The Rookie & the Veteran: A CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO ALUMNI ABOUT THEIR CAREERS
The era of digital media has brought profound changes to today’s newsrooms. The core value of journalism hasn’t changed, but the responsibilities have increased. To get some perspective on this change, the Iowa Journalist interviewed Rebecca Morin (BA ’16), a web producer at Politico on the cusp of her career, and Maudlyne Ihejirika, (BA ’85) a veteran reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, to discuss their generational experience as journalists.
How did you get your start?
Morin: I thought I wanted to be a foreign correspondent, but that’s hard to break into. When I was on The Daily Iowan’s politics team in college, I covered midterms and the 2016 election. During this time I had a friend that worked at Politico as an editor who I visited the spring break before I graduated. I let him know I thought I’d be a good fit at Politico. A couple weeks later, he told me about a job opening. I applied, interviewed in April, and got the job in June.
Ihejirika: I was blessed to be hired straight out of grad school at the Chicago Sun-Times. I’m from Chicago and this was the paper I grew up reading. I think that the reason I haven’t left the Sun-Times is because most other journalists start somewhere else and return home, but I am already here. By the time I thought about moving to another location like New York or D.C., I had such deep roots in Chicago that it wouldn’t have made sense to leave.
What is your personal brand?
Morin: I like to be perceived as someone who is into politics. So, if you come to my Twitter page, you’ll see what’s happening in D.C., in Congress, and in the White House. Working at Politico, you become a Politico. My brand is trying to get information about politics in Washington D.C.
Ihejirika: I knew as early as college that I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. My brand would have to be on urban affairs and how it translates to social justice. I’m known to report on race issues, poverty, inner city crime, disinvestment of the inner city, and inequities along racial lines and in the government sector. I’m someone who is very involved in mentoring and supporting upcoming journalists.
What has been your relationship with modern social and digital media?
Morin: I use Twitter to see what’s happening in the news; a lot of it has to do with the president since that’s how he likes to communicate. Although I do try to disconnect on the weekends. I get anxious when I’m constantly on, so I try to shut down when it gets overwhelming. But this is also how we communicate with our readers. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with it.
How did your career in journalism change with the social media revolution?
Ihejirika: It was one of the single biggest things that impacted my job. In the past, my job was to come to work, find my story, cover the story, write the story, take a photographer out into the field, then come home and forget about it until the next day. Everything has changed. As the industry constricted, newspapers had to do more with less. That meant staff had to learn areas of the business that they never had to know before. Photographers were the first to be laid off with the advent of the iPhone. Then, with the video revolution, we had to be responsible for those as well. Social media rose to a place of prominence and every reporter needed to be active. It made my profession a whole different animal and a 24-hour job.
What advice do you have for an aspiring journalist?
Morin: Speak to everyone, be nice to everyone. Everyone has good advice and has had different paths. Working hard and showing that you are able to learn proves you are someone a company would want to invest in. On another note, find your support system. Having people who have been in your place, who are currently in your place, or can just help you through wherever you are right now is always good.
Ihejirika: The world is your oyster. Journalists now entering the field have grown up with the web, social media, cameras, video, the works. Don’t be disheartened by those who say the industry faces tough times. Because you’ve grown up around all of this stuff, you can navigate it. Be sure to hone your skills and learn as much as possible in college. Network, network, network. Like never before, it’s about who you know. Don’t let anyone pass by without asking for a card or to be connected. Don’t be scared.
Rebecca Morin (BA ‘16), web producer at Politico
Maudlyne Ihejirika, (BA ’85), reporter at Chicago Sun-Times