BY COLLEEN DAY
More than 50 students packed Loyola Science Center classroom to hear Tina Kelley, journalist of 23 years and author of “Almost Home,” discuss her career and the future of journalism.
Kelley urged the future journalists in the crowd to chase what they are passionate about.
“Find something you love; find something that sets you on fire and write about it. For me, it was social service which is what lead me to where I am today,” Kelley said in regards to her novel “Almost Home,” which was assigned to the first-year students for their Royal Reads program.
The novel which she co-authored with Covenant House President Kevin Ryan, tells the stories of homeless youths as they find their way to the nonprofit shelter. The Covenant House is the largest charity serving homeless, trafficked and runaway youth in North America. Kelley has previously volunteered there.
Kelley has worked at several prestigious newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Quincy Patriot Ledger and most recently The New York Times. Kelley also wrote 121 “Portraits of Grief” after the Sept. 11 attacks, contributing to New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the attacks.
After spending 10 years at The New York Times, Kelley found herself in a difficult situation as the newspaper went through its second round of layoffs.
“You could feel the tension in the newsroom. Even the journalists with Pulitzer prizes were nervous. Everyone started asking, ‘What’s your plan B?’” Kelley said.
Kelley began exercising her options and looked for a job in the non-profit world. When she contacted Ryan, president of the Covenant House, he offered her a job.
“He was looking for someone to co-author with him about the youth as they came into the shelter and then when they left to thrive on their own after the Covenant House. We wanted to put a face on homelessness,” Kelley said. “I had always wanted to do longer-form journalism.”
Kelley left the crowd with some wise advice about the world of journalism and the “key” to breaking into the industry.
“It’s all about asking editors out for a cup of coffee. Don’t burn bridges and always leave on a good note,” Kelley said. “You ever know who you will have to work with again.”
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