Journalism graduate led Osama plot

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Vice Admiral William H McRaven

Lecturers often tell students that a journalism degree offers a wide range of transferable skills that can lead to many different careers, far outside the media industry.

Perhaps the ultimate proof of that was delivered this week when it emerged that the man who hatched the plot to capture/kill the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, was a journalism graduate from the University of Texas.

William McRaven was born in San Antonio, Texas, and attended Roosevelt High School. A keen athlete, he won a track scholarship to study journalism at university, graduating in 1977. While studying he also embarked on a Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programme.

“I was fascinated that somebody with a journalism degree had gone to special forces and been a SEAL,” said retired Admiral Bobby Inman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, in an interview with the Daily Texan. “He has demonstrated that he is truly a distinguished graduate of the university.”

In his 35-year career as a Navy SEAL, Vice Admiral McRaven has been awarded the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and the Defence Superior Service Medal. He has commanded special operations in some of the most hostile environments in the world, including Afghanistan and the Desert Storm operation in the 1991 Gulf War.

US President Obama has personally congratulated the journalism alumnus on the operation in Pakistan which killed Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington.

A promotion to four-star admiral beckons as McRaven becomes part of US naval history.

Osama Bin Laden

As the JMU Journalism Class of 2011 prepare to embark on careers of their choice, it is interesting to read of how
some other former journalism students have got on in the world.

Comedian Will Ferrell graduated from the University of Southern California with a sports broadcasting degree, while actor Denzel Washington has a BA in Journalism and Drama from Fordham University in New York. Before trying his luck in Hollywood, Brad Pitt dropped out of the University of Missouri just two credits shy of his journalism degree.

Country and western singer Garth Brooks majored in journalism at Oklahoma State University, and the US TV chat show host David Letterman has a broadcasting degree from Ball State University, Indiana.

Among those who worked in the industry, Winston Churchill was made a prisoner of war when he was working as a journalist during the Boer War. He escaped and went onto become one of the most famous Britons of all time as the victorious World War II Prime Minister.

Crosby-born Anne Robinson had a long career in Fleet Street journalism before finding fame on both sides of the Atlantic as the host of TV’s ‘The Weakest Link’. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch worked at the Daily Express and the Adelaide News as a sub-editor in his native Australia before building his empire.

About Hugh O'Connell, Senior Editor