(Editor’s note: Today’s post continues a series of profiles of successful ASU alumni and shares their tips for succeeding in the career marketplace.)
Marie Dillon is allowed to express something in her work for the Chicago Tribune that most conventional journalists aren’t: an opinion. As deputy editorial page editor and a member of the Tribune’s editorial board, she and her co-workers discuss, argue, and persuade one another on current news topics, until one person is assigned to write a specific editorial. Dillon’s coverage has included government corruption, police violence and racial tension.
“I don’t always get to advocate for things that I want to, but when I do, it’s really nice to feel like you are making a difference on something that you really care about,” Dillon said. “That’s the best part of my job.”
Despite her passion for her current job, Dillon says she didn’t always know she wanted to be a journalist, although she had served as editor of her high school’s newspaper and worked on the yearbook team. At Arizona State University, she started out as a political science major, and it wasn’t until she took Journalism 110 that she realized her calling, after her professor, Max Jennings, captured her imagination with his storytelling.
“If you’re a journalist, you get to keep learning about other things and there are no limits,” Dillon said. “You just go where your curiosity takes you.”
Her career has taken her from a stint as a reporter at the Mesa Tribune to a series of editing gigs at the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida. Her writing has won national awards, including the 2008 American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writer and 2009 Society of Professional Journalists awards for editorial writing. Dillon credits the training she received in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with helping her develop the work ethic required to pursue her profession, and for teaching her the wide range of skills she has needed.
Some of her core journalistic skills have evolved over the past 30-plus years, including the amount of reporting research that was done (at least in the early days of her working life) without the aid of Internet searches.
“Reporting is so much easier and more thorough now,” she said. “But at the same time you have to be so much more careful about where you get your information and how you vet it.”
Dillon believes today’s journalism students are becoming too easily discouraged by the changing media marketplace, but, she says, “it’s a very rewarding job in terms of how much fun you have and how intellectually stimulating it is,” – well worth the risks, in other words.
~ Mila Suzich, a Phoenix-based freelance writer and a student in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.