by Isabella Cordell
On the evening of March 20, Agnes Scott College and WABE, the NPR and PBS news affiliate for Atlanta, held a dynamic roundtable that allowed students to network with distinguished women in media. With a sizable turnout of both Agnes Scott and visiting Spelman College students, the panel allowed participants to engage with representatives from a wide breadth of journalism and media careers.
Public relations experts, experienced reporters, and editors all graciously shared advice and encouragement. In addition to WABE totebags and mugs, students were left with indelible guidance on breaking into and succeeding in journalism careers. At the event, I was able to speak with three women who are not only forging their own path in the media landscape but also had a chance to guide students along their own career journeys at this event.
Panellist Rachel Tobin is the founder and owner of TobinInk, which specializes in media relations and communications strategy.
Tobin advised participants to be “confident” and “disciplined.”
Tobin herself is a powerful example of the need for persistence. In order to start her first journalism internship, she recalls phoning the editor of a newspaper every Monday for three months. This dedication has proved valuable to Tobin’s illustrious career that has taken her from reporting to owning her own public relations agency.
One of the most significant challenges in the public relations sector is finding clients.
“Meet people that want to go on your journey with you,” said Tobin.
Panellist Rebecca Etter works for WABE in transforming radio content for online audiences. Using a variety of multimedia content, Etter is able to support the newsroom while sharing information with a wider audience.
From creating timelines on the proposed Atlanta police training facility commonly referred to as “Cop City” to formatting raw data on COVID cases into more digestible maps, the Senior Digital Editor does the valuable work of making news more accessible and multidimensional.
Several participants asked about the potential challenges of a rapidly changing media landscape. “Never stop learning,” replied Etter.
Panellist Dawn Montgomery is a journalist with Black Press USA. The granddaughter of a lifestyle and community writer who began her career by copy editing her grandmother’s work, Montgomery shared details and advice from her 27 years in the profession.
“See the people you’re interviewing as human first,” said Montgomery, who is an experienced reporter on sports and politics, “You don’t want your angle to be more important than the person.”
Instead, Montgomery uses her love for the researching and interviewing process to “humanize experiences.”
“Most people just want to be heard,” stated Montgomery.
Montgomery encourages aspiring journalists to focus on research and strengthening relationships with those you are interviewing, adding that researching is her favorite part of the job.
Students who attended this discussion were struck by the dedication and stories of the media professionals.
Irène Chapeau is a junior at Agnes Scott College who grew up listening to WABE on the radio. As a longtime consumer of radio journalism, Chapeau attended the roundtable discussion to learn more about the profession and network with journalists.
“Even as someone who’s not planning to pursue a career in media or journalism, I enjoyed speaking to and hearing from so many accomplished women,” said Chapeau, “I was reminded of the power of persistence and encouraged by hearing about their often winding and complex journeys to where they are today!”
Attendees were not only grateful for the networking event itself, but eager for more outlets to learn about career opportunities at the college going forward.
“I’m very glad I had the opportunity to attend the event and hope Agnes will continue to hold events like this in the future,” added Chapeau.