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
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:
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.
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."
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."
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
4) The mayor
knows your name ... but so does the Mafia button man you wrote about.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.