Thought about becoming a journalist? Think it’s an easy job? Think again. The road to becoming a successful journalist is not always an easy route. With large writing demands and last minute assignments, journalists face daily time-consuming obstacles. Irregular working hours do not make things easier.
Additionally, many journalists put their lives at risk when they cover stories on natural disasters, political extremism and terrorism. The pros of the age-old profession, though, may outweigh the cons.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Mary Ann Owens, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. We discussed how she began her journey to journalism. As a junior in high school, she was accepted into a journalism class, and found that she instantly knew what she wanted to do in life. Owens, like many journalists, felt the trade would allow her to do something that she felt mattered. After graduating college, she was offered a job with the Thompson Group, a communications firm specializing in advertising, public affairs and public relations.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to all sides of society from high-profile celebs and politicians to the helpless and downtrodden,” Owens said. “I’ve experienced wonderful events and seen horrific accidents, and of course, the Pentagon attack.”
Owens was rewarded for her hard work by gaining employment with Morell Media and Gannett. Her ascension was not without struggle. Obligated to remain unbiased, she hated keeping her opinion to herself. Issues stemming from her gender also caused problems.
“At that time, the most difficult thing I had to deal with was being a woman who did not want to work feature pages covering fashion or cooking,” Owens said. “My first beat was the police beat. Winning those guys over took time and patience but I proved I could hold my own.”
Over the years, the 50-year writing veteran has produced a number of editorial pieces. Straying from what was then expected of women in journalism, Owens credits an obit she wrote about a little boy who electrocuted himself with a toaster as her personal most memorable piece. What she expects to be remembered for, however, is her article on the events of 9/11.
Aware of the changes in modern journalism, Owens claims that today is a different world and anyone can publish a blog. In regards to those looking to get their first start, her response is simplistic and traditional.
“I’d say keep writing, keep researching, and keep updating the ol’ portfolio.”
Nevelious L. Jordan IV is a contributing writer for Wrightspeak.