On a recent trip to visit my mother in Nevada, I told her about my reluctance to recommend a person for a job because the last time I got involved in a job search, that person turned out to be a bad hire – a really bad hire. My mother reminded me that other people once had taken chance on me, and they’d probably had their share of recommendations that didn’t go so well. After reflecting for a while, I realized I wouldn’t have had certain opportunities if others hadn’t gone out on a limb for me, even after they had been “burned” by others.
My mother asked: “Isn’t that we’re supposed to do, to help others?” The question reminded of something we’ve all repeatedly heard in the Chips Quinn program, which tells us not just to succeed as individual journalists of color but also to help others like us and communities of people who look like us. Looking back on my proudest accomplishments in my journalism career, I don’t think winning awards or covering famous people or events gave me much sense of accomplishment. Like money or anything material, those moments can be fleeting and look a lot more enjoyable from afar than in person. What is not fleeting, and what matters, are changes that have a profound and lasting effect on an organization, institution or person.
What I’m most proud of is helping, in the spirit of Chips Quinn, journalists of color like me. Often that means providing a recommendation for that first reporting or editing job, or for an application to graduate school or to attend a seminar. I’m proud when I see former interns I’ve helped, including some Chipsters, thrive and succeed, or even when they struggle but vow to continue in the fight. I’m most proud when I see them helping others instead of concentrating solely on their careers.
I’m proud that, even though being an editor can be painful, the position afforded me a seat at the table. I could point out problems in hiring practices in newsrooms, jobs and internships. I could point out the lack of coverage of certain communities and lack of opportunities for me, and others like me, to advance. I’m proud that I’ve survived all these years in an industry and profession that, even in its best days, was a tough place for people of color to succeed.
I’m glad many of us have learned, through programs like Chips Quinn, to stick together, to lean on one another, to reach back and help the person behind us, to continue to change an unfair system – not just for us, but for those who will walk the paths forged by us and by those who came before us.
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