Michael K. Frisby, LA’77
Michael Frisby’s story is one about dreams coming true. Growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, with four siblings and his widowed mother, the odds were stacked against him. But the Northeastern co-op program became his ticket to a new life. In the end, co-op helped him fulfill his dream of becoming a star political reporter.
After years of pounding lesser political beats, he ultimately became a member of the White House press corps, rubbing shoulders with Washington’s power elite — policymakers, pundits, and politicians.
Frisby traveled with the president of the United States, flying on Air Force One as one of America’s most influential journalists. He made guest appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’s Face the Nation. In 1998, he was awarded the prestigious Aldo Beckman Award for outstanding coverage of the presidency.
But before all that, there was Northeastern.
“It’s been a fabulous ride. I owe it all to Northeastern and its co-op program which gave me my start,” said Frisby. His first co-op was in the Boston Globe’s advertising department, which became a steppingstone to greater opportunities.
“For my second co-op,” recalled Frisby, “I got pulled into personnel and they said, ‘Look, Tom Winship, the editor of the newspaper, is looking for an assistant to work in his office.’ ”
Winship, the legendary editor who transformed the Globe into a nationally acclaimed newspaper that won 12 Pulitzer Prizes on his watch, took to Frisby’s yeoman work ethic and became his mentor. “Basically I learned how to run a newspaper,” said Frisby of his time under Winship.
For the remainder of his co-ops, Frisby would act as Winship’s assistant from 9 to 5 and then, at Winship’s recommendation, report for the city desk after hours. His work ethic paid off, garnering him front-page stories.
“When I graduated from Northeastern,” said Frisby. “I had clips that someone who might have been in the business for two or three years would have had because of all the writing I did at the Globe.”
After commencement, taking Winship’s advice, Frisby left Boston to get a different perspective on journalism.
His journey took him to newspapers in Dayton, Ohio, and then to Cleveland. Along the way, he developed a reputation as a prodigious investigative reporter. In 1981, Winship brought him back to the Globe, where he eventually covered Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
However, Winship wasn’t the only one impressed with Frisby’s astute campaign reporting. Al Hunt, Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, had been following his work and recruited Frisby to be the paper’s new White House correspondent.
It was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Over the years he covered President Clinton and developed a close working relationship that even garnered him a mention in Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, My Life.
It was Frisby who posed the famous question, following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, asking Clinton if he would resign. The next day, media outlets around the world reported on the president’s one-word response: “Never!”
“It’s been a long journey,” said Frisby, who today runs Frisby & Associates, a public relations firm in Washington. “I don’t think it would have happened if it wasn’t for Northeastern University, which accepted me and gave me the resources to attend the university and utilize its co-op program.”