Mary C. Curtis shares experience, advice during Creative Nonfiction week

By Contributing Writer

Julia Halpin, Contributing Writer

With race and politics at the forefront of America’s mind, award-winning journalist Mary C. Curtis spoke Nov. 8 to Columbia faculty and students on the important role of race, culture and politics in journalism today.

As part of the college’s Creative Nonfiction week, Curtis spoke about her career as a journalist and her recent coverage of the presidential election. Writing for publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times, Curtis had encouraging words for all writers, but especially those just starting off.

To college freshmen, Curtis said new journalists shouldn’t be discouraged by the numerous challenges facing newspapers and magazines.

“I’m encouraged by young, curious journalists,” Curtis said. “I honestly do believe democracy needs a free press.”

Curtis said journalism jobs today are based in areas that may not seem as “sexy” as others.

“The work is out there, but it may be online,” she said. “There’s still good work to be done. You just have to look.”

Curtis, who focuses on covering race, culture and politics, told aspiring reporters to find their niche within the world of journalism and run with it.

“Find the work that touches you, that you’re passionate about, but also touches readers,” Curtis said. “You’ll be more diligent.”

Because journalism as a whole is facing drastic changes, Curtis said young reporters need to have a solid foundation in journalistic knowledge to be successful. She also said having a command over multiple types of journalism — be it print, broadcast or multimedia — can help unexperienced writers land a job.

“I see young people getting jobs in all sorts of creative ways,” Curtis said. “I think you have to be nimble, and I think you have to have the skills. You need to do it all.”

She said telling the stories of people who may have never been heard otherwise should always be the goal of a journalist.

“I like to write in a universal way,” Curtis said. “The secret is that everybody wants their story told.”