Column: The Chronicle gave me an opportunity to fulfill my dream

By Erin Threlkeld, Staff Reporter

Chloe McMullen

I thought my dreams of breaking into journalism were a step too far after I applied to work at the Chronicle in 2019 and didn’t get the job.

For me, 2020 will be remembered as a year of opportunity because after applying for a second time, I received a call from Travis Truitt, the Chronicle’s general manager.

On that summer day, while I was thinking about finishing school with a graduate degree in fiction writing and worrying about my future, Truitt offered me a position as a copy editor.

Not only did the Chronicle hire me as a copy editor, but the publication allowed me to take part in documenting history through my writing.

Through the protesting, soaring COVID-19 cases and wildfires of 2020, the Chronicle gave me a voice and let me write about what I saw. Every staff member got to write, and that made me feel valued.

I will always be thankful that one of my first pitches was accepted and I was able to write about the trauma the Black community has experienced surrounding the health care system and how it relates to the current pandemic.

That story gave me the space to seek out people whose experiences emphasized a need for change and questioned widespread inequity. It is from that article I learned some of the most groundbreaking stories aren’t ones about a well-hidden scandal or new crisis. These stories come from within communities waiting to be heard.

Because I was given many opportunities to report stories as a copy editor, the management team believed I could grow as a reporter and extended that opportunity to me for the Spring 2021 semester.

Now, as I prepare to graduate with my Master of Fine Arts degree and continue my career as a journalist, I feel more confident in pursuing stories and building a rapport in interviews to help people feel comfortable sharing knowledge with me.

What I am most thankful for is the Chronicle hiring me despite not having a prior background in journalism. I told the team about my passion for writing, and they gave me a chance.

Success is not about having the right connections as an applicant or having impressive credentials—it comes from the publications that are willing to bring in a novice and nurture and invest in them as an asset.

Through Curtis Lawrence, the Chronicle’s academic adviser, I was introduced to Columbia’s chapter of The National Association of Black Journalists. The opportunity to connect with other Black journalists made me feel less like a minority because I knew other people who looked like me were seeing the world like I was, and we were able to speak out about it.

Aside from Columbia’s chapter, I was able to engage with the NABJ-Chicago chapter. A connection with Lawrence opened the door for me to write an article about a project seeking to map COVID-19 recovery in underserved neighborhoods and to network with other BIPOC journalists.

I will always be grateful to the Chronicle for cultivating me and believing in me enough to try different angles with my stories.