One of the skills I have developed during my 20 years as a news reporter is the ability to not panic when I get lost. Each day we go out on assignment, we are visiting a school, home, intersection, courthouse, or office building that usually neither I nor the photographer I’m working with has ever been to before. After all, we cover news throughout more than 300 communities in New Jersey. When I first started working as a reporter back in 2000, we had a box of maps in the live truck that we would consult for directions, but now we use Google Maps and our GPS so it’s a little easier to get where we are going.
But there is still always that moment when we step out of the live truck in a new place that can be so intimidating: where will we start? Whose doorbell will we ring first? Which person will we approach for an interview? Where exactly did the news event take place? And of course– how am I going to get this story done by the deadline tonight? Oh, and occasionally– is anyone going to let me use their restroom?
This sense of uncertainty that I feel at work all the time– we’ve all had it, right? That sense that you need to get your bearings to figure out where you are going next. I have learned that just like with directions in the news van, it helps to remember where you came from. I grew up in Tenafly, in suburban New Jersey and was inspired from an early age by my dad. He may not use this title to describe himself, but I think of him as a feminist. My dad expected just as much from me and my two sisters as he did from my three brothers. My dad wouldn’t let me join the cheerleading squad– much to my disappointment– because he said it wasn’t fair that they didn’t cheer for the girls sports teams, just the boys. He and a few other parents started the girls soccer program in my hometown in the mid-80s when he wondered why the boys got to have all of the fun. He was– and is– guided by an unwavering principle of fairness.
The confidence I gained from growing up with a dad like mine helped propel me forward in life without hesitation. I try to pass along this attitude to my own children, and to many of my students at Columbia Journalism School and my interns at both ABC and NBC. I encourage them to get a little lost– go somewhere they haven’t been before, take that job opportunity, call that person you met at a networking event for advice. Your mentors– whether it’s a parent, a spouse, a professor, or a colleague– are there to be your GPS and to guide you home.