over the years. In fact it was called St. Mary Regional High School when I was there in 1995. About five to six years ago they closed the school due to financial issues, so a piece of my childhood is gone because the school is no longer there.

I started writing for my high school newspaper, then became the editor-in-chief and really got my first taste of what it’s like to become a sports reporter. It was great practice and get into the habit of being a writer and journalist. We had a staff of five people so I was doing the editor and writer work. It taught me how to multitask and be multifunctional.

ITZ: After graduating from high school, you attended Bowie State before transferring to Howard University and finally ending up at Quinnipiac University where you earned a Master of Science degree.

Michael Lyle Jr: I was at Bowie State for a year and half where I wrote for the campus newspaper, “The Spectrum”. I got my college degree at Bowie State before I transferred to Howard in the 2001. My time at Howard were some of the best times I had down in D.C.

I love the city so much [and] didn’t want to leave because of the great campus atmosphere and culture. Nothing like homecoming every year… It’s one of the best in terms of Black colleges and universities. There is a lot of history and alumni that graduated from there, like Kamala Harris.

I love the campus of Quinnipiac University, they really built this up and so gorgeous from when I was here back in 2005 as a graduate student.

ITZ: 2020 has been a crazy year with the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, floods and famous people passing away. How have you been able to cope with all the challenges?

Michael Lyle Jr: It has been very challenging to say at the least…Quinnipiac has done a very good job of making sure the numbers are kept down from COVID-19. The most recent tests came out today and there were zero cases that shows the university is doing the right thing.

In fact, everyone has to download an app with daily check-ins to make sure there are no cases and symptoms. If you are coming down with a symptom they advise you to quarantine for a couple of weeks and not come to campus. If you are coming from one of the hotspots the Governor advise you don’t do so. They have opened the campus in a sense where they have the social distance rules in effect and everyone seems to be cooperative.

 

ITZ: One of your longest running jobs was as a radio broadcaster/news anchor was at WQUN in Hamden Connecticut where you served as a news anchor on “The Brian Smith Show” and studio host/radio producer for the station’s coverage of Quinnipiac University men and women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey. You also served as a correspondent for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.

Michael Lyle Jr: [Brian Smith is] one of the nicest guys to work with. When we first started working together in 2017 and paired up, I didn’t know what to expect but it was great. We used to joke that we were like the Miami Vice of Hamden. He was Sonny Crockett and I was Ricardo (Tubbs).

Unfortunately the station was turned off last spring to the dismay of the community in the Hamden and New Haven area… It’s a big loss for the community. People still walk around here and ask what happened and they are not happy.

The men’s ice hockey team went to two national championships games that they lost, the women’s basketball team went to a Sweet 16 a few years ago and I was able to cover that and they had a couple of more NCAA Tournament runs. They played UConn two years ago in the second round. The men’s basketball team is starting to come around despite some ups and downs over the years but they are finally starting to change that a little bit.

There’s nothing like being a part of history when Barack Hussein Obama was elected president and to be down there on Capitol Hill. The day he was sworn in was one of the most amazing experiences I will never forget and cherish because the entire country had seen a change long in the making and it finally happened.

I was the only local media person from Connecticut that went down to D.C. to cover that event. The reason I was able to get down there is because of being aggressive as a journalist. As it was getting closer to Election Day the numbers were starting to show that Obama was going to take over and eventually win so I was constantly making contacts with people down there…

ITZ: Your first job out of college was with ESPN Radio, can you describe what it meant to work for such a prestigious company and some of the skills you learned?

Michael Lyle Jr: I was there from 2003 to 2009. Anybody who is a sports junkie or wants to be in sports media automatically thinks ESPN and at that time it was the place to go. I learned a lot about the behind the scenes work, got to meet some other SportsCenter celebrities such as the late Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick, Mike Golic, Colin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith, and Freddie Coleman.

The key about working there is that I had to learn everything. It’s a business that has changed over the years. Being a part of ESPN allowed me to do technical work at the same time as learning how to write.

ITZ: You worked on the print side as a staff writer at The Middletown Press as well as served as the color commentator for the Hartford Hawks women’s basketball team. Can you describe working in those roles?

Michael Lyle Jr: I have been in print for long time actually, got my start with newspapers in high school, freelancing as a writer for The Washington Times newspaper covering the Howard football team. When I was doing an internship for WTOP Radio in D.C. I was also writing for their website and covering Howard basketball. With The Middletown Press I began learning about the non-sports side of the industry in terms of being more of a beat reporter, covering business and community stories and some sports stories.

I really enjoyed that experience [with Hartford Hawks women’s basketball) and it came about because someone had left the position. There was a color analyst by the name of Amy Lawrence who now does work for CBS Sports Radio. That opened the door for me.

I didn’t have any color commentary experience. What’s funny is at the time the coach was Jennifer Rizzotti who is a legend up here in Connecticut and original part of the UConn dynasty that started in 1995. She personally met with me for the job and was amazed at the work I was able to do.

It was fun, we traveled to places I had never been to. We went to Mexico for a tournament, got to play against Penn State, Princeton and went to a game in New York at the Rose Hill Gym on the campus of Fordham.

It was a blessing I had that shot, and it taught me a lot about being on the road with a team. I got to bond with players and coaches and stay in nice places and hotels.

ITZ: I wanted to pivot to a couple of other topics. You are the Vice-President of Broadcast at Southern New England Association of Black Journalists since 2014. You are in charge of the social media pages regarding announcements both locally and nationally. Can you talk about the organization?

Michael Lyle Jr: I have been a member of NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) for 16 years and been the Vice-President of SNEABJ (Southern New England Association of Black Journalists). It’s been a rewarding experience to be part of this organization for six years because what we’re doing here locally is raising money for scholarships to give to students’ that need this. They need opportunities to study because college is very expensive these days. We’re trying to reaching out those that want to be in the profession and raising funds by doing special events.

The regions we cover are Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We hold events, workshops and functions twice here on the campus of Quinnipiac.

We want people to be the fabric of being a journalist, a way to give back if they are willing to be journalists and studying towards that profession. If they can take part in our events, be willing to show us they want to be part of this community and industry, we will reward them with money that go to their studies.

ITZ: You were approved as a journalist with the National Press Club in November of 2018, and are a four-time recipient of the Connecticut AP Broadcasters Association and two-time recipient of the Connecticut Society Professional Journalists Award. What do these personal accolades mean to you?

Michael Lyle Jr.: Just speaks to the level of work I do for a living. And while I’m proud of to be doing this work. I get up and do my job because people want to turn to the media for information. These personal accolades prove you have a skill that people embrace and turn to you for that every reason you are going to give them reliable information and be a source of information that they crave and be upfront and 100% accurate with it.

It just speaks to the fact you are among the elite in this industry and very few can say… I still feel like after all these years there is a lot more to accomplish. I’m still trying to make my mark, the accolades speak volumes and glad I can represent the community.

Especially as a black man in this profession, it shows that he knows his stuff and does his best work possible and gets rewarded for that. That makes me feel there is a bit of purpose for him to be in this position. I have to be that beacon of hope for those that want to be in this position.

ITZ: In the wake of the social injustice and racial issues this year, can you talk about diversity in journalism?

Michael Lyle Jr: One of things we’ve tried to address here on campus is diversity. I was at an event the other night here for our first year seminar that I’m also a part with the freshman class and I think I only saw maybe one other person that looked like me.

How many folks on this campus look like me?

Our new dean of the communication school] told me the other night there is an opening for a broadcast journalism professor here. He told me personally to recruit people from the NABJ to apply for that job, because he understands the need for diversity on this campus.

It’s just not Quinnipiac. It’s on other campuses across the state that he wants to see more diversity. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about diversity in the media and any other profession. There are not too many people that look like you and me doing this line of work.

I could be wrong but I am the only black radio news anchor in the state of Connecticut. That’s why we are unfortunately having these conversations, because we are tirelessly trying to put the word in and change the mindset about why we need diversity.

We’re going to probably be talking about this for another 10 or 15 years but we have to be committed to these changes and eventually something will happen. You just have to keep grinding until something happens and influence others to do the same.

ITZ: You have a bunch of favorite quotes ranging from Adam Sandler to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to President Barack Obama to Ludacris to Kerry Washington to Steve Jobs and Will Smith… Out of all those people, which ones resonate with you most especially in the line of work you do today?

Michael Lyle Jr: I admire all those quotes because they all speak to what we do every day. Everybody has challenges. We’re challenged every day when we get out in this world…

One of the quotes that keeps me motivated is about continuing to push myself because I know I’m going to face adversity. In fact, I consider myself the underdog and the reason I say that is because I don’t feel like I have reached the pinnacle. I’m a human being out here trying to make a living in America, doing my best and all walks of life doing what I have to do to make my mark

If I can inspire others through my work then I know I’m doing my job.

Coaches are helping me make sure I stay grounded and helping others going through the same situations or something similar. This year has proven to be big challenges for us in many ways. It’s not just COVID-19, social justice, the economy. There are so many things that we are going through right now that we just have to keep motivating ourselves.

Don’t put limitations on yourself. I had this discussion with my father the other day about this and he is always telling me to live and learn to be happy. Life is too short, this year alone has proven that you got to be happy with what you are doing in life.

ITZ: What is your message for younger people trying to break into the journalism field?

Michael Lyle Jr: Stay focused, vigilant and cognizant. Be open minded about what’s going on in the world, because we are living in times where too many people are going about opinions.

We are discussing this in my class. Too many of us are using the mindsets of others to be their influence on what is going on in the world and that’s not right. We’re all are entitled to have our different views on this, think, analyze and take a step back and think about why this is happening.

I tell everybody to stay focused and keep people around you that will support you. Be around like-minded folks that want to see you win, push to accelerate and motivate you. Constantly too many people around us don’t want us to get to the top of our careers or just don’t care. I set out the emphasis to be around those that want to see you in the same position they’re working towards to.

I can count the number of people on my hand right now I can call friends and have to weed out those who are sincere versus what I call associates.

These are trying times because we are in an unprecedented time that we never envisioned quarantining and has gotten us thinking about life. It makes appreciate life more than ever because we have taken little things for granted over the years, but I think this experience is going to tell us how to do things differently.

 

 

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
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