The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Students hear advice from legendary journalist

For 90 minutes on Tuesday, aspiring student journalists were offered career advice from one of the best in the business, Olive Talley.

Tony Pederson, Belo distinguished chair in journalism at SMU, described Talley as “a bulldog of a reporter.”

Professor Lori Stahl, whose Writing and Reporting class heard Talley speak, recalled how someone once said, “She’s as tenacious as a pit bull with a bone.”

This tenacity and dedication to professionalism and accuracy played a big role in bringing the reporter from a small Texas town to the bright lights of New York City – a transition that almost never happened before.

“In high school I hated English, hated writing,” Talley said. “I thought I wanted to be a vet or a sociologist.”

Taking the advice of a professor she admired, Talley enrolled in her first journalism class at the University of Texas.

Unwilling to settle for a desk job upon graduation, Talley recognized the opportunities and challenges awaiting a young journalist.

“I won’t be chained to a desk,” Talley said. “I’ll constantly be challenged emotionally, intellectually and psychologically.”

The challenges every journalist faces, from creating original story ideas to pitching them to editors, continue to drive Talley and the emotional involvement she brings to every story.

Having known Talley from their days together at The Dallas Morning News, Stahl knows first hand the persistence of her approach.

“Olive’s work ethic is unparalleled, even in a field of driven, competitive journalists,” Stahl said. “I believe that’s played a big role in her success, because everyone in the newsroom soon realizes how relentless she is in getting a story.”

Talley’s unrelenting attitude toward her profession has paid dividends, though not of the monetary variety, she added, smiling.

“If you don’t care to be emotionally involved, you shouldn’t be doing it,” Talley said.

Her credits include a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, a Pulitzer finalist and the George Polk Award for her investigative work.

A competitive mindset will get the aspiring journalist only so far, said Talley, as potential employers look for students who “have developed hands-on, practical experience and use that to emphasize their strengths.”

Stahl agreed.

“The best way to prepare for a newsroom is to be in one,” Talley said.

Getting an internship is great advice for all students regardless of major. But an internship in journalism, specifically, is “phenomenal training for all other skills and professions,” Pederson said.

“Critical thinking, gathering information and developing communication skills help provide invaluable experience for all professions,” Pederson said.

One must not possess a journalism degree to get involved in the industry, however it sometimes takes much more.

“Employers look for people with personal experience – not necessarily a journalism degree,” Talley said. “People with backgrounds in other realms, investigative or insurance, have the basic skills of writing, interviewing and reporting which are so easily transferable to journalism.”

One student in Stahl’s class, junior journalism major Alessandra Frausin, took immediate advantage of Talley’s advice.

Frausin, a student from Italy, asked how she might best prepare for a career in journalism in Europe after graduation. Knowing very few in the industry, Frausin admitted placing little importance until now on the value of internships and of networking.

“I didn’t think networking would be this important,” Fausin said. “Olive Talley knows someone in Italian television and will put me in contact with this person, which is very exciting because it is really hard to enter the Italian news system.”

Networking opportunities are available to students who know how to look for them.

“Even if you don’t get an offer from the place you do an internship, you may make friends or contacts who will give you job leads or serve as references when you an applicant,” Stahl said.

For more information, please visit smu.edu/career/internships.html.

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