Dr. James Schiffman has had two careers — the first as a working journalist and the second as a journalism educator.
In the early 1970s, he set out on what seemed like an impossible if not crazy dream: to work as a journalist in China, which was then closed to Americans. After earning a Master’s degree in Chinese history at the University of Colorado/Boulder, he went to Taiwan on a year-long school program to study the language. In Taiwan, Schiffman worked as a freelance journalist for the Hongkong Standard, one of two English-language newspapers in Hong Kong.
That work later helped him land a job as a reporter with United Press International in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he covered a wide range of stories, from crime to state politics to high school football and rodeo. And yes, he enjoyed chuck wagon breakfasts during Frontier Days, when the rodeo came to town.
After three years in Cheyenne, Schiffman was named a Gannett Fellow in Journalism at the University of Hawaii. Schiffman, his wife Carolyn and their 1977 Honda Civic traveled to Honolulu. (The car went by boat.) At the University, Schiffman focused on honing his Chinese language skills and beginning to learn Japanese.
After the fellowship year, Schiffman returned to UPI as a news editor in Hong Kong. Two years later, he joined The Asian Wall Street Journal as a reporter. After working in Hong Kong for several months, he was transferred to Seoul, South Korea as correspondent and bureau chief. This was a time of enormous ferment and change in South Korea. Schiffman covered the Korean economic “miracle” as well as the growing political opposition to the military dictatorship. His two children also were born in South Korea.
After three years in Seoul, Schiffman realized his early dream by virtue of a transfer to Beijing. In China, Schiffman covered the heady years of reform and promise in the 1980s before the Tiananmen crackdown, transferring to the Atlanta bureau of The Wall Street Journal in 1988. After two years as a healthcare reporter, Schiffman changed direction and joined CNN, where he spent 21 years, mostly with CNN’s international network. He served as CNNI’s chief copy editor for the last five years of his tenure.
While at CNN, Schiffman began his transition to academia, pursuing a Ph.D. at Georgia State University. After securing his degree, Schiffman landed a job as assistant professor in the Mass Communication Department of Georgia College, the state’s public liberal arts university. For nine and half years, he taught courses in journalism, media history and media analysis. He was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in 2019.