Missouri Honor Medal recipients share experiences, advise student journalists

The medalists shared their experiences and struggles while pursuing a career in media.

The 2018 Missouri Medal of Honor for Distinguished Service in Journalism was awarded to eight recipients on Oct. 16: Fortuna Calvo-Roth, Vita Harris, Peter Hessler, the IndyStar investigative team, Kevin Merida, Joel Sartore, Trisha Scudder and S. Karene Witcher.

During the day, each recipient presented a master class on their area of expertise.

At 9:30 a.m. Calvo-Roth, Harris, Scudder, Witcher and Marisa Kwiatkowski from the IndyStar spoke at the Women in Media panel moderated by Associate Professor Amy Simons.

During this panel, the women discussed some of the struggles they encountered while pursuing their careers in journalism and advertising.

Scudder graduated from MU with honors in 1966. Since then, she has worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, an ad agency Leo Burnett and later became the creative director at Grey Advertising.

“When I was in advertising and when I was a creative director and a client or a senior manager would ask me a question about the work to sell it, I would think, ‘What’s the right answer? What is the answer that my boss would want me to say now to the client?’” Scudder said to the audience. “I didn’t like myself at those times because I wasn’t looking at what my truth was... I realized very soon that my value to the senior executives is to say what I see.”

Harris is an executive vice president and chief strategy officer at FCB Global. She told the audience that truth is valued most.

“When you’re in a level of management that I’m in, your CEO is looking for the truth,” Harris said to the audience. “He or she may not always agree with the truth as you see it, but if you’re not showing up every day with your truth, I’m not sure why you would go to work.”

Kwiatkowski is part of the team of reporters who conducted the Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics investigation. Sometimes for these reporters, it is difficult to handle the constant exposure to traumatic events, according to Kwiatkowski. She believes that everyone needs and has a unique coping mechanism to deal with the difficult situation.

“You need to find that [coping mechanism] that takes you out of the situation that you’re in,” Kwiatkowski said during the panel. “It’s really about making sure you’re conscious of taking that time when you need it. It can be incredibly difficult to do this kind of work day in and day out and hear the worst moments in people’s lives every day of your life.”

Witcher advised aspiring female creators of media to do work they feel strongly about.

“First, figure out what you think you want to do, what kind of job you think you want,” Witcher said. “Try to pick the field that is your passion. Don’t do something that doesn’t hit your buttons because it shows in everything you do, it shows in everything you write if you’re not passionate about it.”

After this panel, each Honor Medal recipient had the opportunity to present a master class based on their area of expertise and their experiences.

Calvo-Roth hosted a master class titled “Reporting: Hard, Harder, Hardest.” She was born in Paris and raised in Lima, Peru. After graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism at the age of 19, she later became the editor-in-chief of the newsmagazine Vision. During the presentation, she discussed her journey as a journalist.

Harris gave a presentation, titled “Disrupting Thought Patterns: Developing Communications in a Borderless World,” where she discussed advancing diversity and inclusion efforts. She is one of few African American women advancing to top positions in the advertising world.

Peter Hessler has spent most of his life as a journalist traveling overseas and writing about changes in China that affected the lives of average citizens. He wrote a trilogy of books about China. Hessler gave a presentation called “The Long Run: Covering a Chinese City for Twenty Years,” where he shared his experiences traveling and writing about the changes taking place.

The Indianapolis Star, represented by Kwiatkowski, presented a session titled “The Human Element: Interviewing Survivors of Trauma.” Kwiatkowski discussed the publication’s USA Gymnastics investigation and the team’s experiences talking to survivors of trauma.

Joel Sartore is a wildlife photographer for National Geographic magazine. He gave a presentation called “Visual Storytelling to Make the World a Better Place,” where he discussed documenting landscapes and endangered species through photography.

Scudder hosted a master class called “Committed Speaking: The Language of Leadership,” where she discussed her experiences with her own leadership development and her use of communication in coaching CEOs.

Witcher’s master class session was titled “Asia Rocks! Why I’m Optimistic About Journalism in the Region.” During this presentation, she discussed her experiences as former deputy Asia editor of The New York Times and news editor of the International Edition of The New York Times in Hong Kong. She also discussed the 33 years spent as a foreign correspondent and senior editor at The Wall Street Journal.

Kevin Merida is a senior vice president at ESPN and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated. He presented a master class called “Let Santa Claus Be Your Role Model and Other Career Advice.” Drawing from his own experiences, he emphasized the power of networking.

“Make your friends before you need them,” Merida said to the audience. “That’s really important because you don’t know where your friend is going to be. You don’t know if someone will be in a position to give you a job. Be relentless about relationships.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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