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Relocation for Work

By Features, Resources

All that I was allowed to bring for a 12-week basic combat training and 14-week advanced individual training fit inside this carry-on sized bag. I remember I packed a favorite pair of black sweatpants, Army-approved undies, an eyeliner pen, a t-shirt and some tennis shoes. Screengrab courtesy of Noelle Wiehe.

When the military first takes your life into their hands, all you’re allotted is a bag with a change of clothes. I remember that for basic combat training, I thought I’d never packed so little for what would be the longest “trip” of my life. I felt the same when I deployed – only so much stuff fits in your small corner of the world inside a giant shipping container with sheets for curtains and a twin bunk bed frame to sleep on.

Now that you’ve hung up the uniform, the life of luxury doesn’t fit in a duffel.

Alas, we’ve chosen the hard work of the fourth estate, and with this journey comes the expectation of relocation all over again. I’ve had two professors at two separate universities warn me that if I want to have a career in the journalism field, I’m going to have to move.

At least in the military, we were tasked with making a list of our top three duty stations. That might not be the case in journalism. Depending on your situation, you might not have time to wait for a call from The New York Times, and the anchors in your hometown might not be passing on the baton anytime soon. Instead, you may consider moving to middle-of-nowhere Texas, where they need an eager and enthusiastic newbie to work as a general assignment reporter and cover stock shows held in an ag building (true story). Just like the military, though, if you embrace every opportunity, you can have a lot of fun.

The first and most important tip that I have for you when you land a dream job in a place you know nothing about is to network. As a service member, you were a part of the 1% of Americans who serve in the United States military, and now you’re a part of the 7% who are U.S. military veterans in this world. Use your connections. I’ll even give you a headstart: your best one could be right here within Military Veterans in Journalism. This incredible organization connects you to veterans of all branches on the same career path as you.

Noelle Wiehe, general assignment reporter at the Vernon Daily Record from November 2012-October 2013. I covered stock shows for the local high schools in my combat Army boots. Photo courtesy of Noelle Wiehe.

Another great resource is the people who hired you. I nearly took a job in Florida, but the editor told me that if I was relocating, the apartments and houses open were few and far between because the area was still recovering from a hurricane. I took this advice and even considered purchasing an RV, but ultimately turned down the job.

Starting over brand new in a city or small town is hard, and only you know what you need to keep your sanity.

My start date and move-in date did not line up for my first move for journalism. So, I found a campground approximately an hour from the newspaper office so that I could start working and still have a place to shower and sleep until my apartment was ready.

You have to have a plan. And then, you have to have a backup plan.

Being adaptable is key – but hopefully, you’ve kept that trait in your veteran-hood.

The dedicated folks who make up Military Veterans in Journalism at the 2022 Convention in Washington, DC. Not only are these a great group to keep in mind for networking, but they’re also all a lot of fun. Photo courtesy of MVJ.

The 2022 Military Veterans in Journalism Convention, held in Washington D.C.My advice is to know what you need in a new place. One of my biggest priorities is building a way to make friends fast. Right after I lock down a job and a place to live, I’m looking up what recreational sports leagues there are and joining “Foodies of [insert new city]” Facebook groups to find hangouts.

The 2022 Military Veterans in Journalism Convention, held in Washington D.C.The career may not come with as many built-in friends as the military did, but that’s why Military Veterans in Journalism exists. If you’re considering a move and would like to pick my brain about some things, please feel free to email me. I’ve lived in nine states and one shipping container in the Middle East chasing this military journalism dream, and believe me, I’ve got more than these 600 words of tips for anyone who wants to listen.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

2023 Top Ten Veterans in Journalism Winners Announced

By Features, News

Military Veterans in Journalism announces the selectees from the 2023 edition of the contest.

Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Top Ten Veterans in Journalism contest. Established in 2021, this annual competition acknowledges and celebrates the outstanding contributions of veterans who are excelling in the news media. Contest winners are selected from a pool of nominees by a panel of experienced journalists and editors, and their works represent a variety of mediums and topics across the news industry.

A committee of experienced industry professionals – including Barbara Starr, former CNN Pentagon correspondent and current Senior Fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy; David Kishiyama, retired LA Times editor and co-founder of AAJA; Zachary Fryer-Biggs, the managing editor of Military.com; and Kelly Kennedy, the managing editor of The War Horse – evaluated the nominated journalists and their pieces. Each nomination was carefully assessed based on the piece’s originality, newsworthiness and impact, journalistic quality, and the diversity of subject matters, sources and authors.

Winners of the contest are recognized for their achievements in shaping the media landscape with their insightful reporting and profound storytelling. This year’s winners have displayed exceptional skill, compassion, and a relentless commitment to shedding light on important issues. The work they have produced shows their unwavering dedication to their profession and the pursuit of truth. 

The winners of this year’s Top Ten Veterans in Journalism contest are listed below in alphabetical order.

Alex Horton

Alex Horton is a Georgetown University graduate with a BA in English, currently serving as a national security reporter for The Washington Post, where he focuses on U.S. military affairs. With prior experience as an Army infantryman in Iraq and a background in journalism with Stars and Stripes, Alex’s dedication and expertise have earned him numerous accolades, including the shared honor of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, highlighting his outstanding contributions to the field of journalism and his commitment to informing the public on critical national security issues.

Winning Piece: The children of troops lost to Iraq War are all grown up 

Allison Erickson

Allison P. Erickson is a former U.S. Army Medical Service Corps officer and accomplished journalist. She has covered military and veterans issues in Texas as a reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune. With extensive military experience and commendations such as the Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, Allison brings a deep understanding of the challenges faced by service members to her work. She holds a master’s degree in creative publishing and critical journalism from The New School, and her reporting has been featured in respected publications like the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas Monthly, and The Point.

Winning Piece: An Afghan soldier fleeing the Taliban spent months reaching the U.S. to request asylum. He was arrested at the Texas border. 

Brett Sholtis

Brett Sholtis is an investigative reporter at LNP | LancasterOnline specializing in extremism, threats to democracy, and the influence of dark money on local politics. Previously, he worked as a health reporter at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based NPR affiliate WITF, where his notable contributions shed light on the failures of behavioral health and criminal justice policies for people with mental illness. Brett was recognized as the 2021-2022 Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal fellow, a partnership between the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships and the Center for Investigative Reporting. He served as an infantry soldier in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and deployed to Kosovo in 2003. Brett’s dedication to journalism is inspired by his late brother, Bryan Reid Sholtis, who lived with serious mental health condition and passed away in 2011.

Winning Piece: In Pa. county jails, people with mental illness are routinely met with pepper spray and stun guns 

Cyrus Norcross

Cyrus Norcross is an award-winning freelance journalist from the Navajo Nation who has had articles and photos published with The Navajo Times, Source NM and Public Lands. His investigative work focuses primarily on the missing and murdered indigenous people of the Navajo Nation, but he also covers sports, tribal government, and art festivals, among other topics. His passion for journalism was ignited during his five-month stint at the Standing Rock protests in 2016, where he recognized the crucial need for Native American voices in the media.

Norcross served in the Army from 2007 to 2013. During this time, he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times as an Army Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Norcross is currently balancing his freelance endeavors while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.

Winning Piece: Justice for Descheenie: Family of man found dead seeks policy changes 

Devin Speak

Devin Speak is a journalist and photographer with a special focus on climate and human rights. After his time in the U.S. Coast Guard, he attended New York University where he graduated as the valedictorian of his class in Global Studies. He recently completed his internship with NPR and has since freelanced a story on plastic pollution plaguing the Long Island Sound. He hopes to continue an impactful career in human rights and climate focused communications.

Winning Piece: The melting Arctic gets a U.S. ambassador and an influx of military cash 

Jennifer Brookland

Jennifer Brookland is a journalist covering child welfare for The Detroit Free Press and a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Her reporting is opening windows into overlooked aspects of raising children – or being one – in Michigan.  Jennifer previously worked as a military and veterans reporting fellow with the American Homefront Project and as a producer for North Carolina Public Radio. She also spent time freelance writing and editing for clients including the World Bank and the United Nations. Jennifer holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School. Prior to her career as a journalist, Jennifer served as a Special Agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, with posts in North Carolina, Maryland and the Horn of Africa.

Winning Piece: Inside Detroit’s 24-hour child care: A fragile lifeline for working parents 

Julia Kane

Julia Kane is a journalist who writes about climate change and environmental justice. She earned her master’s from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she studied investigative reporting and narrative writing. Prior to becoming a journalist, she served as an officer in the Coast Guard, spending four years aboard ships based in Honolulu, Hawaii and Key West, Florida, and two years as aide-de-camp to a flag officer in Alameda, California.

Winning Piece: Twice Burned: How the U.S. military’s toxic burn pits are poisoning Americans — overseas and at home 

Konstantin Toropin

Konstantin Toropin is a reporter for Military.com specializing in coverage of the Navy and Marine Corps. He is also a Navy veteran, having served five years in the surface fleet as a signals intelligence analyst. Toropin has previously covered breaking national news for CNN, reporting on everything from protests to hurricanes from the field and the newsroom. His portfolio also includes investigative work on 2020 campaign and election claims and the effects of the pandemic on food processing plants. Toropin holds a bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University in journalism and a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.

Winning Piece: How 2 American Veterans Ended Up in Ukraine, Prisoners of Russian-Armed Militants 

Steve Beynon

Steve Beynon is an experienced reporter with Military.com known for his detailed investigations on critical issues impacting soldiers. As an Afghanistan war veteran with 15 years of service as a cavalry scout, he brings extensive firsthand experience to his reporting. Steve has also covered Capitol Hill, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and contributed to publications such as Politico, Military Times, Stars and Stripes, and the Cincinnati Enquirer. With a bachelor’s in journalism and environmental policy from the University of Cincinnati, Steve’s expertise and dedication make him a respected voice in the field.

Winning Piece: How a Church Allegedly Scammed Millions in VA Money from Vets 

Thomas Gibbons-Neff

Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a New York Times Ukraine correspondent focusing on enterprise, on-the-ground investigations and reporting from the war. Prior to his current position, he covered the Pentagon and other assignments, such as the 2017 Niger ambush, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the Syrian civil war, for the Washington Post. Gibbons-Neff is a Marine Infantry veteran and was deployed twice to Afghanistan – first in 2008 during George W. Bush’s presidency, then again in 2009 as part of Barack Obama’s troop surge.

Winning Piece: Leaked Documents Reveal Depth of U.S. Spy Efforts and Russia’s Military Struggles 

These journalists have not only elevated the standards of the field but have also fostered public understanding and awareness of critical issues. Their collective efforts will inspire future generations of journalists, both military veterans and civilians.

“We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Top Ten Veterans in Journalism contest,” said MVJ Executive Director Zack Baddorf. “Their remarkable achievements and dedication to journalism are a testament to their unwavering commitment to informing the American public through quality journalism. We are honored to have them as part of the MVJ community.”

Sword and Pen – 180th Fighter Wing: The Public Affairs Office

By Features, Podcast

by Lori King, host of Sword and Pen

For this episode of the Sword and Pen, I sat down with four members of an Ohio Air National Guard public affairs (PA) office during their monthly drill on June 3, making it the first time in the short history of this podcast that we recorded a show from a military base.

As I drove through the gate of the 180th Fighter Wing near Toledo, Ohio, I felt a sense of nostalgia and pride because I retired from this unit 23 years ago. I worked out of the public office and was the editor of the unit’s newsletter, The Stinger.

The mission of the Sword and Pen is to inspire and educate our MVJ members. With that in mind, I reached out to the wing’s PA office last month to ask if they would share their own mission with us. After all, joining the guard or reserves after transitioning out of active duty is certainly a viable option for our members. It’s also beneficial to know the role of a PA office in case you need to reach out to them for a story you’re doing on any particular base, military member or issue.

On this episode, you will hear three enlisted airmen and one officer share their personal stories of how and why they got into the public affairs field and what their duties are. 

  • Sword and Pen host Lori King, from top left, chats with Staff Sgt. Kregg York, Maj. Matt Eck and Airman First Class Sarah Stalder-Lundren at the 180th Public Affairs Office in Swanton, Ohio on June 3. (Photo by Airman First Class Nick Battani)

    Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker, the full-time public affairs superintendent and chief enlisted manager keeps the shop running smoothly. She joined the unit as a photographer just two months before I retired. 

  • Award-winning photographer and public affairs specialist Staff Sgt. Kregg York helps train the staff in all things multimedia. He graduated from DINFOS as a broadcast specialist. He’s created his own distance learning course on photography, and it’s open to anyone who wants to learn the craft of photography.
  • Public affairs specialist Sarah Stalder-Lundren, is a recent graduate from the Defense Information School’s mass communication course. She works in human resources in her civilian job.
  • Public affairs officer Maj. Matt Eck was a weapons loader in the 180th prior to transferring to the public affairs office. He is also the director of video production for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We chatted about their social media policies, the skills they honed while at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), the value they gain from working in the 180th PA office, and much more.

The 180th FW is home to F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, and we were fortunate to hear the loud thunder of jet engines roar over us during the podcast recording. And yes, you can hear the jets in the podcast. It’s quite a sound.

Please follow the Sword and Pen podcast, published on the 15th of each month, on Spotify so you don’t miss an episode. 

Up next month: Stephanie Ramos, ABC News national correspondent.

Creating an Image To Change the World

By Features

Photograph courtesy of Liam Kennedy.

Creating an image that has the capacity to change the world is truly a selfless act. The compelling factor in creating that image doesn’t come from the drive to gain awards or accolades – it comes from deep care and sensitivity to those that have allowed you access to the moment combined with the skill to know what to do with the tools you have at your disposal.

While serving as a Mass Communication Specialist in the Navy, I was exposed to many events that changed the world and profoundly impacted who I was in a short time. In 2013, I was 20 years old in Hong Kong on my first deployment aboard the USS George Washington (CVN 73) when we were recalled to the ship. We steamed toward the Philippines as Typhoon Hiyan made landfall and decimated the island of Guiuan.

Photograph courtesy of Liam Kennedy.

I don’t think at the time I really understood what I was doing by volunteering to go into a disaster zone. I had never been to one, had never seen suffering of that magnitude, and simply did not understand the weight I would carry for several years after. I stood up and told my assistant public affairs officer, Lt. Derrick Ingle, that I would go and make him proud. The images I created there went far and wide and made me fall in love with photojournalism and its power to help those in need.

Reflecting on that moment, I now understand how important it is to trust your gut and intuition when faced with a decision—doing what you deem necessary for the circumstances. It forever changed how I looked at photographs—what they could do and who they could help. It would still take another ten years from that moment to build a framework around what I now know to be photojournalism and documentary photography, two very different but very important fields.

I have documented biker culture in America related to choppers for the last eight years and learned the main difference between journalism and documentary photography is a total and uncompromising immersion into a subject, subculture, issue or idea.

Photograph courtesy of Liam Kennedy.

During my day job as a visual journalist with Gannett, I visit those I am photographing only a few times over days, weeks or months. Every job is different, every person has a certain comfort level, and every editor has a different vision for their paper. However, in documentary work, there are rarely deadlines, and you begin to shape your story and narrative as you revise, revisit and continue to dig for the story.

That is not to say that many of the same principles do not overlap and that papers do not take their time because that would be inherently false. There are, however, limitations with budgets, deadlines and the ever-evolving news cycle and industry that one must learn to adapt to.

Through the process of creating a body of work over many years, I have learned a lot about myself. Who I am and what I can endure could never have been learned solely in a sterile military environment. Since I was young, I’ve always been extremely hard-headed and will show you a yes if you tell me a no. That worked adversely against me many times while in uniform, but has also shown me great success as a civilian. The mindset of, “If I know this can be possible then it must be, no matter how often I am told no,” is one of the core tenets to success in one’s work.

Photograph courtesy of Liam Kennedy.

I left the military in March of 2020 as the pandemic hit. The hardest thing about separating from the Navy was that I had to figure out what kind of life I wanted, not the one the Navy told me I had to have. I had to learn better interpersonal skills. I had to apply for jobs with a resume for the first time. I tried and failed at starting a business. The resilience I learned in the military and the documentary work I had been photographing for so long carried me through many lonely nights spent wondering if I had made the right decision to part ways with the US Navy. I know I made the right decision for myself. I could no longer continue to feel as if I was sacrificing my authenticity, honesty and voice; I simply felt as though it wasn’t right to stay in uniform.

I wish I had known in my first days out of the service that a whole community would be waiting to embrace me on the other side. There are many workshops to help you enhance your skills, the G.I. Bill to help you get into a journalism school, and some photographers believe in passing along the wealth of their knowledge to continue building growth in successive generations of this community.

Liam Kennedy is a Nashville-based photojournalist who has been photographing for more than 10 years, eight while serving in the Navy as a communication specialist. He is passionate about documenting natural disasters, conflict and the modern-day biker. Recently Kennedy documented the war in Ukraine as well as the tornado that ravaged western Kentucky.
His work has been represented by Redux Pictures and featured by Bloomberg, CNN, Getty, ABC World News Tonight and Radio Free Europe.
Liam currently is a visual journalist at Garnett / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Sword and Pen: Chicago Sun-Times photojournalist Anthony Vazquez

By Features, Podcast

by Lori King, host of Sword and Pen

Back in 2013, a year before Snapchat added video capability and the same year Instagram launched video sharing, the Chicago Sun-Times decided to jump on that video bandwagon. But rather than rely on skilled photographers to provide quality video, the Sun-Times canned their entire photo staff and forced its reporters to shoot video using iPhones.

Visual journalist Anthony Vazquez poses for a portrait at the Chicago Sun-Times, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

It was a bold and unprecedented move that sent shock waves and panic throughout the photojournalism world. It was the first time that photojournalists, including myself, realized we could be replaceable in newsrooms. I remember that day well because we were fearful that we could be next.

It’s been 10 years since that bad decision, and I’m still teaching about that mass layoff in my photojournalism

classes at the University of Toledo and Wayne State University (Detroit). I do not want history to repeat itself.

So, when I met marine veteran Anthony Vazquez at last year’s MVJ convention in Washington D.C. and he told me he was a photojournalist at the Chicago Sun-Times, I immediately invited him to be a guest on the Sword and Pen podcast. There was no better person to give our Sword and Pen listeners an update on that situation.

On this episode of Sword and Pen, Vazquez certainly talks about how the Sun-Times currently deals with video, but we mostly chat about his life as a “small town Iowa boy” who enlisted in the marines as a landing support specialist after community college and ended up at one of Chicago’s two competing newspapers.

Vazquez describes the moment he realized he wanted to be a journalist. It was in Afghanistan, and he had witnessed a horrific scene: a local Afghan boy whose leg was blown off by an IED. He watched as the boy’s younger brother frantically ran after him.

“That was his brother, and he was crying and trying to keep up with him as he was carried away on a stretcher by Afghan soldiers,” Vazquez recalled.

A bloodied fan talks back to officers after being injured by police officers after Mexico’s victory celebration in Mexico City, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Mexican fans celebrated around the Angel of Independence monument after Mexico’s victory over Germany in the World Cup. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)

“He was in his flip flops, running across the rocks, and I just remember that whole scene made me realize that we’re here for a certain reason, that we’re impacting the lives of other people,” Vazquez said. “I wanted to write about what was going on in Afghanistan at the time and how war was impacting the locals. That’s what got me interested in journalism.”

It was a defining moment that inspired Vazquez to leave the military to attend journalism school at the University of Iowa. Though his initial intention was to be a writer, he took a few photo classes and joined the school newspaper, The Daily Iowan, which led him to pursue visual journalism instead.

He also talks about how his military experience played a key role in covering one of his first big breaking news stories for the Associated Press in Mexico; makes a case for veterans working in newsrooms; and explains how he went from working at a grocery store to becoming a member of Report for America.

Graceful Transition

By Features

The author spending time with veterans in France. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I lost my dream job on a sunny Tuesday morning in February. 

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I was slowly removed from some corporate accounts, and my job had changed. I had gone from traveling to France to visit battlegrounds with WWII veterans and the Best Defense Foundation volunteers and tagging along in Kodiak, Alaska in Coast Guard members’ MH-60T Jayhawks to being assigned (and writing) less stories. I was losing enthusiasm.

Thus, the bad news came. I first saw my two editors taken out of the work communication channels. Then came my turn. The whole meeting only lasted a few minutes. I was asked if I had any questions, while my editor’s advice was ringing through my head: “Maintain professionalism.” Of course I’ve got questions, but none that’ll serve me here or offer me any solace. 

In tears, a little angry, and a little hurt, I was left to face the hard truth: it was time to move on.

I read an article that referred to something resembling my response as “threat mode.” It sounds most accurate for how I immediately went to job boards searching for a description most closely matching the dream job I was just relieved from. It’s got to be out there, I thought.

Removing my mark on company property. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I had to purchase new equipment. My company requested mine back. So, I commenced removing the stickers, wiping my files, and undoing the past year I’ve lived out with these pieces of technology. That night took a lot out of me. (Also, no one told me about the blow dryer method on stickers until after I’d scraped them off!)

Now, I spend some days buried in my laptop just searching job boards, messing with my resume, applying to jobs, checking my email, and updating my LinkedIn. Other days I let myself soak up some sun on a local beach to clear my head and regain some hope that I’ll be ok. I’ve worked so hard to have a solid career that it really knocked me down when it all went downhill. But it’s just a job.

After it happened, I was informed that my former employer had set me up with a career coach to get me back into the workforce. It reminded me remarkably of how the military sent me back into the civilian world with their Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program. 

A decorative pillow at a coffee shop in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

My instinct with this new resume and career path coach was to cry to her. But her job is not to be a therapist – instead, she is a coach meant to launch me into my new path. I recognized that and held in my grief for another time. She was here to help me look forward, not backward.

“Allow the road ahead of you to speak louder than the road behind you.” – Unknown.

A lot of people in my life are serving this purpose. They lived my whole past 18 months with me or through me. They don’t need me to tell them that I’m heartbroken or that it’s hard to make such a transition when you’d had such high hopes. No, they wanted to serve my future. They wanted to help me on my new adventure, and this was their opportunity to be a part of it.

I had so many people looking out for me. I had not been fired before, but I’d moved on to new jobs plenty. This time it was like I’d already set myself up. I had networked well over the past year and publicized my passion for my job. People reached out the second they heard the news, and I think that was the most helpful occurrence. 

The author on a Florida beach. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I got phone calls. I ran into folks who’d seen my social media post about being let go, and texts poured in with resources to use in my search for my new path. Some of the most notable were a colleague from my first-ever journalism internship 12 years ago and the folks at Military Veterans in Journalism.

I knew back in the summer of 2011 during my internship and in 2021 when I came across MVJ that I had found my people. They have the same passions, goals, and ambitions. They’re climbing ladders alongside me and helping me prop up my own when I fall down.

Every step of this journey, whether employed or unemployed, my fellow journalists and others I built these professional relationships with have been on my side. I fully intend to keep my journalism colleagues and MVJ in my pocket no matter where this journey goes.

My advice, from experience, is to give yourself some grace in these times. I followed through on the vacations I planned, took plenty of time for self-care, and called on friends when I needed them. Grief is a salty mistress. It comes in waves, and while losing a job isn’t comparable to a physical loss, it put me into a grieving cycle that I’m still in.

I am lucky I have a little time to figure it out yet. Time is money, though, so I’m constantly looking, hoarding the pennies I’ve got, and searching for the way I’ll bring in my future paychecks. I’m making sure that way is what I want.

I’m searching for my dream job again. We all go through it. At least, that’s what I hear.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

Military Veterans in Journalism: #FreeEvan

By Features

MVJ’s executive director joins calls of support for the reporter’s freedom.

As a military veteran, a journalist, and a co-founder of Military Veterans in Journalism, I am outraged by the unjust detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by Russia on false charges of espionage.

The imprisonment of journalists for simply doing their job is a heinous attack on the fundamental pillars of democracy and press freedom. Russia must free Evan immediately.

When I think of the situation that Evan is in, it makes me tense up. Having been detained for my owned journalism work by security forces in several autocratic nations throughout my career, I have a deep personal understanding of the sort of fear and uncertainty that Evan must be experiencing. For me, it was an overwhelming feeling of being entirely powerless.

Journalists around the world put themselves in harm’s way every day to report on important news and to hold those in power accountable. We must stand in solidarity with Evan and all other journalists who are being targeted for doing the critical work of journalism.

Gerschkovic’s detainment is also a heartbreaking reminder of the ongoing detention of U.S. Austin Tice, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran held in Syria since 2012 for his journalism on the conflict. Military Veterans in Journalism has publicly supported the Tice family in their mission to bring him home. We now join the call for Russia to release Evan. We also call on the Biden administration to do everything in its power to pressure Russia to free Evan.

The truth is a dangerous pursuit, but we must not let dictators like Putin instill fear in us as journalists.

We stand in solidarity with Evan Gerschkovic, his family and his colleagues at the Wall Street Journal as they fight to bring him home. But we cannot stop there. We must continue to raise our voices for press freedom, to call out injustice, and to protect those who risk everything to bring us the truth.

An image of MVJ Executive Director Zack Baddorf. Here, he is pictured smiling and wearing a gray shirt, with the U.S. flag in the background.

Zack Baddorf is a Navy veteran, journalist, and the co-founder and executive director of Military Veterans in Journalism. Currently a national security and foreign policy practitioner, Baddorf has more than 20 years of experience on the frontlines of the world’s conflicts, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central African Republic, Crimea, Kashmir and the West Bank.

Four Years of MVJ

By Features

Journalism and the military are the only two careers I ever pursued that people just bluntly tried to talk me out of. When I told my mom I wanted to be a Marine she rented “Born on the Fourth of July” from Blockbuster and made me watch it. I enjoyed the film; it was much better than when I told friends I wanted to be a journalist and had to endure their lectures on the negative career outlook. I didn’t have an answer for them then, but I do now: Military Veterans in Journalism. 

We have a community of veterans and military spouses, 700 strong, who are pursuing and achieving their goals in journalism. We’re partnered with great news organizations, and supported by more than 300 volunteer mentors from across the news industry. We have a team of people who find innovative ways to advocate for us. Sara Feges, our operations manager, has turned our informal community of practice into a structured advocacy organization you can rely on. Devon Lancia, our partnerships director, fights heroically and tirelessly to show industry leaders the value we bring to newsrooms. The team they lead cares deeply about our diverse community, and they get results. 

MVJ officially became a nonprofit organization four years ago. This letter is to mark the occasion, and to try to express how grateful I feel to be a member of this group. The driving force behind our advocacy is a simple idea; veteran voices strengthen news reporting. But I get to see the flip-side of that – how news reporting strengthens veterans. I see how a journalism career, or a reporting gig, or even consistently writing posts on an upstart blog, restores the dignity of public service some veterans thought they had lost when they folded up their uniforms. 

I also see how many of us don’t have steady journalism work. Some of us work in other careers but joined MVJ because we feel some call to truth and storytelling within us. Even those of us with news careers that have exceeded our dreams still wonder sometimes, “Am I a journalist yet?” This career tests us a thousand ways, and I hope MVJ will always be here to help veterans face them together. 

Last year’s convention provided a space for about 80 members to discuss the issues affecting us in this strenuous, but rewarding career field. Our third annual convention this October will build on its success, but I hope we’ll have many more members in attendance at the opulent New York Athletic Club overlooking Central Park. The pandemic robbed us of the opportunity to connect in person, and we saw last year just how good it really feels to hang out with military veterans in journalism and the people who support them. This year we’ll prioritize the fight against unemployment and underemployment within our community, and we’ll demonstrate our members’ thought leadership to the biggest players in our industry.   

Thanks, MVJ friends, for your service – past and future. See you in New York.

Respectfully,
Russell Midori
MVJ President

Military Veterans in Journalism and McClatchy Partner on Paid Fellowships for Military Veteran Journalists

By Career Opportunities, Features, News

Opportunity for veterans who are up-and-coming journalists to work in their own communities.

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – March 1, 2023 – Today McClatchy—one of the largest media companies in the United States with over 85 million unique visitors—announced its partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ) in launching a new paid fellowship program designed to employ more veterans as journalists serving their local communities. 

“There are many ways to support veterans and McClatchy has chosen to do so through our commitment to diversity and talent development,” said Monica Richardson, vice president of local news for McClatchy’s large markets. “This partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism is an expression of our dedication toward the inclusion of veteran voices in our newsrooms, our coverage and our excellence in local journalism.”

As part of this effort, MVJ and McClatchy will select five military veteran journalists for paid fellowships within McClatchy’s local newsrooms. This is an opportunity for veterans who are up-and-coming journalists to receive six months of paid journalistic employment in their own communities. Additionally, these added positions will help solve reporting coverage problems at a local level.

Ideal fellowship candidates will have some experience reporting and writing on deadline prior to entering the program. Candidates should not only be interested in a professional career covering local stories, but they should also be curious and observant risk-takers with an unwavering commitment to accurate, ethical journalism. Fellows will also participate in MVJ’s mentorship program during their fellowship. 

This new program supports McClatchy’s mission to provide the kind of local news coverage that keeps communities healthy and strong.

“We are passionate about high-quality, impactful coverage, and we believe veterans can provide meaningful contributions to the communities our newsrooms serve,” said Natalie Piner, Sr. Director of News Talent, Culture & Training at the McClatchy Company. “McClatchy is proud to partner with MVJ to bring more veteran voices into local journalism through these fellowships.”

This opportunity is available to military veterans who are interested in pursuing a career in one of McClatchy’s local newsrooms in any number of positions, including as a written journalist, multimedia reporter, photojournalist, or digital designer.

“We at Military Veterans in Journalism are proud to work with McClatchy on our efforts to get more vets into local newsrooms nationwide,” said Zack Baddorf, MVJ’s Executive Director.

“This collaboration will provide a great opportunity for veterans to jumpstart their journalism careers while connecting with their communities. By participating in these McClatchy fellowships, these military veteran journalists will develop skills essential to their success in the news industry.”

For more information visit: https://www.mvj.network/mcclatchy-mvj-fellowships/

###

About McClatchy 

At McClatchy we live our mission of delivering high-quality journalism every day. The McClatchy name is synonymous with staying power, next-level resilience, and tenacious pursuit of stories that matter to our readers. In the process we’ve created connections solidifying our deeply-rooted commitment to the crucial role local journalism plays in our communities. We’ve extended our unique local and regional reach, relevance, and resources by forging strong partnerships fostering the creation of innovative, digital-forward solutions. It’s our privilege to serve–and engage with–over 85 million unique visitors who come to us first for their news and information. We’re the McClatchy media company. Covering local stories with national significance. Connect with us on social media @mcclatchy or at mcclatchy.com

About Military Veterans In Journalism

Military Veterans in Journalism is a professional association that builds community for vets, supports their career growth, and advocates for diversifying newsrooms through hiring and promoting more vets. Led and run by a dedicated corps of military veterans and military family members, we are working with newsrooms and other non-profit organizations to create opportunities for vets to get a jump start in the media industry. Whether through internships, fellowships or mentorships, our work has created a pipeline to get vets into newsrooms.

Rethinking Heroes broadcast to spotlight controversial 1967 attack on U.S. Navy spy ship

By Features, News

This week, a new radio broadcast and podcast from Los Angeles’ KPFK will examine one of the U.S. Navy’s darkest days since the end of World War II – the 1967 attack by Israeli forces on the intelligence-gathering ship USS Liberty that killed 34 sailors and wounded 171.

Cary Harrison, host of the Rethinking Heroes: Life After Duty series, will take on the controversy surrounding the attack and its aftermath, interviewing survivor and Navy veteran Phil Tourney.

Tourney, three-time president of the U.S.S. Liberty Veterans Association, charges that the attack was deliberate, the result of an organized, covert effort by the United States and Israel to ensure Israel’s victory in seizing land, including the Golan Heights in Syria.

Phil Tourney, U.S. Navy veteran and survivor of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, joins Cary Harrison for this week’s Rethinking Heroes episode.

“The word I use is ‘massacre,’” Tourney said in an interview with MVJ. “They shot us, they shot our life rafts out of the water. The plan absolutely was to kill us all. But we stayed afloat.”

Israel contends that the attack was a “tragic accident,” an explanation accepted by the U.S. Navy and federal government following several investigations.

But Tourney – and many others – contend that the operation, which involved reconnaissance scouts and communications disruptions and planned attacks by aircraft and torpedo boats, was hatched at the highest levels of the U.S. and Israeli governments, and that the coverup continues to this day.

On June 8, 1967, the technical research ship Liberty was operating in international waters off Gaza, Egypt, when it was attacked by Israeli Defense Forces – first with napalm and rockets, then by Israeli torpedo boats. The ship was able to radio the U.S.S. Saratoga, which dispatched 16 aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, but the aircraft were recalled personally, by several accounts, by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara for reasons that remain unclear.

Under fire in a burning ship, the crew struggled to defend their ship, taking a direct torpedo hit and dodging four others, staying afloat as the sailors aboard watched their attackers destroy their lifeboats. The attack lasted for two hours. Liberty limped into Malta six days later, largely as a result of the efforts of Tourney and the other damage controlmen.

Israeli historian Michael Oren has written extensively about the incident and its aftermath, including the allegations of conspiracy, intention and coverup. Shortly after numerous documents were declassified in the 1990s, he wrote that it is “possible to determine whether any of these hypotheses had a basis in fact,” he wrote in an essay, The USS Liberty: Case Closed.”

Five decades have passed since the attack and the issue remains a painful chapter in U.S.-Israeli relations. For the 100 or so sailors still alive from that day, the case will never be closed until all related documents are declassified, and Congress conducts a thorough investigation, Tourney says.

Some of the damage done to the U.S.S. Liberty during the incident.

“The USS Liberty veterans are proud of Americans that served our country honorably. And all we want to do is tell the truth, not be labeled, but have the government do their job and tell the truth,” Tourney said.

Based on the success of providing military veteran broadcasters to deliver a top-of-the-show “news flash” dedicated to military and veteran concerns, KPFK and the Rethinking Heroes series has paired with Military Veterans in Journalism to provide externship opportunities for its members. Beginning early March, Rethinking Heroes will showcase MVJ journalists in that time slot to lead off the show. The series is funded by Let’s Rethink This, a group dedicated to finding innovative solutions to prevent veteran suicide and forgive their VA-related unpayable medical debt.

The broadcast will air on KPFK during their  9am-10am PST drivetime show and is available on Apple podcasts. It is also available on streaming radio at this link: https://www.kpfk.org/player/

Military Veterans in Journalism launches program to lead fight against disinformation and extremism in military, veteran communities

By Features, News

Three major philanthropic organizations commit support for MVJ’s project to curb the rise of extremism in military and veteran communities.

Jan. 17, 2023 – Military Veterans in Journalism is launching a new program today designed to combat the spread of disinformation and extremism in veteran and military communities, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Military Times, a trusted, independent source for news for the military and veteran communities, will serve as a key partner in managing the project.

This new project launches two years after the January 6 Capitol riot, in which about 13% of insurrectionists charged for their role in the siege had a military background, and after research has found that veterans and active-duty military members may make up at least 25% of militia rosters.

With its new “Fighting Disinformation in Military & Veteran Communities” program, MVJ will build and support a reporting team at Military Times to independently conduct investigative reporting on anti-democratic extremist groups that are targeting veterans and active-duty service members with disinformation.

“Extremist groups are denigrating our military and those who have served by seeking to co-opt the military and veteran community,” said Zack Baddorf, a U.S. Navy veteran turned journalist who now serves as MVJ’s executive director. “They are using veteran voices to normalize their groups and bolster their perceived credibility, patriotism and professionalism, ultimately undermining our nation. They must be exposed, and ultimately countered, through high-quality, investigative reporting that exposes and counters their disinformation efforts.”

In addition to Military Times, MVJ is partnering with two other prominent military- and veteran-serving publications — Military.com and Task & Purpose — on this project. The Associated Press is also partnering with MVJ on this effort to help bring national coverage on these issues.

“Our team at Military Times is always looking for ways to improve our coverage and to better serve our community,” said Mike Gruss, editor in chief of Sightline Media, which owns Military Times and related publications. “We know the issue of extremism within the military and veteran community deserves in-depth coverage. We’re excited to get to work conducting reporting on these critical issues.”

The program is supported by grants of $360,000 from the Knight Foundation, $100,000 from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and $50,000 from the MacArthur Foundation. The funding will cover salaries for a team of three reporters, training, travel expenses, marketing, and project management.

“Disinformation is a threat to our nation and our democracy,” said Karen Rundlet, director of journalism at the Knight Foundation. “We must take a whole-of-society approach to countering extremist propaganda, including in military and veteran communities. We are investing in this project because we believe in the power of journalism to shine a light on nefarious actors who are seeking to exploit those who have served.”

MVJ will also partner with the Poynter Institute and their fact-checking arm, PolitiFact, to train the new reporting team on fact-checking and investigative best practices. The non-profit Task Force Butler Institute will train the reporters on best practices for investigating extremist groups.

MVJ will also work with the University of Alabama’s Veterans and Media Lab to research the military and veteran community’s consumption of information and trust levels in media throughout the program.

Further, MVJ will support community engagement efforts by the We the Veterans coalition and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland by providing material that can challenge disinformation propagated by extremist groups.

While this program currently has funding for 18 months, MVJ is seeking support from other funders to extend this effort through the next inauguration in January 2025. If you are interested in supporting our efforts to combat disinformation and extremism in the military and veteran communities through this program, please email [email protected].

2022 Impact Report & 2023 Goal Setting

By #MVJ2022, Features

MVJ Family,

This year, the MVJ community has seen tremendous growth, and we’re honored to have grown with all of you. The programs, processes and partnerships we’ve established in 2022 will continue to support our community for years to come.

In 2022 alone, we’ve gained more than 200 new members, held our first in-person convention, released a resource portal for reporters covering the military and veteran affairs, and put five veterans to work via internships and fellowships. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our community.

MVJ’s first in-person convention, #MVJ2022, brought together news organizations, journalism schools, media visionaries, and journalists in celebration of the MVJ community. This year’s convention featured two full days of panels, workshops, speakers, and a career fair of news organizations invested in increasing diversity among their reporters. #MVJ2022 had about 100 attendees – the perfect size for our first in-person conference meant to connect our community. We have big aims to grow our attendance for #MVJ2023. We want our future conventions to continue to be a way for our community to unite. We ask our members to engage in our convention planning and buy tickets early so we can treat our community to a premiere event.

All in all, MVJ hosted 20 events this year, with 18 hosted virtually thanks to support from the Knight Foundation. While our events this year were mostly virtual, we also hosted an in-person panel discussion in collaboration with the National Press Club. The discussion focused on the role of veterans in journalism and increased newsroom diversity. The panel featured MVJ’s executive director Zack Baddorf, Ron Nixon of the Associated Press, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, and Allison Erickson, our Texas Tribune fellow. 

We’ve also dedicated some time this year to growing the mentorship program, and we’ve continued to see a steady increase in participation. There have been 81 mentorship pairs throughout 2022, with seasoned journalists offering their time to support the career growth of veterans in journalism. That’s a growth of 31% since 2021 – and we expect the upward trend to continue in 2023. Please consider becoming a mentor in the new year!

In late 2021, the Ford Foundation awarded Military Veterans in Journalism a $200,000 grant. With this support and assistance from Disabled American Veterans and the Disabled Journalists Association, MVJ created a speakers bureau of veterans and trained them on disability reporting best practices this year. Now, our Speakers Bureau members are taking their training to newsrooms across the country, seeking to teach reporters how they can improve their coverage of disabled veterans and disability. If your newsroom is interested in a training session with the MVJ Speakers Bureau, please reach out to us today to schedule your session!

With support from News Corp Philanthropy, MVJ built an online portal of resources to improve reporting on military and veteran affairs this year. Our Military & Veteran Affairs Reporting guide features a style and cultural competency guide, a series of reporting tips, a veteran showcase, and an expert directory, all with the goal of giving reporters and newsrooms all the resources they need to improve their coverage in this space. We are honored to have contributed to more knowledgeable reporting on these issues and thank News Corp Giving for their support.

This year, News Corp Giving has provided support for another upcoming MVJ initiative: our Entrepreneurial Journalism Program. This program will provide veterans interested in starting their own news ventures with the knowledge, skills and resources to make their efforts sustainable at an early stage. Those interested in participating should keep an eye out for our next Founders Fellowship meeting, which we will hold within the next few weeks.

Thank you for your continued support throughout 2022. We are excited to continue supporting veterans in journalism in 2023 and beyond.

Russell Midori
President, MVJ
Marine Corps Vet / Photojournalist

About Military Veterans in Journalism

Military Veterans in Journalism is a professional association that builds community for vets, supports their career growth, and advocates for diversifying newsrooms through hiring and promoting more vets. Learn more at https://www.mvj.network/.

Military Veterans in Journalism In Numbers

MVJ’s total number of members as of year-end is 692, a growth of 231 (33%) new members this year. That’s 29 more members than our 2022 goal.

We expect to see another 22% of membership growth in 2023 – or 200 new members within the calendar year.

 

A breakdown of MVJ members by military branch:

  • Army: 45.2%
  • Marine Corps: 18.1% 
  • Navy: 17.1%
  • Air Force: 15.2%
  • Coast Guard 1.1%
  • National Guard: 1.0%

MVJ members average 10.5 years of service. 550 (98.5%) of our members have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. Of the remainder, 0.8% are military spouses and 0.7% are civilian journalists who support veterans in journalism.

28.9% of MVJ members identify themselves as follows: 

  • Black or African American 13.4% 
  • Asian: 4.4% 
  • Native American or Alaska Native: 3.4% 
  • Other: 6.4%

In addition, 19.7% of our membership identifies as Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin.

Our Team

We could not be successful without the dedication of our team – who are predominantly military veterans, military spouses, and military family members.

MVJ has nine Core Team members (listed alphabetically):

  • Casandra Burr, Community Engagement Manager
  • Clyde Gunter, Team Member / Navy Veteran
  • Devon Lancia, Partnerships Director
  • Drew F. Lawrence, Sword & Pen Co-Host / Army Veteran
  • Rich Dolan, Programs Manager / Army Veteran
  • Russell Midori, President / Marine Corps Veteran
  • Marcela Loor, Memberships Coordinator
  • Sara Feges, Operations Manager
  • Zack Baddorf, Executive Director / Navy Veteran

MVJ has six Board of Directors members, three of whom are female and three of whom are people of color (listed alphabetically):

  • Babee Garcia, Board Member / Marine Corps Veteran
  • Jen Paquette, Board Member / Military Spouse
  • Priya Sridhar, Board Member / Navy Reservist
  • Mike Gentine, Board Member
  • Russell Midori, President / Marine Corps Veteran
  • Zack Baddorf, Executive Director / Navy Veteran

2022 Impact

Thanks to generous support from our funders, MVJ placed three veterans into six-month and 15-month fellowships and internships in newsrooms across the nation this year. The fellows were selected by an independent committee made up of journalists across the media spectrum (fellows listed alphabetically):

  • Allison Erickson, Texas Tribune, Army Veteran
  • Chip Lauterbach, Harrisonburg Citizen/CNN, Marine Corps Veteran
  • Chris Janaro, CUNY/INN
  • Devin Speak, NPR, Coast Guard Veteran
  • Justin Meacock, CUNY/INN

MVJ has placed an additional two veterans into nine-month long fellowships through our CUNY Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and INN collaborative program. The two veterans are currently attending the Newmark J-School’s 18-month Master’s in Journalism program. Upon graduation, they will begin their fellowships in two of INN’s nonprofit newsrooms.

We have also secured another internship spot for a veteran at the Washington Post for Summer 2023 and teamed up with McClatchy to offer five six-month fellowships for 2023.

In April 2022, MVJ sent eight veterans to join instructors Al Tompkins, Brendan Keefe and Ramón Escobar at the Poynter Institute in Saint Petersburg, Florida for the TV Power Reporting Academy. During this course, students studied ethical concerns, reporting techniques, proper use of sources and building relationships, and networked with civilian journalists from around the country. MVJ was able to send these attendees thanks to support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

The following vets participated in this training

  • Jordan Sartor-Francis
  • CS Muncy
  • Noelle Wiehe
  • Victor Rodriguez Tafoya
  • Maximillian Boudreaux
  • Gretchen Bayless Anderson
  • Jason Delgado
  • Darius A. Radzius

In October 2022, MVJ sent five veterans to the two-day NAB Show event in New York where they learned about the business of being hands-on and connecting with the right people, knowledge, skills and technology that propelled broadcast, media and entertainment.

  • Aaron Haitsma
  • Allie Delury
  • Eleanor Nesimoglu
  • Jeffrey Glover
  • Veronica Mammina

In March 2022, MVJ launched a Speakers Bureau program where we selected 11 speakers that were provided with training on best practices in disability reporting by Disabled American Veterans, the Disability Media Alliance Project, and reporter Wendy Lu, who covers disability. This program was supported by the Ford Foundation, and we thank them for their generosity.

  • Ben Brody
  • Caron LeNoir
  • Donna L. Cole
  • Genaro J. Prieto
  • J.P. Lawrence
  • Jimmy White IV
  • Joel Searls
  • Kerri Jeter
  • Raychel K. Young-Porter
  • Russell Midori

After being trained, the veterans led their own training and presentations at local newsrooms in their communities. So far we have presented our training sessions at Stars & Stripes, Street Sense and WJXT. We have secured additional newsrooms and educational institutions that will receive the training in 2023.

As part of the same Ford Foundation-supported initiative, MVJ launched our Reporting Grants program to fund reporting by military veterans in journalism. This program helps aspiring journalists grow professionally in their reporting careers and publish quality stories about issues related to disabilities in the military veteran community. So far we approved reporting grants for eight people and awarded over $10,000.

In 2021, MVJ received a generous five-year grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for improvements to our mentorship program. This year, our team has improved the processes we use to pair military veterans with seasoned journalists who will serve as their mentors. We have also formalized, professionalized, and automated our mentorship program via the software Mentornity to ensure its consistency and reliability for mentors and protégés alike. Since making these changes, we have helped connect 92 mentors and mentees, and we currently have 119 mentors and 109 mentees in the program.

In early 2022, MVJ also started a new service –  we now offer press credentials to our members. Any MVJ member who is working as a journalist, whether part time or full time, may apply for a press pass with Military Veterans in Journalism. This year we supplied 24 members with press passes.

Throughout the year, we hosted 18 events in collaboration with our partners.

  • Webinars:
    • The Future of News with Phil Briggs and Major Garrett
    • Introduction to CUNY Newmark J-School
    • How to get a job and how to succeed in a job interview: Bill Lord WJLA
    • Extremism in the Military: The Narrative
    • Writing for The War Horse
    • Introduction to Politico
    • Sports Reporting with Scooby Axson
    • Memoir Writing with Joan Ramirez
    • The Fellowship in Global Journalism
    • Getting Hired with Sightline Media Group
    • Foreign Freelancing 101 with Steve Dorsey
  • Workshops:
    • Entrepreneurial Journalism
    • Investigative Reporting
    • Data Journalism
  • Newsroom Networking and Info Sessions (also known as our “Journey Through America’s Newsrooms” series):
    • LakelandNow
    • We Are the Mighty
    • Sightline Media Group (Defense News and Military Times)

We thank the Knight Foundation for their support of MVJ’s career development events.

In October 2022, MVJ hosted its second annual (and first in-person) convention at the Reserve Officer Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. Panels at this year’s convention covered topics such as military veterans’ contributions to journalism as a whole, improving media coverage of disabled veterans, and the relationship between military veteran journalists and disinformation coverage. Other featured sessions and workshops informed attendees on the future of news, including a session on new tools for digital news gathering and a discussion around entrepreneurial journalism. The convention also featured a career fair, where recruiters from news organizations like CNN, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Politico and the Wall Street Journal could connect with veterans in journalism directly. Over 70 tickets were sold for this event – the perfect size for a community like ours to connect.

One month later, we officially announced the release of our Military & Veteran Affairs Reporting Guide at an MVJ-led panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2022. This guide was compiled from a year-long research process during which Military Veterans in Journalism gathered data from various community surveys, interviews and secondary analyses. We are proud to say that the result of this process is a website and reporting guide that includes over 300 subject matter experts, 75 veterans in the journalism field, an in-depth style and cultural competency guide that covers eight different difficult topics in military and veteran affairs, and numerous tip articles and videos by reporters who are highly experienced in this space. The website and guide are publicly available at www.milvetreporting.org. MVJ thanks News Corp Giving for their generous support of this project.

2023 Goals

MVJ’s main focuses in 2022 were diversifying our program offerings while increasing and diversifying our membership and creating meaningful connections with other organizations. We were able to do this thanks to support from our community, our team, and our funders and supporters. Developing new programs and connections to better support our members will continue to be a focus for us going into the new year.

In 2023, MVJ has set goals in regard to the following categories.

  • Strategic Planning: We aim to diversify our program offerings so our community sees more from membership.
    • We will expand our revenue streams through the implementation of a dedicated and in-depth public fundraising plan and through grant-seeking, specifically looking for local philanthropic support and more high-net worth individuals to donate to support our efforts
    • We will fund more internships and fellowships for our members, with a current goal of placing 5 vets in national newsrooms and 5 vets in local newsrooms.
    • We will host 12 online events during the year in collaboration with our partners.
    • We will strengthen our  position as anr organization with thought leadership on military, veteran, and disabled veteran reporting as well as a resource for newsrooms across the nation.
  • Capacity Building: We aim to increase the benefit our members receive by improving our capacity to serve.
    • We will update the build of the MyMVJ portal to be more useful and user-friendly for our members.
    • We will continue to develop our DEI policies and continue implementation on various DEI initiatives. 
    • We will improve on our in-person convention to ensure a year-over-year source of income to support our sustainability. 
  • Membership Diversifying: We aim to recruit more members while increasing diversity in our membership. 
    • We will continue to improve and maintain our membership outreach plan.
    • We will host recruitment events every quarter, focusing on events for military spouses and non-veteran journalists who support our cause. 
  • Network Development: We aim to establish new partnerships and deepen existing ones.
    • We will increase publicity within our network to promote our services, including through hosting joint events.
    • We will strengthen our ties and collaboration with affinity organizations we established in 2022. 

My Passion for Journalism

By Features

My road to becoming a weekly columnist for the Beaufort Island Newspaper has been a long and often surprising adventure. From a high school storyteller, to an Army pilot who wrote dozens of professional articles, to writing proposals and every kind of business-related plan, I never thought of myself as a writer but rather a person who writes as an important part of my work.

In my career, I’ve written business plans, lesson plans, practical exercises, and dozens of other things required in the business and education fields. Yet I did not consider myself a career writer or even a good writer. After founding three successful small businesses and serving as a police officer, I began to believe that maybe I could eventually write something newsworthy, educational, and valuable for the public.

After five decades of working and writing, I slowly became aware that, even without a degree in journalism, I might be able to become a novelist, newspaper columnist, and a small publishing company owner. I retired in 2014 from the aerospace and defense industry and founded Tigers, Vikings, and Vipers Publishing LLC – the tiniest publishing firm in the world. I published my first military history and action novel, “Blades of Thunder (Book One)”, in 2014, and I have been a freelance weekly newspaper columnist for the Island News since 2020. My columns cover veterans’ benefits, leadership, law enforcement, hospice, end-of-life planning, and employment.

I have thirteen pieces of advice to share with other veterans seeking to become writers and journalists.

1. Follow your bliss.

I love to help other writers, but warn them that while advice is easy for anyone to give, it is much harder for the receiver to select what suggestions are worth remembering. The one piece of advice I feel is unquestionably good is for people to do what they enjoy doing, so long as they can also support themselves and others for whom they are responsible at the same time.  If writing is your bliss, then learn about writing – read, take courses in writing, read, practice writing, read, pursue writing, read, practice, read – and never give up.

2. Do not forget to meet your other obligations.

In his spare time, Larry helps raise money for his local VA Medical Center as a minor league Charleston, SC RiverDogs baseball supporter.

Writing is in competition with my family, my dog, exercising, my weekly columnist duties and deadlines with the Island News, my house chores, and my other tasks and responsibilities. It is so easy to justify not having time to write or market your writing. The bottom line is writers need to eat healthily, exercise, pay their rent, have medical insurance, have reliable transportation, and support their significant other if they have a spouse, partner, or children. So, until your writing generates enough income and security, you will probably need to hold other jobs to “get by” while working to become a successful journalist.

3. Be honest, ethical, kind, understanding, compassionate, accurate, and fair.

Journalists should never forget that their first obligation is to tell the truth. I try my best to seek reliable and accurate facts when I am writing. I also do my darndest to write in terms that can be fully understood and assessed by my audience. Being as transparent as possible about sources and methods is also essential in journalism. Maintaining allegiance to the audience and to the truth should not be forgotten.

Although it may not always be possible to avoid hurting feelings or publishing something that may prove to be less than totally accurate, I firmly believe that journalists must do their best to be as kind, compassionate, ethical, factual, understanding, and honest as possible. Journalists can accomplish much of this by being straightforward when presenting evidence, facts, and sources.

4. Avoid propaganda, advertising, fiction, sensationalism, and entertainment.

Journalism is storytelling with a constructive purpose, not fiction or advertising. Yet journalists are not free of bias. To counter their biases, journalists must strive to use objective methods, like consistent testing of information, in every part of their research. They must also represent interviews accurately, as interviews are essential in journalism.

5. Serve as a fearless and selfless independent monitor of power.

Remember that honest journalists are one of the best and perhaps the most important checks on those most powerful in society. In the USA, we journalists are what I call the fourth check on the powerful. The branches of our government and our citizens need a free press to keep evil in check. We are counted on to ensure those with the most power, be it of numbers, wealth, or other factors, are held accountable.

Journalists must serve as an honest and ethical watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. We must be the trustworthy voice for (and to) everyone, especially the voiceless and weakest members of society.

6. Write about what you know – it’s easier (but not easy).

Larry’s UH-1B Huey Gunship after it was shot down in Vietnam on March 28, 1969. He uses his experience in Vietnam in his work.

I find that writing about what you know about and are interested in is easier than covering other topics. For me, that’s writing about:

  1. Leadership, military science, and my experience in Vietnam and Iran;
  2. Helping veterans and their families;
  3. Hospice and end-of-life planning;
  4. Aeronautics and logistics;
  5. Law enforcement and the challenging and often dangerous work police officers do;
  6. Business Process Re-engineering and Lean Six Sigma; and
  7. My childhood experiences growing up in rural South Carolina and the beautiful and historic city of Charleston.

7. Writing about what you do not know is not that hard.

Even with the above point, my advice is not to fear writing about things you don’t know. It only takes research, interviews, observations, and patience to write about subjects in which you are not an expert. A common saying in the industrial sector is, “Even people who know nothing about a process can observe the process and see things that others who work there every day cannot see.”

Honestly, I find out every time I write that I do not know enough about the subject, no matter what experience and credentials I possess before I start writing!

8. Write every day, at the same time, and turn off your cell phone.

Write in the morning while you are fresh and not tired or stressed. Use an outline (if you prefer) to plan your article. Make notes on the details and ideas you have when looking for ideas. Practice being courageous and exhibiting contagious enthusiasm for your work. Just start writing.

9. Do not think about your talent or capability.

Talent, skill, and capability will come with time. The most important part is to get started and keep your hands writing or typing. Use the five W’s of answering who, what, when, where, and why to help you develop your story.

10. Develop a journalist tool kit.

This kit might include a dictionary, a thesaurus, a notebook, and all the best articles and books on writing you can find and read.

11. Join professional writing organizations aligned with your interests.

Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ), Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), America Press Institute (API), Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), and others are a goldmine of helpful information, education opportunities, advice, grant opportunities, conventions, and more.

12. It is possible to make a living with writing.

You do not have to write a best-selling book to become a successful author, nor do you need to be a journalist for a large newspaper to make a living as a writer. There are almost limitless opportunities for journalists to supplement their income as a small-town newspaper contributor, a freelance writer, a proofreader, and any number of other jobs while they’re working toward making writing sustainable.

13. As a veteran, you can bring good things and a unique view to journalism.

About seven percent of the US population living today has served in the US Military. I believe veteran perspectives are important in each field of journalism because:

  1. Veterans were taught to focus on attention to detail and journalistic writing demands details and facts. We are self-disciplined to follow proven processes and objective methods that lead to successful results.
  2. Veterans believe that the past is our heritage, the present is our challenge, and the future is our responsibility.
  3. The vast majority of veterans are honest, ethical, moral, and hard-working men and women who have been ambassadors of goodwill in each country where they were stationed.
  4. Veterans bring a unique view of the world to journalism – a view based on both civilian and military education, vast amounts of training, frequent world travel, a pledge to selfless service, an oath of allegiance to the United States of America, and a broad view of the tragedy and insanity of war.
  5. Veterans are among the only few Americans who have seen the challenges of starvation, illiteracy, rampant lawlessness, brutality and dishonesty, terrorism, and a myriad of other challenging circumstances.
  6. Few citizens have seen the importance of our alliances and partnerships with other countries like our military members.
  7. Veterans have worked alongside other government departments to provide disaster relief and uphold the national defense. Veterans have worked frequently with the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and many other parts of our federal and state governments.


The Bottom Line of My Experience, Observations, and Advice

Get as much education as you can in writing and English. Recognize you are not free from bias. Be transparent, fearless, and honest. Be selfless, enthusiastic, kind, compassionate, and empathetic in your writing. Write like crazy. Interview and ask all sides for their comments and observations. Do not just write about problems and failures, but also write about successes. Be a faithful and courageous watchdog and, finally, do not let self-interests compromise your work.

LTC (Retired) W. Larry Dandridge is an ex-Army infantryman and ex-Army attack helicopter pilot who has written numerous articles on aviation, logistics, and leadership. He is the owner, senior editor and writer with T, T, &V Publishing LLC. His articles have been published in over 20 magazines, newspapers, and two books across three countries. He is pictured here speaking to the Hilton Head-Bluffton, SC Veterans Club.

MVJ Speakers Bureau members learn to improve coverage of disabled veterans

By Features, Resources

Earlier this year, Military Veterans in Journalism and the Ford Foundation launched its Disability Inclusion Program to advocate for better, more nuanced reporting around disabled military veterans. Eleven veterans were chosen to serve as speakers. MVJ organized a training series with top journalists and experts in the disabled veterans and broader disability spaces to discuss these critical issues and teach best practices.

Disabled veterans and the issues that affect them often do not receive proper representation in the media. From “inspiration porn” to outright stereotyping, newsrooms have a history of neglecting their due diligence in coverage on these issues. Inaccurate portrayals of invisible disabilities like post-traumatic stress (PTS) or sweeping assumptions of disabled veterans as a group create misperceptions that harm veterans who are looking for help.

The MVJ training sessions began with a discussion of issues in coverage of disabled veterans with Dan Clare of Disabled American Veterans. Clare spoke on the dangers of using tropes in covering disabled veterans, as the consequences can be disastrous for the community. Sweeping assumptions influence shifts in public perception and harm veterans looking for work or other help. Stories that contain these tropes are often partisan in nature, he explained, so they do not reflect the whole disabled veteran community, and that is a disservice to all veterans.

Instead, Clare advised that journalists must portray veterans in a straightforward, factual way. Reporters have access to plenty of organizations like DAV that are available for resources and fact-checking, and these organizations can connect them with disabled veteran sources. He also advised that journalists should avoid exaggerations and instead take the time needed to build a strong story. Above all, reporters should understand that veterans are never required to disclose the specifics of their disability or that they are disabled at all.

The Speakers Bureau members also learned from Cara Reedy of the Disabled Journalists Association, who provided insight on systemic troubles plaguing disabled veterans. The criminal justice system punishes disabled veterans disproportionately, as approximately one in five male veterans in federal prisons are combat veterans. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, disabled veterans face harsher outcomes when it comes to homelessness, too.

Reedy asked the Speakers Bureau veterans to consider why so many news stories treat disabled veteran homelessness or incarceration as natural. “Veterans, who are supposed to be taken care of once they are out of combat, are literally falling through the cracks,” Reedy noted. She believes reporters must question where the failures in the system are that lead to these outcomes.

Journalists also need to allow disabled veterans the space and agency to tell their own stories, according to Reedy. Non-disabled people often shape the narrative around disabled issues, leading to inaccurate information and a sense of unimportance. Instead of allowing non-disabled individuals to have this power, Reedy advised that journalists should seek disabled veteran sources who face the impacts of systemic failures.

The final training sessions, led by Wendy Lu of The New York Times, covered best practices for reporting on disabled veterans. Lu reminded members of the Speakers Bureau that many veterans who acquire disabilities through service face a different process of acceptance than civilians who have lived their entire lives with disabilities. She advised that journalists should be aware of and give more space to the recovery and acceptance processes that many disabled veterans go through. 

Many disabled veterans have experienced trauma in different forms, and it’s important to avoid potentially triggering them, Lu said. While many people develop a sense of disability pride, that road is not always possible for disabled veterans.

Some veterans don’t have visible disabilities, but instead live with invisible disabilities like PTSD. However, Lu said, invisible disabilities are often stigmatized or outright ignored in coverage. She advised reporters to avoid making assumptions about invisible disabilities and including them when relevant to the story. PTSD and other invisible conditions affect how veterans live and function just like visible disabilities do, and this needs to be recognized in coverage. 

After spending the last four months learning from experts on best practices for stronger coverage of disabled veterans issues, MVJ’s Speakers Bureau members will take the tips they have learned and share them with newsrooms across the country, aiming to improve how the news industry covers the disabled veteran community.

The Journey to Military Journalism and Being Launched Into My Dream Job

By Features

My Google search history would expose that I was unhappy at my job in the months before I heard back on an application I’d put in for a fellowship with Military Veterans in Journalism.

I had been blessed by a hyper-local Savannah magazine with a chance to land on my feet after my jump from military service to the civilian workforce. However, the content and my lack of management experience left me unfulfilled and ultimately failing.

My mindset wasn’t healthy anymore. I was missing deadlines, one employee under me was getting away with neglect of her duties, and I wasn’t able to share my successes as much as I usually do. My mental health was back to that of an underachieving specialist – E4 – in the military. And I thought to myself, “This can’t be it…”

I can’t claim this clarity of thinking is always the case, but I knew I had to follow my own advice: “If you don’t like something, change it.” I needed a change. The day I got the call from Military Veterans in Journalism – I’m almost positive it was from Rich Dolan – to tell me I’d been accepted for the fellowship program was the catalyst to my next biggest and most rewarding adventure.

I always knew I wanted to work in journalism, and through my internships in college, I decided my passion was military reporting. I had worked for a small town paper in Texas, a shuttle company in Alabama, the Fort Benning newspaper and a town paper in Bluffton, South Carolina – and then I joined the Army. I joined because I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be, and I didn’t know as much about the military as I wanted to be a master of the craft I was chasing. I also felt the need to serve because of all my friends who always said they “could never.”

Through Advanced Individual Training at the Defense Information School in Maryland, I got a refresher on journalism and was thrown into the fire at Fort Stewart, Georgia. I covered a Rodney Adkins concert on-post and a massive military training event in my first week. I was back where I was supposed to be.

I respect those who serve so much more after having been in the uniform myself for several years and having spent nine months away from home on deployment.

I thought I’d be a shoo-in for a federal job when I got out of the military. Hell, I was already working one as part of my military career. I didn’t transition quite in time, though, and the agency had to fill the position before I was eligible to apply.

Despite this, I was able to continue to pursue journalism, but the content I was making wasn’t fulfilling for me. I remember thinking, “How does a military veteran get into military journalism?” It sounds so easy, yet those federal positions don’t take just anyone who applies, and not all the newsrooms I was hoping to work for had openings when I needed them. 

I started my research to answer that question at just the right time and landed on this organization: Military Veterans in Journalism. I had found my people through a simple Google search. I only wished it happened sooner. The stars aligned just in time because I was eager to get to writing about the inside from outside of the uniform.

I got in touch with Rich and Russell, then saw the opportunity for a fellowship. I was familiar with the concept, as I’d done internships in college, but I wasn’t sure if the idea would be a step down from my full-time career goals.

Ultimately, the reward of being launched into my dream career was worth the risk of giving up an unfulfilling job. I applied as fast as I could and heard back down the road. Russell told me I was within the top three applicants, so he asked me, “Where do you want to go?” Coffee or Die was my top choice, and I was placed with them.

I worked up my resignation letter for my job and worked out a home office to work from so I could start with the magazine. While working from home was already quite an adjustment, I wasn’t prepared for the amazing remote work opportunities that came my way.

During a very fulfilling six-month fellowship and another six working as a paid employee with Coffee or Die, I traveled to 18 locations. I went to Montana, France, Atlanta, Alaska, Colorado and Arizona, among others. 

When I go on these trips, it’s just me out there getting the story. And when the magazine is spending the money to send me, they want as much content as possible. That’s all on me – and I refuse to fail. I’ve had a blast gathering content in all new ways and learning more about this world than I ever thought I would. I even forged a knife during one assignment.

I didn’t realize how much I had left to learn, though. Through my fellowship, I worked under two senior editors who taught me the magazine’s unique style and helped me learn about branches other than the one in which I’d served. My writing has improved, and my confidence has, too. I also learned a new skill, videography, during my remote work. 

Nothing comes easy, but if you decide what you want and work hard for it, your hard work will pay off. If it doesn’t, you’re not done yet. I think it’s amazing that the exact group I wanted to be a part of had an entire organization already created. It was like someone was thinking about it before I had the chance to.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, is an Army veteran and the military & first responder beat reporter for Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a passion for sharing stories of heroes and people who are far more interesting than they think they are.

New York Times senior staff editor educates MVJ on disability reporting best practices

By Features, Resources

Earlier this year, Military Veterans in Journalism and the Ford Foundation launched its Disability Inclusion Program to advocate for better, more nuanced reporting around disabled military veterans. Eleven veterans were chosen to serve as speakers. MVJ organized a training series with top journalists and experts in the disabled veterans and broader disability spaces to discuss these critical issues and teach best practices.

Wendy Lu is a senior staff editor on the Flexible Editing desk at The New York Times, where she edits a variety of stories from across the newsroom — breaking news, science stories, political features, briefings, wellness stories, newsletters and more. Lu is also a global speaker on disability representation in the media and a national reporter covering the intersection of disability, politics and culture. Previously, she was an editor at HuffPost. Lu has written for Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Bustle, Men’s Health, Quartz, Columbia Journalism Review and others, and has also been named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the Media division.

This summer, Wendy Lu, a senior staff editor at The New York Times, held three training sessions with the Speakers Bureau veterans. Lu coached them on the technical components of disability reporting, including what to do – and what not to do – when covering disability issues.

Lu started her sessions by discussing disability media tropes and the concept of disability as an identity. Although the disability community is very diverse, she explained, it is a strong one and has its own vibrant culture and history. In fact, disabled people make up the largest minority group in the U.S., with more than a quarter of the population identifying as disabled. 

Most nondisabled reporters fail to understand the complex nature of disability, so disabled subjects often do not get nuance in coverage, she explained. Non-disabled people are often at the center of stories rather than the disabled people who are actually affected by the issue. These factors lead to mischaracterizations in the news, which trickles into society as a whole.

Part of this broader issue is “inspiration porn,” which Lu defines as “a genre of reporting that portrays people with disabilities as inspirational solely because they’re disabled.” The genre includes charity stories that congratulate non-disabled people for doing something to help a disabled person. When writing these exploitative stories, reporters often take a condescending tone that turns disability into something to be pitied. This creates assumptions about what living with a disability is like, Lu explained.

Inspiration porn, Lu argued, creates an “us versus them” dynamic where non-disabled people end up feeling grateful they’re not disabled. It also fails to give space to wider issues in these stories, like highlighting inaccessibility in society or a broader investigative angle. Instead, Lu advised reporters to ask themselves two things as a starting point: Does a story about disability include actually disabled sources, and is it inspirational to disabled people, too? Stories that fit both criteria are more likely to avoid the exploitation often associated with disability coverage.

Using respectful, inclusive language around disabilities is also crucial, although it can be tricky for journalists to navigate, according to Lu. Phrases and terms like “suffers from,” “handicapped,” and “special needs” have become less favorable as awareness of disability issues has grown over the years. Other language has become more nuanced. For example, although many terms may have originated with negative connotations, the disabled community has managed to reclaim some of them and use them in more empowering ways.

One discussion reporters might have in their newsrooms is whether to use person-first terms, like “person with disabilities,” or identity-first terms, like “disabled person.” There is no consensus among the disabled community, as every disabled person has different preferences. Some community members even use both interchangeably. Lu advised asking sources what they prefer, with the recognition that  some disabled people may not realize they even have a preference until they’re asked. Journalists should use accurate, inclusive, and neutral language, and only mention the disability when relevant to the story, Lu said.

It is vital to ensure reporters consider the complexity of disability language without allowing it to overshadow the need for coverage. Making mistakes is all right as long as you are able to learn from them, Lu said. “It’s about being accurate, truthful, and respectful, and meeting people where they are,” she explained.

In visual storytelling, she emphasized that journalists should give space for disabled people to authentically be themselves. It is good practice to seek creative angles to showcase the subject’s life and perspective while ensuring they have agency in the visuals. When doing video interviews, reporters should aim to show viewers who the person is in their day-to-day life. Visual reporting needs to treat disabled people like anyone else, Lu said.

It’s important to note that none of this means giving disabled people in power “a pass,” Lu added. Disabled politicians, for instance, still need to be held accountable, and reporters should still ask them the tough questions that they would ask anyone else. At the end of the day, it’s about being accessible, inclusive, fair, and factual — all hallmarks of strong journalism.

Journalists wanting to make their coverage more accessible to the disabled community have a few things to consider, Lu explained. Multimedia stories should include captioning and audio descriptions. Lu advised avoiding automated captions whenever possible since they are often incorrect. Instead, captions should be manually added or burned in. Simple accommodations like these will increase trust between newsrooms and the disabled community, and also increase readership and viewership.

Lu also discussed her tips for pitching disability stories to mainstream news outlets. More and more newsrooms need to make disability stories a priority, Lu said, and journalists should pitch ideas when they have them. “Many editors still don’t realize disability is an actual beat,” she said, “so there might be a lot of instances where [reporters] have to over-explain a bit more.” Editors often need to see the importance of a disability issue on a local, state, or national level before approving a pitch, she said, so reporters should be prepared to explain the “why” and “why now” of a story idea.

Lu also instructed the Speakers Bureau veterans on how to teach others about disability reporting. She emphasized the importance of meeting people where they are and understanding that not everyone will get these concepts immediately. She spoke on acknowledging the gaps and limits in one’s knowledge, saying that while presenters cannot know everything, what they do know is worth sharing. Lu also suggested asking attendees if they need accommodations well beforehand, recording the sessions, and providing transcripts to demonstrate some of the disability best practices. 

“Hosting trainings takes a lot of trial and error,” Lu said in her final session with the Speakers Bureau members. “Some sessions will go better than others, and sometimes you’ll think of other things you could’ve done differently.” She emphasized to the veterans that simple respect by reporters will go a long way toward improving disability coverage.

Follow the money: Why business journalism is needed

By Features, Resources

“Just follow the money.”

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, portrayed here by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, were the two journalists who reported on the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post.

That’s what Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to look at in their investigation of the Watergate scandal in the film “All the President’s Men.” (By the way, the real Deep Throat, Mark Felt, never said it, according to NPR in 2012.)

Woodward and Bernstein did just that, which led them to find that President Richard Nixon took part in the Watergate Scandal. The duo’s discovery launched a two-year investigation that eventually forced Nixon to resign.

Business concepts like the ones Woodward and Bernstein investigated affect everyone daily. They are in industries like technology and government. They are there when we purchase a home or attend school. They are in our bills, the gas pump, the restaurant we dine at, and the local grocery store. They are everywhere all at once.

That’s why business journalism is an essential beat in the news industry. From economics to even our health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, money is what keeps things going – or stops them in their tracks.

When I started working as a general assignment reporter at the Houston Business Journal, I did not know much about the local industries in Houston other than the energy industry. However – and unfortunately – I started working there at the end of February 2020. Three weeks later, we had to shift to work-from-home due to the coronavirus pandemic. We assumed we’d be back in two weeks, but that turned into two years.

My first year at HBJ taught me how the various business industries were affected by the pandemic. Companies had to pivot their plans and models to stay in business. Sometimes, that pivot meant laying off or furloughing employees to save money and survive. These changes affected nonprofits as well. Suddenly, the largest and most significant annual fundraising events had to be canceled and moved to virtual platforms because of the virus.

Then came the murder of George Floyd, which made almost every company from entertainment to Fortune 500 post a black square on their social media and call out the racial injustice. However, it also forced Corporate America to take a look in the mirror, which made them realize they don’t have enough diversity in their board rooms or in their media. This reckoning made companies take a look at their business practices and rebrand mascots with racist origins, like Uncle Ben’s, now called Ben’s Original, according to The Grocer.

The way a business runs affects the bottom line: money. But where do you start as a business journalist? Do you have to work for the Wall Street Journal or the local news outlet’s business section? No, you don’t. Business is all around you, from the school board to the city council. It takes money to make money and, if you follow it, you’ll see where that money gets used.

Break It Down, Barney-Style

Since I couldn’t get hands-on training because of the pandemic, I had to ask “silly” questions when interviewing executives and business owners. 

What do I mean by “silly”? Don’t be afraid to ask them how something works or what it all means. Yes, you can research and read Securities Exchange Commission filings and new products, but do you comprehend what you’re reading? Do you understand how it’s going to increase revenue? 

Don’t be afraid to ask your sources to explain what concepts mean. You need to understand to get it correct in your story.

Keep in mind that your sources and readings will use industry words, like compound annual growth rate (or CAGR). While sites like Investopedia will define those terms for you, don’t be afraid to tell your sources to “break it down, Barney-style” – as in Barney, the lovable purple dinosaur from the children’s program “Barney and Friends.” Tell your sources to explain it to you so your readers can understand and so that you can understand. Otherwise, they will be emailing or calling you and your editor about it being incorrect.

I sometimes joke to sources that I’m a Marine, so we need things broken down Barney-style to understand. (You know that joke about Marines eating crayons for breakfast, and those crayons are pretty delicious, too.)

If you don’t ask sources to simplify things, then you won’t learn. If you come up with more questions after the interview, don’t hesitate to call or email them. It will drive them crazy, but you can remind them that you need to understand to get it correct in your story. They will appreciate it.

Resources

I mentioned Investopedia as one site to turn to when looking up definitions. It’s an amazing resource that simplifies various financial terms, but it isn’t the only one.

Another resource I like to visit is the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, housed at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. This is one of the most extensive professional business journalism training programs in the U.S., and its website gives tips on reporting subjects such as the economy and labor. For example, you can type in terms such as “labor unions,” and you’ll find articles on sources, which labor reporters to follow on Twitter, and story ideas for Labor Day. Whether you’re covering the stock market, real estate, or school districts, this website is one of the first places I recommend visiting for guidance.

SEC Filings and Other Documents

If you search, you’ll find a lot of public documents and reports, including Securities Exchange Commission filings, which I love reading. There is a lot to get through, but it’s where you’ll find how much the C-suite executives make yearly. It’s where you’ll discover why someone stepped down from their role and how much their replacement will make. It’s also where you find how much money public companies make or lose quarterly or yearly and the source of that growth or decrease. 

If you watched AppleTV+’s series, “We Crashed,” about WeWork’s founder Adam Neumann’s rise and fall, you’ll find (spoiler alert) it fell through because he and Rebekah took over the S-1 (initial registration with the SEC) and listed how much the company lost ($1.6 billion). This loss led to Neumann’s resignation from his CEO role, but he left with a $1.7 billion exit package, according to Business Insider.

Another website to check out is PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). You’ll find bankruptcy filings and where companies filed them.

For nonprofits, check out their 990 forms and yearly reports on their websites. If you can’t find these forms on their site, check out Charity Navigator. You’ll see how the nonprofit is rated, which issues it focuses on (e.g., Roe reversal or veterans), and its IRS Form 990.

“A Better Kind of Business Journalism” is a series of webinars created by Quartz and geared towards early-career reporters and editors.

As for city councils and school boards, check their websites for agendas. What’s going to be voted on and discussed? How much taxpayer money will go to an item on the agenda? How will it impact the community? 

I also recommend reading or watching business news, like the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Business Insider, or your local news outlet. Search for small businesses on Instagram or other social media. LinkedIn is great for finding company leaders, company information, or journalists who report on business.

Lastly, keep an eye out for business journalism panels hosted by journalism organizations. For example, last year, Quartz had webinars on being a better business reporter. This is a very informative series from some of the best business reporters, but there are others out there.

Investigating and reporting on business will make you a better reporter. Don’t be intimidated by trying to follow the money.

Sara Samora, the author of this article, is a Marine Corps veteran and the veterans reporter for Stars and Stripes. A native Texan, she previously worked at the Houston Business Journal and the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

MVJ2022 Convention Nearly Sold Out

By #MVJ2022, Features

There are fewer than 20 tickets remaining for the #MVJ2022 convention to be held this week in Washington D.C.

The 2nd Annual Military Veterans in Journalism convention was initially “intended to be a smaller affair because we didn’t know the demand would be so great coming out of the pandemic,” said MVJ President Russell Midori. “But more than 70 tickets have been sold, and we can’t fit many more attendees in the building.”

MVJ partnered with the Reserve Organization of America to host the event in their venue at 1 Constitution Ave. NE, which can support a little more than 100 people. But MVJ leadership limited total attendance to 90.

“We wanted it to remain an exclusive event so those who attend get personal attention from the programming and quality face time with career fair recruiters,” Midori said. “We are also saving ten spots for D.C.-based journalists who would like to join in on panels or share their experiences with our membership.”

Some of the panels at this year’s convention will demonstrate the ways military veterans are contributing to journalism, such as by improving media coverage of disabled veterans and disinformation. Others will inform attendees on the future of news, including a presentation by Microsoft on new tools for collaborative virtual news gathering and a discussion around entrepreneurial journalism.

The career fair will include recruiters from news organizations like CNN, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Politico, and a number of outlets from around the country.

Industry leaders are scheduled to attend, such as Sewell Chan, editor in chief of the Texas Tribune, but the MVJ leadership team is extending an open invite to other great journalists who care about newsroom diversity.

“We’ve gotten some great support from some of America’s strongest news organizations, but not enough,” Midori explained. “I think that’s because the news media industry doesn’t yet have enough awareness about the talented journalists emerging from the veteran community.”

One of the goals of #MVJ2022 is to help raise that awareness.

“That’s why we’re gathering so many of our members in the heart of Washington D.C., one of the best media markets in the country. We’re hoping to bring on some surprise guests to share their experiences in journalism with our members.”

Those who wish to attend can still purchase their tickets at 2022.MVJ.network.

How My Work in the U.S. Postal Service Informs My Ambitions in Photojournalism

By Features

I first knew I wanted to be a journalist while studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.​ I began watching local news broadcasts nightly as a way to perfect my French. I took notice of how the reporters presented their stories, and most appreciated the stories that informed or helped people. It made me want to do the same.

CHARLESTON, SC: Anthony Bourdain dines at Fig Restaurant while filming CNN’s Parts Unknown in Charleston, South Carolina on April 25, 2015. Pictured is photographer David Scott Holloway, the show’s still photographer.

Like many American expats before me, I fell in love with Europe. I found myself comparing the history, language, and culture to what I experienced in the United States. I thought maybe my love of travel and observation would make me a great fit for journalism.

I found myself drawn to great visual reporting and so I began to admire the work of great documentary producers like Ramita Navai, who shows such courage in covering hostile environments. I took notice when a documentary came across as authentic, like Anthony Bourdain’s travel films. Work like that filled me with grand dreams, and I imagined myself in David Scott Holloway’s shoes, shooting authentic visuals around the world.

Unfortunately my life’s goal of doing work like that has gone unfulfilled, and I eventually learned I would have to settle for whatever work I could get.

A back-to-work program got me my current position as a Mail Handler at the postal service, which, unlike news reporting, has preferential hiring for veterans. That ambition to work in journalism stayed with me though, and in my free time I started taking online courses to learn more about the field. I got a mentor through Military Veterans in Journalism and I signed up for “English for Journalism” with Coursera and “Newsroom Readiness” with Poynter.

BORDENTOWN, NJ -7 NOV 2020- View of a delivery truck from the United States Postal Service (USPS) on the street in Bordentown, Burlington County, New Jersey, United States.

I didn’t initially think about the postal service as a stepping stone into journalism, but as I learned more about the role of the fourth estate in my courses I realized both institutions, journalism and the postal service, have quite a lot in common.

The U.S. Postal Service has a mission “to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people.” This mission, written into U.S. law and administered by the executive branch, is pretty similar to the functions of journalism that are meant to unite, inform, and empower the American people. With the country as polarized as it is today, binding the nation together is a worthy goal for both institutions.

Thinking about mail handling in this way helped me to take pride in my work, even if I saw it as a temporary career stop. I hope every journalist holds a service-oriented mindset as I do in my work as a Mail Handler. Recognizing the importance of service to journalism, I started to look for ways my day-to-day work could teach me more about the work I aspire to – news writing and journalistic photography.

Professor John Cotton at the University of Pennsylvania says there are five principles of ethical journalism: truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability.

Truth and accuracy are fundamental to my work at USPS in Boston. Americans rely on us to get them their mail every day. I take pride in my work even when I’m only sorting mail – placing it in the correct postal packs and loading it onto trucks. Performing this work faithfully and accurately keeps Americans informed. My colleagues and I at the USPS hold ourselves and each other accountable and take missorting personally. It’s probably why the Post Office is consistently ranked as one of the “most trusted” federal offices by the public.

When that trust of the postal service is called into question – as it was by many during the 2020 elections, it becomes clear how important Cotton’s concept of “independence” is to the post office. When it comes to something like mail-in voter ballots, it is no exaggeration to say democracy itself depends on the post office to be free from outside interference.

Megan Brennan, the former USPS Postmaster General, focused on consistent service to the public during her tenure.

Fairness and impartiality are probably adhered to more by the postal service than by the leading mass media outlets. The USPS doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, well-educated or not, liberal or conservative, we treat your mail exactly the same. Maybe those people with Wall Street Journal subscriptions are the same people who pay a little extra for shipping insurance, but the service really tries to be affordable for everyone and treat them impartially. If you walk into your local post office wearing louboutins and holding a Gucci handbag, you’re still going to stand in line with everyone else and receive the same quality of customer service as the guy wearing Carhardts and holding a sheetrock saw.

Cotton’s journalistic concept of humanity is also one the USPS aspires to. As the former Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, said in reference to medication deliveries, “We’ve always been there for you, and we always will be.” Most folks have a closer and more cordial relationship with their mail carrier than they do with any journalist covering their area.

The USPS has been a cornerstone of American society throughout our history, and I am glad to have contributed to that legacy during this chapter of my life. I’m also grateful my work at the post office has relieved my housing insecurity and enabled me to pay off my student loans. I’ve drawn all the insights I could from these humble beginnings, and I am ready to take steps in a new direction. I plan to carry this perspective with me as I set out on a new career as a photojournalist.

Addison Jureidini, the author of this article, is an Army veteran and aspiring photojournalist.

Paid MVJ-CNN Fellowships: Apply Today!

By Career Opportunities, Features

Military Veterans in Journalism is pleased to announce the continuation of our partnership with CNN to get more veterans into their newsrooms. As part of this effort, MVJ and CNN will select two MVJ members to participate in CNN’s 15-month News Associates program.

CNN’s News Associates program will give these aspiring military veteran journalists skills needed for the next level in their careers and help them build a network of experienced, world-class journalists. News Associates are paid and receive benefits for the duration of their program.

MVJ is currently seeking applicants for one of the two openings to tentatively start in late August at CNN’s Washington, D.C. newsroom. The second fellow will start several months later.  

Application deadline: July 14, 2022, at 6 PM Eastern.

During the fellowship’s 15 months, News Associates will:

  • Work with newsroom management to support news coverage and show production.
  • Print scripts for anchors, operate the teleprompter and greet guests.
  • Work with live producers, show staff and reporters on live shots, show production, and coverage of live events.
  • Work with digital teams on researching and writing stories for CNN.com.
  • Monitor a variety of sources, including social media, wires and local news to assist in news gathering efforts.
  • Conduct research at the direction of producers and desk management, which may include identifying video or digital stories.
  • Pitch stories for various CNN networks and platforms.

Interested candidates should note what CNN is looking for:

  • Bachelor’s Degree required
  • At least one internship in a news environment and previous newsroom experience is preferred.
  • Strong general news judgment and editorial skills.
  • Strong writing skills.
  • Ability to multitask and make fast decisions.
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills; strong interpersonal and organizational skills.
  • Computer literacy with a working knowledge of social media.
  • Schedule flexibility – be prepared to work various shifts including overnights and weekends, as CNN’s newsroom is staffed 24 hours a day.

“We at Military Veterans in Journalism are proud to work with CNN in our shared goal of diversifying America’s newsrooms through the hiring of more military veterans,” said Zack Baddorf, MVJ’s Executive Director. “This collaboration with CNN’s News Associates program has proven to be a great opportunity for military veteran journalists to develop skills essential to success in this industry. We’re pleased to provide this chance again this year to support the career growth of veterans in journalism.”

“I have always valued the experiences and culture of veterans and what they bring to the workplace,”said CNN Chairman and CEO, Chris Licht. “I look forward to continuing to champion their voices and stories in our newsrooms through CNN’s News Associates program.”

In 2021, CNN hosted two military veteran journalists as part of Military Veterans in Journalism’s Fellowship program. Both of the fellows, Drew Lawrence and Alonzo Clark, have cited the value their experience as News Associates brought to their ongoing success as journalists. Read more of what they had to say on our Impact page.

Odd Man Out: Imposter Syndrome and Professional Success

By Features

I will freely admit I sometimes feel like a fraud. “Imposter syndrome” it’s called. I know I shouldn’t; I’ve fairly prospered in my civilian career since leaving my last active duty tour. But it’s hard not looking at some of the talented people working in the news media industry and wondering if I measure up. 

Journalists from Military Veterans in Journalism join instructors Al Tompkins, Brendan Keefe and Ramón Escobar at the Poynter Institute in Saint Petersburg, Florida for the TV Power Reporting Academy, April 2022. During this course, students sponsored by MVJ studied ethical concerns, reporting techniques, proper use of sources and building relationships, and networked with civilian journalists from around the country.
Photo by CS Muncy

Last month I met some especially talented journalists when MVJ helped send me to the Poynter Institute to attend the “TV Power Reporting Academy,” and at the end of it I came to a few important realizations. Before going too far into that, I should probably give some context.

From 2016 to 2019, I was a photographer and videographer at the White House Communications Agency on an ADOS tour. It was a fantastic, if incredibly stressful job spanning two wildly different administrations. The experience was an honor and it was exciting, but it meant putting my civilian photojournalism career on hold. When the tour ended, I had a good friend who found me a job, ironically enough, as a civilian photojournalist and field editor working out of the White House briefing room. 

This was where that sense of being a fraud started seeping in: the weight of all that talent and experience working in that small, dingy-yet-illustrious briefing room bore down on me. I constantly felt like I didn’t belong there, and worried that if I wasn’t careful someone would catch on and see me for what I really was. But I plugged away, kept my head down, and kept shooting. 

When COVID hit, all but a few journalists were removed from the briefing room and I went back to New York City to cover the outbreak. Returning to being a full-time photojournalist in the city after so many years in another city was tough; many of my contacts and editors had moved on to other positions or left the business altogether. I was still an Air Force reservist with 4th Combat Camera Squadron, but on the civilian side it took me a while to get back into the groove. The Village Voice, who had been one of my main employers before I left for D.C. had completely gone out of business. It was like starting all over again, but with fewer publications and more competition. Still, it felt good to be back home making frames.

I also took this opportunity to return to school, majoring in Human Rights at Columbia University. I started paying more attention to the mil-vet community in the field of journalism. It was here that I connected with MVJ, and began making a concerted effort to take advantage of every opportunity they offered. This included portfolio reviews, meeting with mentors and connecting with other veterans within the news community. In February they put out a call for folks to apply to attend the TV Power Reporting Academy at the Poynter Institute. I threw my hat in the ring and became one of eight MVJ members to attend this intensive program focused on broadcast journalism storytelling.

The first day at the institute brought back that old nervous feeling of being the imposter in the room. Everyone there carried themselves with an air of experience and confidence, and the work they shared was wildly impressive. Of about 30 students, only eight came from a military background. The rest had been in the business for years, and it showed. But as everyone – military and non-military alike – began warming to each other and the walls started coming down, it slowly dawned on me: everyone in the room felt as undeserving as I did. Each had their own private doubts about whether they were good enough. 

Brendan Keefe, an investigative journalist and instructor at the Poynter Institute later described his own take with overcoming self doubt. 

“I also get imposter syndrome a lot when I’m teaching. I’m not that much older than my kid students, but … I’ve been doing it for a while now and feel more confident in teaching them the things that worked for me. But when I first started teaching I felt terrified. Did I have enough experience? Was I good enough to teach another generation?”

Kaitlin Newman, a Baltimore-based photojournalist, described her own struggles. 

“When it comes to imposter syndrome I don’t know a single one of us that doesn’t experience it one way or the other,” she said. “It’s a super saturated industry. Yesterday’s news was yesterday. I always feel like my work could be better, but then I see other people’s work and I feel like it’s not that good. I think it just comes with the industry [and] is part of the territory.”

Civilian and military veteran journalists attending the TV Power Reporting Academy at the Poynter Institute gather for a sunset group photo in Saint Petersburg, Florida, April 2022.
Photo by CS Muncy

My time at Poynter reinforced Newman’s position. The conference took place at Saint Petersburg, Florida, which was a nice change of pace from the lingering winter weather back in New York. Being able to bounce ideas and past work off colleagues and instructors with decades of experience and diverse points of view required a thick skin, but highlighting our flaws as well as our successes gave us clearer paths towards improvement. At one point in our small-group breakout sessions we were able to review past clips, and almost to a person these would begin with something along the lines of “so this may not be my best work.” Everyone had as much self doubt as I did, but even the harshest reviews gave us space for self-improvement. 

Understanding that everyone at the Institute had the same doubts but still pushed forward was one of the better lessons I took away from my time there. Sure, we went over technical and ethical concerns; we discussed the necessity for privacy in some stories and the requirements for breaking that privacy in others – but it was that doubt, and the way it fed into our competitiveness and our desire to be better than we are that really stayed with me. Doubt can cripple you if you let it, but it can also be one of the most important tools in your kit. More than a good lens or expensive camera, coming to grips with the doubt that we all have will make you a better journalist.

New York-based photojournalist and Army / Coast Guard veteran B.A. van Sise gave his own take, suggesting that self-doubt can be a tool for improvement. 

“Self confidence is deleterious to good work; if you don’t hate your own work, you will never improve. For me, it’s been this thing where I’ve published this first book I did, and asked myself ‘when am I ever going to make it.’ It’s common and natural, and the only way you grow as an artist and professional is by wondering where it can be better.”

The author of this article is CS Muncy, a Manhattan-based photojournalist, Poynter TV Power Reporting Academy graduate and Air Force veteran. His photos have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, the Village Voice, and New York Daily News.

Three years? Wow, time flies.

By Features, News

Dear MVJ Members,

May 1st marks the third anniversary of Military Veterans in Journalism. Since Russell Midori and I founded the org back in 2019, we have been working to help our fellow vets chase their dreams in the journalism field.

We believe journalism is a service to the nation and we see a career in media as a way for our nation’s veterans to continue their service. We also know that veterans are vastly under-represented in the media and we’re working to change that, step by step.

In these three years, we have brought together an amazing community of more than 500 veterans, created many dozens of mentorships, partnered with prominent national organizations like Poynter and the Knight Foundation, hosted career fairs and a national convention, and run more than two dozen webinars to inform our members and connect them with resources. Importantly, we’ve also put more than 10 vets to work in paid internship and fellowship opportunities that we created and funded specifically for our veteran community.

We couldn’t have done it without all of you and your support. Thank you for being members of our community and thank you for your work in journalism. You are what makes MVJ great and it’s an honor for all of us on the MVJ team to advocate for you.

As Russell says, “Journalism needs veterans more than veterans need journalism.” That is to say, you are bringing diversity and trust to the media at a time when American trust in journalism reaches all time lows. We believe now more than ever, your work is critical for democracy.

We urge you to continue taking advantage of the resources MVJ offers. Apply to our internship and fellowship opportunities, get a journalism mentor, and participate in skill development events. We’ve also recently revamped our MyMVJ member portal – join us on the new MyMVJ!

As always, please feel free to email me or Russ to share ideas and thoughts on how we can better serve the community. We are always looking for ways to improve.

All the best,

Zack

You’ve Got This!

By Features

Over the years, I’ve been a professor of organizational behavior, HR, and leadership and have worked for (and led) various organizations. I hope I serve with integrity and leave things a little better than I found them, as I am sure you do.

In each of the many roles I’ve played, I have had the great delight of having members of the military walk the path alongside me. They’ve come in all shapes and sizes and have been my colleagues, fellow students, students in my classrooms, and friends. I currently live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, which houses many active and retired military personnel. The conversations experienced during walks or overheard in even the limited social settings we enjoy today are humbling and comforting.

Two threads connect these marvelous and committed individuals: integrity and critical thinking, which are two skills I see as essential to strong leaders and the extraordinary journalist. I do not suggest that you pass up the opportunities presented by MVJ to hone your writing, interviewing, and other more technical trade skills. However, I want to emphasize that you have trained, lived with, and honed these two essential skills in military service.

When I was a business school faculty member, I found that students did not engage with critical issues facing our country, such as the 2019 impeachment hearings. In response, I developed a classroom-related exercise that required students to keep a six-week journal of news related to current events. The Harvey Weinstein case and the mentioned hearings were only two of many events that provided a breadth of content for them to use. What would you guess the overarching frustration with the project was? It was not the “excessive” amount of time or writing involved; instead, it was summed up succinctly by one student who asked, “How do we tell who is lying and who is not?”

Kelly Kennedy, The War Horse’s managing editor and an Army veteran, embedded with the 26th Infantry Regiment in 2007.

We need the integrity and factuality of former military journalists – never has the phrase “now more than ever” been more applicable. In the few months since I began to ponder a future blog posting, the world has changed. It is ever-changing, of course, as we wait to see how the future plays out. We depend on fact-based and thoughtful reporting to guide us.

The wisdom and experience gained in military service becomes more poignant and apparent during times of war. We hang onto every word of advice that Retired General Barry McCaffery can offer because we know he has lived through this. Yet these skills are also palpable in reporting on other issues from former military journalists, such as Kelly Ramos and Kelly Kennedy. While military experience is not a necessary prerequisite for the profession, it brings to anyone who has engaged with veterans a sense of trust and comfort.

The tendrils of power have reached deep and caused divisions among us. These divisions led to explosive breakdowns in communication that most of us have never witnessed before. One faction tends to believe that the other does not want to listen or is propagating misinformation. It is interesting, however, that disinformation research has found people are indeed looking for the truth. Researcher William Dance says, “People engaging with false news stories are not disinterested in truth, but are hyper-concerned with it — especially the idea that it’s being hidden.”  The Canadian-British journalist Cory Doctorow states, “[We are] living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true.”

Trust and integrity lead to public confidence in information. Gallup polls have shown that confidence in the press has plummeted over the last fifty years since Watergate. It’s challenging, but not insurmountable. It takes time to develop trustworthiness, but being trustworthy is easy.  Tell the truth. Integrity breeds the desire for it.  Finding the truth is the challenge, and it takes no small amount of critical thinking to do this.

Retired USAF Col. Nicole Malachowski is a motivational speaker dedicated to mentoring the next generation of Americans.

As Retired Army Sgt. Major Glen Morrell says: “Soldiers must possess integrity in order to build trust and confidence in themselves, our leadership, and the American public. Among the things I’ve learned during my career is that you must be honest with everyone about everything.” But what does that integrity look like? In my experience, it shines through when military veterans work in teams. Teamwork development, the deliberation and conceptualization that goes with focusing on the mission, and knowing the importance of ‘having each other’s back’ – these skills are learned and honed in service. At the end of the day, humans are social animals. We’d like to think we look out for each other. We’ve seen veterans do all these things and trust that “having our back” translates into truthful journalism.

Col. Nicole Malachowski, USAF (Ret.) is a combat veteran, the first female Thunderbird pilot, and a personal source of inspiration for me. She is a gifted inspirational speaker and reminds audiences that, “The power of your words to make or break somebody else’s dream [is] infinitely powerful.” Integrity and critical thought support that power. No multiple-choice tests or essays will measure the value these elements have brought to your character, nor how crucial they are for accurate and fact-based reporting.

You’ve got this! And you’ve got Military Veterans in Journalism supporting your work and giving you unique opportunities to thrive.

Dr. Melinda Weisberg is a (semi)-retired Professor of Management at Marist College in Poughkeepsie NY and well…a lot of other stuff over the past 35+ years. She currently resides in Williamsburg, VA with the love of her life and their three active Labrador Retrievers. She can be reached at [email protected].

Knight Media Forum 2022 Talks Diversity, Truth, Disinformation in News

By Features

Diversity and disinformation were central to the conversation at the 2022 Knight Media Forum, an annual gathering on news trends and their impact that took place virtually Feb. 22-24.

Nikole Hannah-Jones (left) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (right) spoke on truth and trust in journalism at KMF 2022.

The convention began with a panel on clarity and truth in reporting with award-winning journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The duo discussed the balance between power and news coverage. They believe too many newsrooms lack a skepticism of institutions, leading to what Hannah-Jones considers “lazy reporting.” Many reporters, she says, tend to report what they’re told by authorities instead of investigating all sides. This over-reliance on official sources leaves important stories untold.

Both Hannah-Jones and Coates agreed newsrooms should increase their skepticism to inform their communities better and that having more diverse voices is key.

Journalists from majority groups, Coates believes, are often ill-prepared to question the state’s relationship with the people. They lack the experiences of marginalized communities, who have faced systemic persecution in the past. Diversity in media isn’t performative – it’s important for gaining trust from these communities.

Attendees also heard from news executives on diversity initiatives and leadership in the industry. Versha Sharma, editor-in-chief of TeenVogue, said news executives should do some reporting of their own to keep in touch with what it’s like for reporters working under them.

Kevin Merida (upper right), Versha Sharma (lower left), and Rashida Jones (lower right) came together to discuss leadership’s role in raising diverse talent.

“I think that idea of rolling your sleeves up and doing the work when you can carve out that time…is so important to being a more effective and efficient leader,” Sharma said. Working in the field is necessary to keep up with evolving trends in modern news, she added.

Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Times, discussed the way he fosters diverse talent. He believes everyone has something to contribute to the newsroom and encourages approaching each hire to find and nurture their unique skills.

To build a stronger newsroom, Merida said, leaders have to stimulate a want to belong among their staff. Journalists should want to represent their newsrooms because they feel good about the work they do.

Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC, explained how each journalist’s unique experiences help in the newsroom.

Jones introduced NBCUniversal’s Fifty Percent Challenge Initiative, which sets a goal for the company to have 50 percent diverse staff and 50 percent women. Instead of forcing their newsrooms to diversify via a plan they had no say in, MSNBC’s leadership sought ideas from employees and enabled them to make a difference. “I think the fruit of [this initiative] is better coverage on all of our platforms because it’s better representative of the whole country,” Jones said.

Merida, Jones, and Sharma also covered the importance of mentorships. They encouraged attendees to seek mentors, regardless of where they were in their careers, and advised going to mentors with a career plan. The trio closed their panel by saying the news industry as a whole has to keep improving and pushing forward so the current progress doesn’t disappear.

Dr. Daniel Fagbuyi (top center), Dr. Katrine Wallace (upper right), Jennifer Paganelli (lower left), and Dr. Rajiv Shah (lower center) give solutions to the spread of disinformation.

One of the final panels of the event brought experts in health literature together to discuss disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Rajiv Shav of the Rockefeller Foundation, Obama Administration Biodefense Appointee Dr. Daniel Fagbuyi, Dr. Katrine Wallace of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Jennifer Paganelli of Real Chemistry talked about solutions for countering the spread of “fake news.”

Dr. Shav said disinformation reduces public willingness to act by using specific, often threatening messaging targeted at vulnerable groups. As a counter to this, the group recommended for journalists to identify and connect with messengers within communities – a priest, for instance – and give them the information they need to spread.

“You cannot communicate if you do not know your community inside and out,” Paganelli said.

The panel also suggested efficient use of social media and influencers as a possible solution, but with caveats. Each social media platform has a different demographic, so journalists and organizations must consider that when posting. And while bringing influencers on board is a good idea, they have to believe in what they’re pushing.

Dr. Wallace gives her advice for fighting disinformation on social media: “As long as you keep a standard, very simple conceptual method, you can spread that message across platforms and across age groups.”

Black journalists and veterans today stand on the shoulders of Bernard Shaw

By Features

I met Bernard Shaw at the Washington Bureau of CNN in the 1990s while he worked as the network’s lead news anchor. I was changing jobs, moving from infantry to public affairs and visiting that newsroom was a key part of the Defense Information School curriculum. Knowing Bernard Shaw was a Marine veteran, I yelled  “Ooh Rah” as our gaggle of students strolled by his office. To my pleasant surprise, “Hey Marine,” echoed through the hallway. 

Bernard Shaw’s work helped to establish CNN as a leader in national news programming.

With an immediate about-face I peeked into Shaw’s office. We discussed his service in the Marine Corps from 1959-1963, his tours aboard Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. He told me his work in the military had sparked an “ah-ha” moment. Part of his job as a message center specialist was to clip news articles for delivery, and it occurred to him through this experience that he wanted to work in journalism. 

He left the service as a corporal and climbed the ranks of journalism from there; working as a reporter in Chicago, then a White House correspondent, then a national and senior correspondent for CBS and ABC News, all during an era when Black journalists hardly ever appeared on television.

Bernard Shaw served in the Marine Corps from 1959 to 1963.

Shaw encouraged me to “be a great Marine and dedicate just as much energy to being a good journalist,” as I transitioned to my new public affairs role.

Back at Fort Meade I learned more about Shaw from Col. Keith Oliver, the senior Marine at the schoolhouse who coordinated the DC Bureau visits and regularly spoke with Shaw. Oliver told me Shaw had been so determined to meet Walter Cronkite while he was a young enlisted Marine that he called Cronkite’s hotel 34 times in the hope of connecting with him. This yielded a meeting with Cronkite where Shaw boldly declared his mission to join Cronkite at CBS one day. Years later, Cronkite personally welcomed Shaw to CBS News as a correspondent.  

Just as Cronkite welcomed Shaw, Shaw would later welcome Sandy Kenyon, his CNN Washington Bureau producer, into his process of news writing. Kenyon, who hadn’t gone to journalism school, said he was blessed to receive the best training he possibly could have from Shaw in a “college of one.” 

Sandy Kenyon (left) was Bernard Shaw’s (right) writer / producer in the earliest days of CNN. Kenyon says Shaw was a great mentor to him.

“Bernard Shaw took me in as a student, and over the course of 15 broadcasts per day that we wrote and produced together during the first two years of CNN’s existence, he taught me how to be a journalist,” Kenyon said. “Bernie kept faith in me even though I had no formal training and had even flunked typing in high school! Only an extraordinary mentor and teacher could have managed to get on the air so often with such an inexperienced person; and today, I marvel at his patience.”

Kenyon, who now works as an entertainment reporter for WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News in New York, said “Forty years after I met Bernie, I still recall the lessons he taught me. At least once a week, I will think of his advice while writing a line of copy and then try anew to come up to his high standard.”

After the assassination attempt on President Reagan, Shaw was on the air for 20 consecutive hours without a break, Kenyon told MVJ.

Bernard Shaw interviews President Ronald Reagan for CNN.

“He was the only network anchor not to declare White House Press Secretary Jim Brady dead,” Kenyon said. “A U.S. senator had phoned us first with the ‘news,’ and yet Bernie never put it on the air despite intense pressure to do so. Why not? As he explained to me many hours later, the famous senator was merely reporting second-hand information, and that information later proved false. This was just one lesson on one day. There were many more I carry with me always,” Kenyon said. “By leading through example, by taking the time to explain the details of the craft, and by showing faith in me when others would not, Bernard Shaw was the ideal mentor to me.”

Much of Shaw’s strength came from within – he had a personal self-confidence that compelled him to chase his lofty goals without reservation. 

“There was nothing that made me think that I could not or would not,” Shaw said of his journalism aspirations in a feature about his work on NPR. “My attitude was, this is what I do. I can make a contribution to this craft.” 

His achievements in journalism paved the road for other Black and veteran journalists, according to Amy Sullivan, the news director for KATV in Little Rock.  

Bernard Shaw paved the way for Black television journalists.

“Bernard Shaw is an example to the world of Black excellence,” said Sullivan, an Air Force veteran and NABJ member. “To go from serving his country as a Marine to continuing to serve as a journalist is extremely motivating and another example as to why more newsrooms should hire veterans – they don’t back down from a challenge.”

Shaw’s coverage helped to establish the reputation of a then-upstart network called CNN as a reliable and credible national news source. Shaw embraced risk, reminded the establishment of the importance of diversity, and focused his life’s work on selflessly serving others. 

“Bernard Shaw’s presence then should be acknowledged now for the presence of so many of us Black men on television today,” said Venton Blandin, a reporter at ABC15 Phoenix and Marine veteran. “He was us heading into the future. We are him now looking back to our past,” Blandin said. 

Bernard Shaw (left) stands for the National Anthem alongside with Col. Terry M. Lockard and Brig. Gen. Richard T. Tryon at the Arlington Sunset Parade in 2007.

What does Bernard Shaw’s legacy mean for journalism today? In a world where we experience constant change across all industries, what cannot change is our commitment to informing the public accurately and mastering our storytelling craft. Shaw encouraged future generations of journalists to strive to “be the very best, work very very hard and be confident in yourself.”

From our first meeting, more than 25 years ago, Shaw’s words remain a great guide to me as I begin to turn the page to a new chapter in my own career – one focused on feature film making and creating documentaries in a style the public has never seen before. Shaw’s extraordinary career reminds us that journalists have a critical role in society; working tirelessly for the truth, and representing the people by their presence in the public arena.

Riccoh Player, the author of this article, is a member of MVJ. He is a transitioning executive leader, Emmy Award-winner, and documentary filmmaker with a demonstrated history of working with Congress, the DoD, NATO, national news agencies and entertainment industries.

A Freelancer’s Glossary

By Features, Resources

by Abby Hood, Guest Contributor

A

Anonymous source – Anonymous sources are only unknown to the public. Usually the writer and editor know who the source is and is able to check their identification and expertise or qualifications. In rare cases I have heard of sources only being known to the writer for security purposes. Regardless, this just means the publication doesn’t print their name.

Asset – This usually refers to a piece of graphic element for a story or post, like a logo, photo, illustration, etc. You will hear this in both marketing and in newsrooms.

B

Byline – This just means a story you’ve written and published. “I have bylines in….” This is because your name is printed alongside the story, sort of like a dateline. Sometimes your legal name and byline will be different, i.e. my name is Abigail Lee Hood but my byline is Abby Lee Hood because that’s what I go by. Make sure you communicate this to editors.

Beat – A beat is your niche or expertise. Maybe you work the police beat, or the environmental beat. This is your speciality. But it’s also okay not to have one!

Breaking news story – This is a class, hard news story with no opinion or editorializing. Usually published very quickly after an event to get the news out.

C

Copy – The most vague term; this is literally just words. Could be words in a blog post, for a Facebook ad, or for a story. “Turn that copy in by Friday,” is a good example. They want the assignment, whatever it is, before the weekend.

Content – Another vague term; content is usually a marketing or social media term. Content is anything you post online, whether it’s video, email, blog post, etc. Usually you will create content for a client or company. It’s not as common in the journo industry.

Cold email –  A cold email is usually written to ask for business or try to get work. It’s different from a story pitch, which is usually only for the news industry. Cold emails are usually sent to try and get social media work or copywriting work and should introduce yourself and your qualifications to the potential client.

Cutline – The caption to a photograph or other illustration. Used interchangeably with “photo credit.”

Content creator – Someone who makes content online! This could be an Instagram influencer, YouTuber, etc.

Creative – This is usually a marketing or copywriting term and can be used interchangeably with “asset.” This is simply an illustration or piece of graphic design to accompany your copy. You might hear, “What creative are we getting with this?” or “When can we talk about creative for that post?”

D

Dateline – The bit of text at the beginning of a story that gives you the location, and sometimes the date, of where and when a story was written or reported.

Dek – This is a marketing term and usually refers to a dek of slides, aka a fancy name for a Powerpoint. Usually a dek pitches an idea, product, timeline, etc.

E

Edits –  Edits are changes and requested improvements, or feedback, on your piece. Your editor may say, “I’ll have those edits to you tomorrow.” You need to make the edits yourself; your editor will not do them for you.

Editorializing – This is inserting your opinion, voice or ideas into a story instead of doing straight, hard news. This is acceptable in some features and opinion pieces; make sure you know the publication you’re writing for so you understand what’s allowed and what’s not.

F

Feature story – A feature story is usually in the ballpark of 1,500 words and has an angle and a takeaway. It’s a deeper look at a trend, problem, new idea or sometimes, a person or company. This is usually not breaking news and will be published days or weeks after an event. It doesn’t always have to be connected to breaking news, though, and can be original reporting on something you’ve discovered to be newsworthy on your own.

Freelancer – A general term for someone who does any kind of work without a company or boss. Social media managers, journalists, copywriters, designers and other creatives can all fall under this category.

G

Graf – Short for paragraph.

I

Intro – There are many kinds of intros but I’m talking specifically here about a kind of email, one that usually introduces two people to each other. “Can I get an intro to Beth?” is a way to request a digital introduction to the person.

L

Lede – Journalist lingo for the opening graf of your story. Not spelled “lead” although you may see that from time.

N

Nut graf – The takeaway or thesis of your story. Usually comes one or two grafs after the lede. Tells the reader what you’ll be talking about for the rest of the story.

News peg – Used interchangeably with “news hook.” This is a news item or story the rest of your article hooks on to make it timely and relevant. You must have a news hook in most feature stories, although not always.

News hook – See above.

Newsworthiness – This is the qualification for being reported, best answered by asking, “Why is this worth writing and publishing?” This is the justification for telling readers a story. Something has newsworthiness if it’s important or timely.

O

Opinion story – An article that expresses opinion. These will often feature data, sources and interviews just like a news story—at least, the good ones do.

Op-ed – Used interchangeably with “opinion story.” See above. Short for “opinion editorial.”

P

Portfolio – A collection of your published work, normally used to show employers or editors you pitch. These can be digital or physical, and are important for designers, writers, marketers, etc.

Pitch – A news term. Send pitches to editors to get stories, usually via email.

Photo credit – Used interchangeably with “cutline.” See above.

Peg – Used interchangeably with “news hook.” You may hear an editor ask, “what’s the news peg?” Aka, what makes this timely and newsworthy?

S

Section – A part of the paper or publication, like the business section or the lifestyle section.

Source – Someone you interview for a story, or sometimes, a paper or other document you’re using to support your article.

T

Timeliness – The quality of a news story depends on timeliness; if you publish a story long after an event happens it’s no longer timely.

V

Vertical – Used interchangeably with “section.” Editors will be in charge of certain verticals, like the science or politics vertical.

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From AFN to the Anchor Desk: Reflecting on a Life of Service

By Features

By Bob Young
I was going through some photos the other day and found one from fifty years ago. A young Airman was seated behind a desk on a television studio set in the Republic of Vietnam announcing that two Americans were walking on the moon. We didn’t have live pictures available at the time, so some creative visuals were used to cover the live radio network broadcast. Our ingenuity made it work!

My twenty-six months with the American Forces Vietnam Network was my early education in television broadcasting. I started at the bottom, where the real learning begins, especially that lesson in understanding the human dynamics – the culture – of an organization. My introduction to military broadcasting had begun as a junior Airman working for a hard-core Marine Non-Commissioned Officer who reported to an Army Colonel; lots of cultural dynamics at work there!

It was at AFVN that I picked up the skills that enabled me to enjoy a civilian broadcast career that spanned twenty-six years. The detachment where I was first assigned was a small collection of men of varying backgrounds, who operated a television station out of a trailer – a TV station in a box! The beauty was that we all learned how to do each other’s jobs, both behind and in front of the camera.

The time you spend as a military journalist is an investment that easily translates into the civilian world. The knowledge you acquire, the practical skills you hone, the leadership you demonstrate are collectively invaluable assets in an industry crying out for talented and disciplined people who are personally and professionally prepared and eager to get to work.

No employer would pass on someone like a military journalist who has demonstrated time and again the initiative to creatively meet any challenge. I’m reminded of that spirit by a business friend of mine who would tell his customers: “The answer is ‘yes.’ Now, what is the question?”

There came a time in my civilian career when I actually was tasked with hiring people. From my own experience, I knew that veterans were my best recruits. They came prepared in attitude, desire, dependability and experience.

Even this late in my life I fondly recall my time as a military broadcaster, and for those years I remain grateful to the American taxpayer.

How a Special Ops legend made me a better reporter

By Features

By Alex Quade, Reporter / Military Veterans in Journalism Board Member

As young journalists bootstrapping our way up the news ranks, our mentors are usually editors or executive producers. If you’re a journalist, what you’re about to read may come as a bit of a shock. My mentor was not in the news business. Far from it, though he made some news in his day. I’ve come to learn, it’s a good thing in our profession, to try to understand people — or groups of people — who despise you. And on the flip side, this may come as a shock to anyone reading this who happens to serve in the secretive world of Special Operations; a community with no great love for reporters, especially after the “Tailwind” story on CNN in the 1990s which eventually was rescinded. But I hope they will read the following; even though it’s from a purported “tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, liberal-media-puke.”

As a lone, woman war reporter covering U.S. Special Operations forces on combat missions downrange, an unexpected mentor came into my life. This unlikeliest of sources hated reporters. Despite that, he “chose” me, treated me as an adopted SON, and taught me everything I need to know that matters.

Love him or hate him, everyone respected Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard (or “Mean ol’ Ranger Bob” as I liked to call him) for his bravery during five tours in Vietnam, mainly with the Studies and Observations Group.  He was one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history; nominated for the Medal of Honor three times.

Bob said many people in that community deserve medals for all the unheralded things they’ve done, which, due to their classified nature, lack of witnesses, nor write-ups, few Americans will ever know about.  He said he wore his Medal of Honor for each of them.

When I was with him, and his family, during his last weeks in hospital in Texas in 2009, he asked me to share a last “tasker” for each man or woman serving in Special Operations: “Continue the Mission.”

And he tasked me, too: “You must be tough as woodpecker lips,” Bob told me.  “You must do the thing you cannot do.  Whatever your fate may be… you make it happen along the way.”

He emailed advice almost every day, especially when I was downrange, as an embedded war reporter, covering “his” Green Berets on combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was excited I was to spend time with “his” Rangers, too.  He encouraged me to make a difference through the war stories I do and said he admired my perseverance.

“Bob, I’m not a cheerleader for the military,” I said.

“Alex, truth in reporting is a virtue; without unnecessary exploitation of facts.  It’s about trust and honest sincerity. Military dependents resent the absence of their loved one and will turn to you for the rest of the story,” Bob replied.  Which is why he hassled me every day I was back stateside.

“Lady, are you up exercising your talents?” He’d email early in the morning. If I didn’t hit “send” to reply quick enough, it was, “Get your butt out and ruck-march!” You see, Bob expected me to follow his strict regimen:  Adding weight in a rucksack while picking up speed and increasing distance.  As a septuagenarian, he still got up at 4:30 every morning to do physical training. He could still walk 25 miles and carry a ruck, and he was not shy about saying, he had “No patience for fat people, women, or hurt feelings.”

“You must carry your own load at squad or fire team level,” he said. “But I’m scaring the socialites and their little dogs in Central Park,” I countered.  Bob didn’t care. His orders were clear:  “Don’t hold back the men downrange!”

He said he felt like he was “sending me off to face evil” every time I deployed. He told me to carry a copy of the Koran, adding, “Learn some basic Farsi and practice it on the locals.” And, since I have no patience, he admonished:  “Never be quick to take the next step without knowing where it leads you.”

“Seek out the good sergeants; you’ll know who they are. They’ll set you straight,” Bob advised.  “Keep your eyes up and your butt down,” he said. “Stay in the shadows.  Blonde hair makes a good target. If I can see you, I can kill you!”

He reiterated that fact one night in Landstuhl, Germany, before I headed back to Iraq and Afghanistan. One moment he was casually smoking a cigar, the next, he literally had my life in his hands. I’ll call it the “two-fingered, Vulcan death-grip” on the back of my neck, which brought me to my knees in an instant and made Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sergeant Drew Dix (5th Special Forces Group) and Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell (Ranger Battalion) smile.

“That’s what you need to know how to do,” he said, during his impromptu combative lesson.  But what I got out of that lesson was:  Damn!  He may look old, but never underestimate Bob Howard!


Bob must have known for a long time that he was fighting his last battle with the Grim Reaper.  And like all soldiers, did not want to die alone. “This’ll keep ya motivated!”  He said, shoving a Ziploc baggie at my chest. Inside was a bloody, nasty-looking piece of shrapnel freshly removed from near his frontal lobe just two weeks before. Just what every girl wants, right?

“It’s a real piece of North Vietnamese Army shrapnel fired from a 75-mm recoil-less rifle, that hit to the left front of me while I was firing at the enemy position, from a prone position, about 300 meters away,” Bob explained.  “They rushed to clamp the arteries and veins to keep me from bleeding to death and left the shrapnel in.  Had a headache for 42 years. First few days after removal recently, messed up my equilibrium.”

But the former member of Delta, the Green Berets and Ranger Battalion, who’d braved all the world’s hostile environments, was starting to feel the cold.  So I gave him my “Woobie,” the blanket I’d carried in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sitting in his hospital room, in the wee hours, he told me, I was the one who looked cold; so he made me wear his beanie, that old, black, Ranger patrol-cap had never been washed in 25 years.  He said, just looking at it on my head, made him feel warm.

Looking for things to appreciate in tough situations is what helped Bob through. “Look for Orion’s Belt.  It is one of the most beautiful sights.  I’ve lain in place, concealed, looking up at it many times while in Vietnam through sporadic jungle canopy,” he quietly mused.

“This is no bullshit!”  Bob turned serious. “I challenge you to stay alert, stay safe, watch your back, and return home to share your stories and experiences with the public that need to be reminded,” he pointed his finger at me.

He asked me to tell all “his men”:  Always “Lead from the front,” because that’s what he did.  And:  “Charlie Mike,” or, “Continue the Mission”.  The last thing Bob said to me was, I “can kiss him in his coffin.”

Despite my belief that Mean ol’ Ranger Bob would take out the Grim Reaper with the pistol strapped to his calf, cancer took what the enemy never could.  Col. Robert L. Howard passed away the day before Christmas Eve, 2009. Every morning since then, I look at my email… half expecting a butt-kicking message from him from the grave. His lessons still sound off like a cadence to my footfalls when I go running:  “Charlie Mike… Continue the Mission… Charlie Mike…”

No, my fellow journalists… I did not drink the Kool-Aid.

Ranger Bob’s intestinal fortitude, which he was intent on passing along to me, before he passed away… his lessons have kept me alive in tough locations.  The lesson I’d like to pass along to YOU is:  Be open to learning from people you’d never expect, especially people who “hate reporters.”

Now, whenever meetings bring me to the “five-sided wind tunnel” on the Potomac (the Pentagon) I go visit Bob.  The birds at Arlington National Cemetery seem to target his headstone.  Bet that pisses him off, I think, touching his shrapnel hanging on a chain around my neck. But then I know, just like Clint Eastwood, he would have squinted-up his eyes, like he always did, laughed and grinned widely.

ALEX QUADE is a war reporter and documentary filmmaker, who’s covered U.S. Special Operations Forces on combat missions since 2007.  She’s the only reporter, male or female, ever embedded long-term with these elite, secretive units downrange on her own, with no crew or support.  The recipient of two national Edward R. Murrow Awards, Quade has produced videos and online reports for The New York Times, a front page story for The Washington Times, and has two documentaries in film festivals:  Horse Soldiers of 9/11, narrated by actor Gary Sinise, and Chinook Down, an investigation into the surface-to-air missile shoot-down of a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan killing all on board. Quade was supposed to be on that helicopter. She survived to report firsthand on the fierce firefight and recovery efforts. Quade started her career as a White House intern during the Persian Gulf War. She’s worked in television covering global conflicts and hostile environments for CNN, Fox News, HLN, and CNN International out of Frankfurt, Germany and New York. Quade’s reporting from the Asian Tsunami was individually cited in CNN’s Columbia du-Pont Award and her war reports were part of group Peabody and Emmy awards. She attended Georgetown University’s Institute for Political & Ethical Journalism, and holds three degrees from the University of Washington. Quade serves on the Board of Military Reporters and Editors.

 

A LESSON IN HUMILITY: GOING FROM SERGEANT TO INTERN

By Features

My first civilian job was an internship with a New York production company where I had hoped to become a professional videographer. My first assignment: sweeping up cigarette butts in front of the building. Sure, I was an old pro at field day duties, but hadn’t I paid my dues already? Hadn’t I been a sergeant of Marines just two months prior?

While 22-year-old workers in corporate America are scarcely trusted to work a copy machine, military service members of that age may make decisions that carry the weight of life and death. It can be quite a shock to start working for an organization that doesn’t seem to place any special trust and confidence in your abilities.

The values required for military service, like integrity and accountability, easily translate to journalism. Experience operating in a hierarchy and just plain getting things done can help you quickly ascend to a position with greater influence. But, in journalism, none of that will likely help you start anywhere but at the bottom. I had to learn to suck it up and pay my dues.

But then I ran into a financial problem. I hadn’t considered the numbers very thoughtfully, and I soon realized I simply couldn’t pay my New York rent with a $7 per hour internship. I had to quit that job and lose that opportunity to grow.

If you’re committed to working in journalism despite knowing you may need to take a low-wage, low-influence position, you should spend some time figuring out the finances. This may mean taking advantage of your Post-9/11 GI Bill. The housing allowance that accompanies the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a fantastic way to keep you on your feet while you make your mark in an entry-level job.

If you can only find an unpaid internship, you can also get six months of unemployment benefits when you first get out (which some states extend to a year). This may give you the time to build your credibility at an organization and in the industry so you can move up to a position more suited to your abilities.

None of this means you should stick with a company where you just plain won’t like working. Look around the room. Are there more senior people doing jobs you could see yourself enjoying? Do you have access to them to talk about how to carve your own path? Those questions should help you determine if an internship is right for you.

You might look at an entry-level job as a way to get a glimpse of the opportunities ahead of you. You’re evaluating the company and the industry as much as they are evaluating you. If you find journalism is for you and you land an internship at a place where you want to grow, then suck it up, pay your dues, find some mentors, and climb that ladder.