An Old School Brother with a New School Style

His bushy black eyebrows create crow’s feet beside his eyes and a toothy grin appears beneath his gray and black beard. His voice is melodic and he speaks with gracefulness. Students listen eagerly as he describes an interview with Michael Jackson.

“Y’all do remember Michael Jackson. That’s good,” Gregory Lewis says to his class at FAU’s Fort Lauderdale campus.

Lewis, 53, is an unconventional part-time professor whose full-time job is covering the minority beat for Fort Lauderdale’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I’m a very unique black person in America,” says Lewis, who grew up in the South, and was exposed to both black and white culture at an early age. He was born in Fort Knox, Ky., where he lived for nine years.

Lewis has written over 10,000 newspaper stories in his 31 years as a journalist and is now taking his writing to a “new school” level. In March, after writing only hard copy for the newspaper, he decided to add “blogger” to his resume.

“Greg mentioned his interest in doing a blog, which he had clearly thought about a lot – he called it ‘Old School Blues.'” says Sharon Rosenhause, Sun-Sentinel managing editor. “I thought that was perfect, especially if you know Greg. He’s definitely old school and perhaps more important, he’s a great storyteller.”

His blog is described as, “R&B meets rap; red Kool-Aid meets Red Bull; P.F. Flyers meet Air Jordan’s. Where old school meets new school.”

The self-professed “granddaddy of bloggers,” Lewis says his blog has revitalized his career. The new school method of communication has excited him as he writes about the past, discusses history and attempts to bring issues of race and culture in America to a new audience and a new understanding.

His recent posts discuss topics such as black kids and baseball, the Jena case, rap lyrics and new black leaders. He posts on his blog daily and, if he is “really feeling good,” even twice some days.

“Blogging is very new to me and I find trying to build a regular, loyal and devoted following on a daily basis a new challenge, and challenges bring out the best in me,” Lewis says.

Between blogging and writing the minority beat for the Sun-Sentinel, Lewis makes time to teach classes like Mass Media Theory, and Coverage of Public Affairs. His nontraditional teaching methods of telling stories and getting to know each student by name has made him well-known on campus.

“Professor Lewis is a great storyteller and I always come away from class thinking, ‘Wow!’ I learn so much from his experience as a reporter,” says Lemos. “He’s interviewed everyone from Spike Lee to Michael Jackson.”

Lewis has been able to interview many famous and influential black people throughout his career. He still wants to interview Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, and would love to interview Michael Jackson again.

Lewis writes feature stories important to the minority community, as well as the community as a whole. He says covering the minority beat has offered him challenges and rewards. Meeting interesting people is what he really enjoys about his beat. This form of networking with local community members, he says, acts as a well-balanced resource for him.

Lewis says the most difficult thing about the beat is being black and not knowing what interests the white reader.

“I know I write about black people for white readers,” Lewis notes. “I also understand that because I’m black I take things for granted because it is a part of my life.”

He says it is not hard writing “tough” stories about black people. But he is often conflicted with positive or negative stories. In spite of the seesaw, he tells stories to the best of his ability, as truthfully as he can, he says.

Now he often tries to tie stories featured in print in the Sun-Sentinel to his blog on the newspaper’s Web site.

“Monday’s blog was connected to a story about the fashion trend sagging or wearing pants so low underwear is exposed. I’ve blogged and storied about the Martin Lee Anderson verdict, a 9-year-old preacher and interracial marriage,” Lewis notes.

He also includes life experiences on his blog. His purpose behind “Old School Blues” is to point out “what was good back in the day is still applicable now,” he adds.