N&R ME Morris
works with students


Ann Morris, managing editor of the Greensboro News & Record and a former editor with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, spent the day at Elon recently, speaking to communications students and meeting with faculty and administrators. She also had lunch with three African American students as part of the university's journalism diversity initiative.

Morris talked about the importance of the power of newspapers in American communities and engagingly shared her list of the "Top Ten Reasons to be a Newspaper Reporter" when she visited with students in JCM 300 Reporting and JCM 218 Media Writing:

10) You don't have to dress like a banker. "Newsrooms are informal places," she explained. "There's room for individuality, there's a lot of room for creativity and there's not a lot of room for stuffed shirts. We have good BS detectors."

9) You get to watch TV people with nice hair read the words you wrote. "It happens every day," she said. "TV news people are reading our original reporting on the air. They get some fresh footage to go with it, but these are our stories that they plucked out of the newspaper. Radio does the same thing."

8) You're too smart to be a lawyer. "My brother was a lawyer," she said, "and that really disappointed my father (the publisher of the Roanoke, Va., newspaper). You do have to be smart to be a reporter. You have to be able to read a city budget, analyze data to extract important information. Critical thinking is the most important skill for a reporter. You have to ask the right questions. You have to be quick on your feet."

7) As long as they don't know your salary, everybody thinks you're cool for working at a newspaper. "If your main motivation is money, this might not be the best place for you," she said. "But money is not why people get into it. Our starting salaries at the News & Record are $25,000 to $30,000, and veteran reporters may make $50,000 to $60,000. People in the news business get their rewards through providing public service and by having a creative outlet. They're given a lot of freedom to get their work done."

6) There's a hot newsroom singles scene. "We have seven married couples working at the News & Record, and at least that many couples dating," she said, "and that is common in the profession."

5) You get to make powerful people squirm. "Part of your job is to ask the tough questions," she said. "Sometimes they don't like it. 'Blame it on the newspaper,' is the mayor's favorite line. You have to be thick-skinned, because you'll get some criticism."

4) The mayor knows your name ... but so does the Mafia button man you wrote about. "You have heard about Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate story," she said. "Even in a small community such as Greensboro there are tough stories that would go unreported if it wasn't for us. Right now, we're trying to report on area crack houses ... You have to have a stomach for being outside your comfort zone and being able to talk to people who are different from you."

3) Ernest Hemingway was once a reporter and went on to become a famous, drunk, suicidal author. "Don't try the Jayson Blair route to getting a book published, but many fine writers got their start as reporters," she said. "It's a great training ground for many different careers."

2) You can pretend to work but actually surf the Internet, feed a blog and answer lots of e-mail. "People my age didn't grow up with the Internet," she said. "It's part of your lives. Newspapers desperately need younger people on their staffs to help us figure all this new stuff out."

1) You can change the world. "I really believe this in big ways and little ways," she said. "Woodward and Bernstein brought down a president. About this time last year, we published a story about a builder who built homes for low-income families ... He had been siphoning funds for things like cruises and jewelry. One thing led to another in our reporting ... People whose houses had shoddy construction are getting them fixed by the city. We changed the world in Greensboro."

Morris concluded her talk by telling Elon's young communications students, "If you're interested in changing the world and you're interested in having fun, then be a reporter."

After speaking with students, she accompanied journalism majors Rasmi Gamble, Raphael Garcia and KeiSaundra Henderson to lunch and filled them in on how to apply for Landmark Scholars program, which provides a $10,000 scholarship, two paid summer internships, and a full-time paid internship for at least one year after graduation.

Morris has been a professional editor and/or reporter for 16 years. She is a native of Roanoke, Va., and a graduate of Williams College. Her first job was as a reporter for the News & Record in 1985. She covered the county commission and state government, and she later became an editorial writer, a commentary editor and a nightside city editor. She moved to work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1993, where she worked as the assistant business editor, the lifestyle editor and the deputy features editor. She returned to Greensboro in 1999 to work in the Human Resources department of the News & Record. She became the managing editor about a year ago, now working to set coverage priorities and oversees the editing and reporting staff.




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Last Modified:  9/26/04
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