Editor’s note: The orientation and multimedia training program for the Summer 2015 class of Chips Quinn Scholars was held at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tenn., May 11-17. As part of their training, students blog about the conference and aspects of journalism.
Please share up to three lessons learned from mentors, role models, teachers, relatives or others that you strive to apply in your professional life.
Please provide correct titles for any people you may mention in your entry, following Associated Press editorial style.
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The most important lesson I’ve learned from my mentors is that you just have to move forward. Despite your fears, your self-doubt, your lack of experience, you just have to push on and do it. You have to chase the story until you see it through.
A lesson I learned from my uncle, Ronald Teague, is that if you want to be respected professionally, you have to dress and act in a professional manner at all times. Another lesson comes from my mother, Kathy Teague, who told me anything worth having is worth working for. A third lesson was imparted by Nancy Brendlinger, an associate professor with the Bowling Green State University School of Journalism and Public Relations, who said that journalism is not always about who writes the best, but about who works the hardest.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned my sophomore year came from a professor of dramatic writing, James Webb, who taught me that to write well, you have to search deep within yourself, be honest with yourself and bare your soul in your work. Andrew Skerritt, a former professor and now the Tallahassee Democrat’s storyteller editor, taught me that a great writer should always be open to criticism and strive to produce better work. Finally, my father taught me that with enough passion, you can achieve great things.
One lesson that always stuck with me came from was passed down from my great grandfather to my mother: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I hope to apply that to journalism as I strive to cover the things that matter to me and to those in my community. A mentor also taught me that most problems can be solved — you just have to be willing to work with others and never become too arrogant to admit your faults.
Two of the most influential people who have shaped my writing and reporting with their advice, encouragement and criticism are Jay Lawrence, director of student publications at the University of South Florida, and Wendy Whitt, a journalism professor at USF. They taught me that while not every story may be an in-depth, investigative story, journalists must always try to hold people in power responsible and make sure that public business is conducted in public. They also taught me that every story should represent all sides of an issue, and that representing minority voices is paramount for objective, accurate reporting.
A college professor taught me when writing feature stories to always get the brand of the beer, the name of the dog and the kind of cigarette because it’s the details that make the story. It’s the subtle differences, the details, that make us who we are. From the observation of details comes the realization that people care about other people, and when people care about something, they pay attention. Easily now we lose ourselves in the daily grind, the constant flood of information we consume from something that fits in the palm of our hand. Though we know a great deal about our profiled and digitized neighbors, something is lost when we lose sight of the physical beings in front of us. It is vital that I remember to look closer and dig deeper as I look to tell stories. The story is in the details; the details are what set us apart but ultimately bring us together. It’s the little pieces that make up the bigger picture.
Briana Anyssa Sanchez
The first lesson I learned in life was from my mom, when she taught me how to have the mental strength to not let the little things get to me on a day-to day basis. The second lesson comes from my grandfather, who has shown me how to remain faithful throughout life and leave it in God’s hands, even when life gets tough. Third, I have learned that people are different, with the differences based on many factors, and that just because things are different doesn’t mean they are wrong.
I learned from a professor that it is important to track down editors. Editors are constantly busy, but even so, it’s important that they take the time to discuss our concerns or worries, my professor said. The idea of asking for help as an intern often intimidated me. Since receiving this advice, I’ve tried to ask for help from my editors even if they seem busy.
In my first journalism class at the University of Florida, professor Mike Foley drilled into us to always get the name of the dog or any animal in a story. Former foreign correspondent Terry Anderson taught me that no story is worth your life. My parents always encourage me to work hard and to stay humble.
I have learned to 1) work hard, pouring my heart and soul into my work; 2) be brave, take risks and fail often; and 3) remember that people matter more than anything else. Those I admire most, like John Seigenthaler, former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville, embody these lessons. Because of fear, I sometimes fail at embodying them, but through persistence I am becoming less fearful.
One mentor told me a few years ago that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself in my personal or professional life because other people will do that—editors, readers and many others. When I make a mistake in my work, I try to be honest, take responsibility and forgive myself.
Two former professors told me not to be afraid of trying new things, and this applies in my professional life because I have been learning to cover different kinds of topics and stories, even those that are unfamiliar.
Finally, my parents regularly remind me that being a person “of service” to others is important. I like to think that through reporting, writing and sharing the stories of people who aren’t often included in media coverage, I will be able to inform societies and be of service.
My greatest mentors, role models and teachers have come from the newsroom at the Daily Titan, the student voice of Cal State Fullerton. Working with student editors, writers and friends taught me three important lessons that I will carry as I make the transition from college to the professional world.
1. Be flexible. Learn everything you can so that you can easily adapt to different environments.
2. Be ambitious. Always think of your next move and how you can better yourself.
3. Maintain a sense of humor; otherwise, the work and stress will crush you.
Paul Mitchell, my former professor and mentor at the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, Nev., has always encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. His lesson is one reason why I am a part of the Chips Quinn Scholars program this summer. I believe that if I can grow as a person and push my personal limits, I will also become better journalist.
I learned from my father to respect and be kind to everyone I meet because you never know when you’ll meet them again. Newsday reporter Mackenzie Rigg once told me it’s still considered professional, when demands of the job seem to conflict with humanitarian instincts, to be a human first, and that very often this resonates with your audience. From James Klurfeld, my beat-reporting professor, I learned to always listen.
My father constantly encourages me to persevere in everything I do, so I attribute much of the progress I have made as a young journalist to his belief in my resilience. I try every day to read the news. It sounds like an obvious task for journalists, but James Shelledy, a professional-in-residence at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, taught me that it is easy for budding journalists to forget this important practice. When it comes to advancing and improving as a young journalist, I attribute the lesson of being aggressive in my professional life to LSU Professor Jinx Broussard, who taught me that obtaining anything in life requires hard work and discipline.
Scott Lebar, the Sacramento Bee’s managing editor, told me the six magic words he applies to journalism: “I don’t know, I’ll find out.” It’s the kind of spirit needed to succeed in any field. I try to apply that mode of curiosity to everything I do.