Appreciation: Former CQS Coach Mary Ann Hogan, 1951-2019

Editor’s note: Former CQS writing and career coach Mary Ann Hogan died June 13 after undergoing treatment for lymphoma. She was 67. Mary Ann had returned with her husband, Eric Newton, to her cherished childhood home in Mill Valley, Calif., in 2016, after spending about 20 years in the Washington, D.C., area and in Florida. Their sons, William and James, also live in the San Francisco area.

Read the obituary Mary Ann wrote before she died.

Also: Andrew Ba Tran’s (Spring 2006) essay on what Mary Ann’s mentorship meant to him.

Remembering Mary Ann Hogan
By Colleen Fitzpatrick and Karen Catone

Mary Ann Hogan, a former writing and career coach for the Chips Quinn Scholars Program, inspired hundreds of scholars with her professional support, personal counsel and countless intangible gifts as she guided them through what for many were their first journalism internships. Along the way, she shaped the careers of some scholars, became lifelong friends with others and left a lasting impression on scores.

“To many, Mary Ann has been a mentor, coach, champion and friend,” Tonya Alanez (Spring 2004), a reporter at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, said. “To me, Mary Ann was a gift and my guide. She made me shine.”

Mariecar Mendoza (Spring 2007), recalling the vital role her CQS mentor had in her growth as a journalist, attributed landing her current job as the senior digital arts and entertainment editor for the San Francisco Chronicle to Mary Ann’s guidance. “There is no way I would’ve gotten here if it wasn’t for her,” Mariecar said.

A veteran journalist, writer, editor, college lecturer and workshop leader, Mary Ann was a coach with the CQS program from 1997 to 2012, mentoring scholars in 33 of the 49 classes the program has seated. She also wrote the former “Ask the Coach” column for the CQS website, dispensing tips and advice in a story format she urged young journalists to master, one in which the writing was focused, succinct and made a connection with readers.

“Mary Ann Hogan was an exceptionally talented journalist and coach preparing young talent for fast-paced newsroom work,” said Félix Gutiérrez, a trustee of the Freedom Forum Institute who first met Mary Ann in California in 1993. She was working as a journalist while her husband Eric Newton and Félix were setting up The Freedom Forum’s former Pacific Coast Center, in Oakland at the time.

“Her optimistic energy, enthusiasm and commitment guided others to do their best so they could be their best,” Félix said.

Sometimes, steering people toward their potential meant nurturing not only their skills but also their intrinsic qualities. Mary Ann had a way of coaxing those to the fore in her mentees.

Erika Slife Hostetler (Summer 1999), now a fitness instructor and blogger in Chicago, said, “Mary Ann was pivotal in my early career, and the two lasting gifts she left me are priceless beyond journalism: She introduced to me a sense of wonder for the world around us and a sense of confidence in myself.”

The full-commitment coaching that Mary Ann provided is an essential part of the CQS program, said Karen Catone, executive director of diversity for the Freedom Forum Institute.

“The success of the Chips Quinn Scholars Program is, and always has been, due to the dedicated journalists who give so unselfishly of themselves to the next generation,” Catone said. “Mary Ann Hogan was no exception. She was a gifted writer and nurturer of talent, and her tireless work with young journalists knew no bounds. She could deftly console the homesick as well as instill confidence in the insecure. Seldom did the mentoring end when the internship did. And for some, the lessons she imparted will last a lifetime.”

Early in her career, Mary Ann was a freelance correspondent for The Washington Post and San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. She was an award-winning reporter for the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, where she worked for nine years. She then created her own features syndicate, and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate distributed her stories in the 1990s.

Her history with the Freedom Forum Institute and Newseum went back to the mid-1990s, when she became a writer for the Newseum’s original news history exhibit in Arlington, Va., and for the Newseum book “Crusaders, Scoundrels, Journalists.”

Mary Ann never stopped writing. In Florida, she returned to school, earning a master’s degree in creative writing at Florida Atlantic University. She taught freshman English there and at Palm Beach State College for seven years, and saw the publication of some of her work. In California, she became the Mill Valley columnist for the Marin Independent Journal. One column, about the saga of a giant fork, received a finalist award in the writing category from the California News Publishers Association in 2018.

Mary Ann’s story-crafting wisdom resonated with Tonya, as did her style and manner, which Tonya described in ethereal, almost mystical terms: “visceral, abstract and touchy feely” and “spirited, full of light and energy.”

“She did not speak or critique like a news editor,” Tonya said.

Despite Mary Ann’s many contributions as a coach, the relationship between her and the scholars was not one-directional. She readily acknowledged that she, too, gained from the interactions. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the CQS program, in 2016, Mary Ann wrote:

“These last eight or nine years have brought me so many moments of pride I cannot begin to count. I have watched countless scholars grow from quivering intern to competent, even transcendent, professional. I have seen them win Pulitzers. Seen them get married. Watched them start families. Continue rising in their careers.

“I have seen some wisely decide that newspapering wasn’t their true path after all, the kind of decision that bespeaks maturity. I have seen others become editors, cover floods and fires, watched them grounded in far flung airplanes on their way to orientation, Sept. 11, 2001. I have seen a couple through grave illness, personal tragedy and unspeakable loss.

“I have watched them make differences in big ways and small. I love them like my children. All of them have touched me someplace deep.”

***
Here are the reflections of Tonya, Mariecar and Erika, lightly edited. Andrew Ba Tran (Spring 2006) wrote an essay on what Mary Ann’s mentorship meant to him.

Tonya Alanez (Spring 2004), reporter, South Florida Sun Sentinel:
To many, Mary Ann has been a mentor, coach, champion and friend.
To me, Mary Ann was a gift and my guide. She made me shine.
Her style was visceral, abstract and touchy feely.
She spoke of stories as nautilus shells, circular from beginning to end and end to beginning.
Her manner was spirited, full of light and energy.
She taught me to connect the dots rather than line them up.

But most important of all.
Mary Ann impressed upon me that the greatest impact a writer can have upon a reader is to strike a chord, an emotional chord – be it a smile, a laugh, a curse, or goosebumps.
That is a story well told.
Best compliment a reader ever paid me, the compliment that told me I had matured, grown and relaxed as a writer was when that reader said, “I write with heart.”
Ma showed me how to do that.

She introduced me to the concept of “the engine of the story.”
She invigorated my writing. Taught me to bring color, life and energy to stories through the power of language.
She did not speak or critique like a news editor.
No, not Mary Ann.
An example:
“The use of repetition and thematic eddies, to sort of imitate what went on at the funeral, was inspired, effective, gifted.”
This was Mary Ann.
Inspired, effective, gifted.

***
Mariecar Mendoza (Spring 2007), senior digital arts and entertainment editor, San Francisco Chronicle:
MA was such a vital part of my development as a young journalist. I remember fearing edits by my bosses when I was still an intern or new reporter (so much) that I would email Mary Ann versions of my stories and ask for her edits before turning in drafts to my editors. I remember calling her to talk through story development, sourcing and how to craft a narrative. She helped me find my voice!

Then, when it came to making career decisions — whether about a fellowship, new beat or job — she was always one of the first people I would reach out to for advice. She critiqued my first cover letter; she helped me feel comfortable boasting about my work in that cover letter and in my resume. She helped me edit my resume down when I got further along in my career – a career that she very much shaped.

I remember being so happy she was my mentor because I wanted to go into features-entertainment journalism. But when I told her I wanted to be an arts writer straight out of college, she said, “Well, you still need the meat and potatoes.” I took that to heart and honed my craft as a news reporter, which helped me earn the respect of my peers and bosses when I was at the point in my career where I could focus more on A&E. I earned their respect, showed that entertainment journalism is still “newsy” and not all “fluff” and am now the senior arts & entertainment editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. I know for a fact there is no way I would’ve gotten here if it wasn’t for her.

***
Erika Slife Hostetler (Summer 1999), fitness instructor and author of a group fitness blog, Chicago:
Mary Ann was pivotal in my early career, and the two lasting gifts she left me are priceless beyond journalism: She introduced to me a sense of wonder for the world around us and a sense of confidence in myself. Though at times in my life people have tried to steal these gifts from me, thanks to Mary Ann’s gentle guidance, I’ve never let them get me down. Thank you, Mary Ann, for all the countless scholars you’ve so selflessly mentored. Your spirit will live on, that I know. Until we meet again.

We invite you to share remembrances of Mary Ann Hogan in the comment box below or by emailing them to Colleen Fitzpatrick, [email protected]

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