About the author
Darinda Sharp serves as director of communications for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
On May 21, 2014, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened to the public. Running the communication efforts for the museum, including all of the fanfare and worldwide attention surrounding it, was Michael Frazier.
The public opening came just days after President Barack Obama and 9/11 Memorial Chairman Michael R. Bloomberg addressed 9/11 families, rescue and recovery workers, survivors and others at a May 15 dedication ceremony. The ceremony also included remarks by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended.
Coordinating the media around events with so many public figures is a unique challenge, and this 2001 graduate of Fulbright College’s Walter J. Lemke department of journalism was prepared. Frazier became vice president of communications for the museum after a 10-year career in journalism and serves as its chief spokesman and strategic media advisor. He also oversees mobile, online, social and digital communications, and he credits the University of Arkansas for much of his success.
“I am very proud to be from the Natural State, and I’m proud to have gone to the University of Arkansas,” he said. “These are the places and people who shaped me and made me who I am.”
Frazier describes himself as an “old-school reporter,” and he compares learning proper techniques in this field to that of any other craft—after you know the basics, your imagination can take you wherever you want to go.
“I think schools often forget that you need a firm foundation—that’s what allows you to be creative. Journalism has changed by leaps and bounds since I graduated. My professors taught me to play the basic notes, and as I grew, now I can play jazz. Every time I hit a bump, I go back to the basics. That’s what has helped me get to the next level or clear a hurdle.”
Throughout his career, Frazier has worked with people from around the world with many different personal and educational backgrounds. Through these encounters, he has learned that despite a person’s academic pedigree the college experience is only what you make of it.
“If you have a plan and the drive, then the U of A gives you all the tools you need to be successful—however you define success. There are opportunities to learn and grow everywhere you look. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities, then you’re missing out on an unbelievable education.
“I’m very happy with where I am and very happy with where I came from. If you can embrace both of those things, then the possibilities are practically unlimited.”
One of Frazier’s reasons for choosing to study journalism at the University of Arkansas was that many of the faculty members were either part of the journalism industry in the past or still actively reporting while teaching.
“At school I was fortunate to be exposed to veteran print reporters while in the classroom. I wanted to communicate—through writing in particular. I wanted real-world experiences, and I knew I would get that here.
“I had many amazing teachers and mentors—in school as well as in the field—but Gerald Jordan was probably my greatest influence. I wouldn't be here if not for him.”
Frazier grew up in Hot Springs, where he was active in the community and served as class president in high school. When he chose to continue his education in Fayetteville, he came without his twin brother—a huge adjustment for a young man whose life revolved around family and community. However, after spending some time on campus, he found that connections could take many forms.
“It was nice to have a second home at the U of A,” he said. “I found many families here. Lemke was a family. For those of us who worked at the Traveler, that was also a family. Teachers were always helpful. They were happy to help you find a lead for your story, but then they’d ask, ‘Are you going to class?’ They wanted you to succeed.”