Yesterday I went to my alma mater, to speak at a professor’s class in which students get to write stories for prominent local newspapers.
I had contacted the professor weeks before, asking how I could get involved in alumni relations or student training. She asked me to come in to “meet some of the students,” so I assumed she had a master plan — or at least the skeleton of one — in mind. I don’t think she did, and if she did, she kept it to herself.
Days later, I realized I had no idea what I was going to go there for, and that Professor was probably expecting I had an idea. The day before our meeting, I typed up a list of talking points before leaving the newsroom, and dashed to the printer to snatch it before anyone could see. I don’t like people reading my notes, reminders or unfinished pieces. It’s how I roll.
I’ve been having busy, busy weeks at work. Busier than the usual hustle. The day of my grand appearance at the school, I realized I forgot my bullet points at home once I arrived on campus — 45 minutes away from home.
So, I roamed the place, trying to find the room I had a class in a year ago. Once I finally found it, Professor welcomed me in and had me sit by her speaking perch.
She was giving a lecture on profiles: how to write them, prepare for them, etc. She invited me to chime in if I had any comments. After commenting twice, she decided to introduce me to the class.
I have to say, my bumbling introduction, complete with stumbling up from a heavy chair, was probably the worst part of my “seminar.”
For the next hour, I told the students about my rise from one of them “kids” to one of us “reporters.” They raised hands, they dozed off, they eagerly asked questions, they listlessly looked at the dust particles I couldn’t see in front of them.
It was invigorating. I know things they want to know. I can explain those things to help them.
I’ve been thinking that young professionals have a valuable set of tips to offer beginners. That’s why I sought out Professor.
Usually, guest speakers are seasoned veterans, salt-and-peppered and out of touch with the fears, doubts and ignorance of youth. I want to help change that, or at least expand the base of role models in our business.
I believe my story and my efforts are commendable. I believe they could inspire other young people to push hard and reach goals. I get plenty of subtle put-downs and disrespect at my office, where pseudo-octogenarians think I’m a blithering fool because of my age, but I know I can help the “kids.” Encourage them.
Then, today, I was listening to the radio.
Columnist Elinor Brecher was speaking about media today, and she mentioned young people..
“Thank God for young kids who still have the passion to do this,” Brecher said, and continued the thought with some details specific to her paper’s “youngsters.”
I heard it while driving, and my eyes nearly bulged. I wanted to reach for my phone and blog about it then and there. Her comment was just the nudge and reassurance I’ve been needing. It verbalizes the reason I felt fueled while looking for a job, when I had the chance to make a more-lucrative career out of serving people.
Her comment is what every journalist, young or old, need to hear and really take in. Hear it here. It starts at 23:05.