I was notified that I was accepted into the Gwen Ifill Mentorship program just as the pandemic began closing down offices, public spaces, and traveling. A few months before, I started a new job at CapRadio, adjusting to a new environment and team, but still recovering from a previous harmful newsroom experience. I applied to the program because I wanted a mentor who understood my digital journalism background, my enthusiasm for it, as well as the questions I often ask myself as a JOC. I also wanted a space where I could be honest about my self-doubt that has plagued me since journalism school, and got worse after that harmful newsroom experience.
The program’s in-person events turned into regular Zoom conversations, Slack chats, and emails, and I was grateful to have the women in this program be a regular part of my pandemic year. They’ve been honest and vulnerable; encouraging and supportive; curious and critical.
As I look back, conversations circled a common aspiration: We deserve healthy news environments that nurture our work and value us. But that accompanied another realization: This is something we have to advocate for, since it is not how news environments actually are. How to do this shouldn’t be unwritten, but it is.
The mentorship program equipped us with spaces that validated our concerns and ambitions, and provided relationships to help build paths to the careers we want.
At this mentorship program, here’s what I think are a few building blocks to choose yourself and keep going:
- It’s okay to know what you don’t want. I’ve entered so many journalism spaces that made me feel out of place. I have used these experiences as proof that I don’t belong in journalism when I probably should see these experiences as getting to myself better and being more confident in what I want.
- Give yourself permission to take the time for yourself. I felt bad about the time I needed (and still need) to recover from that harmful newsroom. But the healing has helped me renew my appreciation for patience, steadiness, living, and listening.
- Use your voice. I recognize harm and try to voice it because I wish more folks did in my previous newsrooms. Saying “That’s not okay” or “No” are ways of doing this. Writing out detailed memos to management is another. Voicing it helps others voice it too.
- Know your value and your boundaries. I like working from home and having time to myself. It lets me read, process information, and experience emotions without the gaze and concern of others. It makes me better at my job and recognizing it makes me more confident about the boundaries I need to be healthy and to be myself.
- You are singular. My path and choices are a unique set of pieces that are sometimes contradictory, but a guide and completely my own. As I keep going, I continue to find wisdom (instead of disdain) in decisions made, mistakes done, and other unexpected turns.
To be honest, I struggle with internalizing these ideas and living up to them every day. But that’s why these fellowships—relationships—matter. I’m still in journalism because there are journalists who let their co-workers know every day that they’re valuable, making journalism a little brighter and accessible. And, reminding me to give myself another chance of building the day/career/journalism that I want.