Alumnae journalists offer career advice to students

The panel featured accomplished reporters as part of Exeter's celebration of 50 years of coeducation. 

Adam Loyd
December 23, 2020
Panelists from Exeter's journalism career interest talk

Moderator Anne Brandes ’21 (top left) and panelists Laurie Hays ’75 (top right), Devi Lockwood ’10 (bottom right) and Stephanie Clifford ’96.

At the start of the winter term, Exeter students gathered virtually to hear from a distinguished group of alumnae journalists about life in the news business and how Exeter shaped their career paths.

The panel included Stephanie Clifford ’96, novelist and journalist at The New York Times; Laurie Hays ’75, managing director at Edelman and longtime journalist at The Wall Street Journal; and Devi Lockwood ’10, technology and culture reporter at Rest of World.

Moderator Anne Brandes ’21 led the discussion, posing questions to the women about how they got started in the industry and what role their time at the Academy played in their career trajectory.   

For Hays, coming of age during the Watergate scandal fostered an acute sense of right and wrong. She saw journalism as way to uncover truth and expose wrongdoing.

“I believed that journalism could change the world,” she said. “So, my mission in life was to uncover people doing bad things.”

As a student at Exeter, Hays was chosen by her peers to be the editor of The Exonian — the first girl to lead the newspaper in its nearly 100-year existence.

“It was so much fun to think about what the newspaper should say every day,” she said. “It set me on a path of just feeling like, if I was able to do that, I could pretty much do anything.”

Clifford’s story also began in the cozy confines of The Exonian newsroom and like Hays, she credits that experience with shaping her future.

“I fell in love with journalism there,” she said. “It was the best education of my life — it was so hard — I learned how to work, I learned how to hit deadlines in a way that I think a lot of people never have to.”

Lockwood says she came into journalism “sideways” as it was only after college that she discovered her passion for reporting. She credits the tenants of a Harkness education for her ability to be successful at her job.

“It was a process of learning how to speak up and learning how to figure out my own opinion and my own voice on various topics, but also absorbing other people's.”

Lockwood put her skills into practice as she traveled by bike along the Mississippi River from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico talking to locals and documenting the effects of climate change as part of her 1001 Stories project. In telling the students about the challenges of securing funding for her project, Lockwood imparted a valuable lesson.

“I got good at applying for these grants and I got a ton of rejections. That's just part of it, but then you only need one ‘yes,’” she said.

Clifford relayed an additional piece of advice she received from her dad to students pondering a life in journalism or any other field.

“When I was young, he said, ‘In order to be happy with work, you have to find something you love to do, and then figure out somebody who will pay you to do it.’”

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