WFUV news director George Bodarky, FCRH ’93, has a national reputation as a skilled journalist and a great broadcaster. Yet for a cohort of Fordham alumni who launched their journalism careers after working under Bodarky’s leadership at the University’s public radio station, he’s best known as an inspiring teacher and a selfless mentor.
“At some point it clicked that it was more important to devote more of my career to others than just to my own success,” Bodarky says.
WFUV is best known as a music station—which is what makes its award-winning news coverage, directed by Bodarky, all the more extraordinary, says Chuck Singleton, the station’s general manager.
Larger NPR news stations may have somewhere in the range of 60 newsroom staff. WFUV has just two full-time news staffers who supervise anywhere from 12 to around 20 student journalists each semester.
“George manages to accomplish tremendous training and great quality news coverage. So much of that success is owed directly to him, to his work ethic, to his knowledge, and to his ideas,” Singleton says.
One of those ideas, the Strike a Chord campaign, was conceived to help WFUV more effectively bring attention to important community issues through in-depth news coverage, social media campaigns, and community events.For Fordham senior Jeff Coltin, producing a story for a recent campaign on teen suicide prevention was more than just good professional experience.
“In this day and age, every teen knows someone who died by suicide. It was a personal experience for me, and hopefully very meaningful for our listeners,” he says.
Bodarky, a 1993 Fordham graduate and an alumnus of WFUV’s student journalist program, says he loves working at a station where he has the opportunity not only to do his own journalistic work but also to cultivate the growth of individuals year after year.
He is quick to point out that he doesn’t regard the station’s younger reporters as “students.” They work as full-fledged reporters, with all the rights and responsibilities the position entails. Under Bodarky’s leadership since 2001, students alone have won more than 85 awards for their excellence in news reporting.
Molly Shiels, FCRH ’04, coordinating producer for CNN Money, says being treated as a journalist from day one gave her confidence to learn the skills of the job.
“George always treated us like we were as good as him, and none of us were. But having that sort of faith and support from someone who had accomplished so much made you believe you could trust yourself,” Shiels says.
New Jersey native Alice Gainer, FCRH ’04, reporter at New York’s CBS 2 and co-anchor of News at Nine on WLNY-TV, was determined to defy the conventional wisdom that television journalists must start their careers in smaller markets and eventually move up to New York.
Gainer says entering the job market with three years’ experience at WFUV made it possible for her to land a job in New York directly after college.
“WFUV is not a typical college station. I remember covering stories at City Hall with people I now work with at CBS,” she says.
Jonathan Vigliotti, FCRH ’05, a reporter at WNBC, says the experience of working with Bodarky at WFUV gave him and other prospective journalists a distinct advantage in starting their careers.
“WFUV is the best-kept secret of the school. There is a great education there, if you’re ambitious enough and can see that radio is a great foundation for any line of journalism. I don’t think any other school—not NYU or Columbia—has that kind of opportunity,” he says.
In addition to his work at WFUV, Bodarky is a prominent figure in the public radio community, serving as president of Public Radio News Directors Inc. and helping to organize a conference on the future of journalism.
Shiels says that she has reached out to Bodarky as a trusted source of advice about the industry several times. And even her family recognizes that she wouldn’t be where she is today without his guidance.
“When I graduated,” she says, “my mom wrote George a card saying, ‘I don’t trust many people to give my daughter advice, but I would trust you to advise her on anything.’”