Last airborne reporter on September 11th. Reported on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Melinda Murphy, an Emmy award winning journalist, can talk about these events from her personal experience. Having worked as a producer, writer, editor and on-air correspondent, she is now the editor-in-chief of Singapore American Newspaper. Murphy is the kind of person who isn’t afraid to take risks: her assignments have taken her to a range of places, from a showgirl stage in Vegas to a snake pit in Texas.
Murphy came to SAS as a part of the speaker series offered by the SAS Communications and Alumni Relations Work Study Program. Presented with such a great opportunity to meet someone working in the journalism field, I interviewed Murphy about her experiences and struggles in this fast-changing industry. Although the questions she answered were mainly about journalism, Murphy’s stories serve as great advice to people interested in any career.
Q: What is it like competing with other journalists for a story?
A: Journalism is a tough, cut-throat field, but if you’re naturally not competitive, it doesn’t mean that it’s not for you. Confidence and friendliness are the key to success. Firstly, you have to continue believing in yourself even when people pick at you. Secondly, since journalism is all about being a part of a team, treat your team well. When I first moved from Texas to New York, I remember telling the new fellow correspondents, “Let’s go have lunch!” and they were all surprised because that’s not something they would usually do. Eventually, we all became friends, so being an easy-going person definitely helped me.
Q: For someone going into journalism, is it important to choose between print and broadcast right off the bat?
A: It’s always good to have a plan so you can be prepared for whatever it is you want to achieve. However, you never know what’s waiting for you around the corner. Sometimes you have to be flexible, follow the journey, and enjoy the ride instead of being determined to get to your originally planned destination. After all, just because you made a decision at the age of 17 doesn’t mean that that’s what you’re actually going to do for the rest of your life. What you do in college doesn’t have to define you forever and it’s important to not be afraid to change your mind.
Q: In terms of college, is it more beneficial for an aspiring journalist to major in something else, like politics or economics?
A: If you know what you want to focus on in journalism, it is beneficial to major or minor in the area of your interest. However, in the end, you will still need to know how to write and report.
Q: Do you think a master’s degree is beneficial for journalists?
A: No. Instead, go out, knock on the doors, interview people, and get experience in the industry.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you faced as a writer and reporter?
A: When I decided to create a family, I had to give up being an on-air correspondent. Right now, I’m working for the Singapore American Newspaper and it’s great, but I miss the hectic environment that you face as a correspondent. Being in the middle of things is completely different from everything else and once you experience it, you crave breaking news stories.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring journalists?
A: When I sent one of my stories to my agent, she said, “Your stuff is weird but because of that, you’re gonna be a star.” It’s important to find your voice, your niche. Being different is the key and it will get you far.