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.