Mike Gruss

Gruss covers military for SpaceNews

Written by Sarah Rogers
CAS Intern
Mike Gruss

Mike Gruss is a Miami graduate-turned-space news connoisseur.

The 1999 alum with a degree in English/journalism and American studies, Gruss established a prosperous career in Washington, D.C. as a military reporter at SpaceNews.

His day-to-day work involves breaking hard news about military space issues. He reports on everything from the buying and launching of Air Force satellites to the implementation of Defense Department space and missile defense programs.

“My favorite part about the job is learning something that not everyone else knows yet and finding a way to get that into the media, one way or another,” he said. He is one of the first to know about major space and satellite technology breakthroughs and it is his job to make sure that such issues get covered and out into the world.

With a variety of summer internships and on-the-job journalism experience under his belt at Cleveland.com, the Chicago Tribune and The Toledo Blade, Gruss began his career as a lead education reporter for a newspaper called The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He covered city and county government issues, assisted with General Assembly coverage and spent eight months on the special projects desk in this role. He won a variety of state awards during this time, including “Best Education Coverage,” “Best Coverage of Children’s Issues, “ Best Deadline Reporting,” “Best Short Feature” and “Best Criminal Justice Reporting.”

After making his mark at The Journal Gazette for nearly four years, he moved up to Norfolk, Va. to become a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot. Although he started off as a reporter for about three years, he ultimately became a columnist for the features section for six years. In his initial position as a reporter, he covered three beats in three years, one of which included the state’s second-largest school system. Additionally, he covered the General Assembly during two legislative sessions and researched an award-winning narrative on the first black students to integrate Norfolk schools following massive resistance.

After his transition into becoming a columnist, he wrote his features column three days per week. This work entailed participating in brainstorming sessions, discovering memorable trends and using alternative story forms.

His time at The Virginian-Pilot came to an end when his current job at SpaceNews began in January of 2013. He also does some free-lance work on the side, including some heavy magazine writing. He wrote a story for Runner’s World in October of 2014 about the Marine Corp marathon held in D.C. It is in its 39th year this year and he has followed a couple of men who have run all 38 of them, so far, all in their early 60s and 70s.

“Each guy wants to say they’ve run all of them,” he said. “”I wrote a story online last year about the same topic, sharing 39 things you didn’t know about each guy. It’s been fun following them and sharing their lives with the world.” Other than Runner’s World, Gruss has also dabbled with freelance work for the AARP Bulletin, the Associated Press and the New York Times, to name a few.

Gruss has received several awards for his notable work. The Society for Features Journalism awarded him second place for “General Commentary” in 2013 for three columns he did for The Virginian-Pilot. “I was really excited because it’s always nice to be recognized and I put a lot of hard work into it,” he said. “I take my job pretty seriously, so it was an extra pat on the back.”

He was awarded honorable mention in the same category by the SJF in 2011, has won about a dozen state journalism awards and won “Columnist of the Year” while working in Virginia.

Gruss has every intention of staying in the journalism field for as long as he can. He just bought a house with his wife in Alexandria, Va., which is right outside of D.C. Gruss, who is 38, is thoroughly enjoying both his job and his family life, with a 1-year-old-son.

He does eventually want to try editing on for size. “Right now, I’m liking my position at SpaceNews and want to continue with more freelance and magazine writing,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to move into editing, but I don’t know how soon that can happen.”

Gruss also recognizes the backlash that the journalism is facing right now, especially with emerging communication technologies and methods of consuming news. “I realize that journalism is going through a pretty tumultuous time economically right now, but it’s a lot of fun and I hope to do it as long as I can.”

Hugh Morgan, a professor emeritus of journalism at Miami, was one of Gruss’ most influential professors. Gruss remembers Morgan as a teacher who really pushed him and had a very positive influence. More specifically, he helped him to perfect his feature writing skills and always motivated him with positive encouragement.

Morgan has nothing but kind words to say about Gruss, remembering him fondly from his time in his classes. “I knew how brilliant, diligent and talented Michael was from the start. He was a person with quiet dignity who always recognized the dignity of others. He was a whole human being at a young age.” Morgan especially appreciated Mike’s work ethic and his willingness to listen and learn from others. “He did not have to brag. His work spoke for itself,” Morgan said. “And most of all, he listened. Some folks pretend to listen and they fail to hear the meaning of others. Not Mike. He could hear with accuracy the meaning of another person's words.”

Gruss attributes a great deal of his success to his ambition. The Cuyahoga Falls Ohio native was editor of The Miami Student his senior year at Miami and also was news director and sports editor. He also wrote for a magazine while at Miami and was a DJ at WMSR.

He offers this piece of advice to Miami students, “Be ambitious. Sometimes it’s easy to limit yourself. When you can be more ambitious, it goes such a long way; I just think that’s really strong.”

He would also like to pass on to students that they shouldn’t stress about how their majors and minors will pigeonhole them into certain jobs or career paths. “Don’t worry so much about majors and minors and how they’ll translate into careers,” he said. “As long as you develop a strong skillset and think critically while in school, there are so many career paths that come from that.”