Amanda, time to share:
I was always interested in people and moved around a lot as a kid. So, meeting new people and exploring countries and cultures so different from my own was a regular thing for my family. I pretended to interview the Spice Girls and had Hanson posters on my wall when I was younger and started devouring autobiographies of my favorite musicians and writers after that. It seemed inevitable that I’d end up a journalist, now that I think about it. However, I still went into college thinking I’d be a neurosurgeon and studied on a biochemistry track for two years.
College isn’t cheap, so I always held a few jobs and internships. When I discovered journalism, I was working as a receptionist for the School of Earth and Space Exploration, volunteering at the literary journal Hayden’s Ferry Review and needed one more source of income to afford my regular eating/rent habit. That’s when I took a job as a copyeditor for Arizona State University’s The State Press and spent eight hours a night with journalists (many of whom have since moved East and have admirable careers!) in the basement of the Matthews Center. I realized then that I was among my people. After a semester of that, I started begging the administrators at the Walter Cronkite School to grant me overrides into journalism classes. I found a regular writing gig in my junior and seniors years for a local alternative publication in the Valley, and the rest is mapped out on my resume.
As the president of the Valley of the Sun chapter of SPJ, I am tasked with working with a phenomenal board of former SPJ presidents to create programming and educational outreach about the media industry. We host the annual Valley Publicity Summit (coming up on Sept. 19) that brings together public relations professionals and journalists to ensure the two industries are working in the most productive way possible. We also conduct an annual awards event for accomplishments that challenge the idea of what freedom of expression means or changes existing public policy. I’ve also hosted discussions with international journalists from Tajikistan and Egypt who want to know more about investigative reporting and First Amendment rights in the U.S. Moving forward, I would like to see more regular mixers for local journalists as well as informal panels with professionals who also hold down their own enterprises, have written books or are just overall inspiring individuals. Overall, I think my job is to be a cheerleader for journalism. We want journalists to feel supported. For instance, SPJ partners with the First Amendment Coalition to offer a legal hotline for journalists.
When not working, I like to follow my curiosity! Right now, that means making elaborate meals and desserts that require every dish in my kitchen is used. I just returned from a two-week trip through Eastern Europe, which was a life highlight, but day-trips are among my favorite way to spend a weekend. I can usually be found hiking, running, yoga-ing or doing something active. (I can also be found inactively bingeing on Netflix.) Occasionally, I review concerts for Phoenix New Times, which I consider my professional hobby. If you love to do it, it doesn’t feel like work, right?