OPINION: Crafting excellence: The long haul of becoming a professional

Erick Murrer, opinion columnist for the College Heights Herald

Erick Murrer


One of my favorite pastimes is tuning into “PBS NewsHour” every weeknight at 6 p.m. Unlike other outlets which are concerned about theatrics and ratings, the “NewsHour” features a crisp format covering an extensive lineup from the arts to politics. But even more enthralling are the newscasters, who perfectly remain engaged yet objective when interacting with interviewees.

As a loyal “NewsHour” viewer, I love learning about the personal backgrounds of these accomplished people whom I let virtually into my living room. I wonder how each news contributor got to be at the place they are. What starts off as a passive Google search to learn more about their work turns into invested reading about their life stories.

Known for her outstanding journalistic integrity, one of my favorite “NewsHour” personalities was the late Gwen Ifill, a former “NewsHour” co-anchor who passed away in November 2016. Born into a religious African Methodist Episcopal family, she was raised by her Barbados-born mother and Panamanian immigrant minister father. Ifill experienced racism early on in her college years while at an internship with the Boston Herald American in which a staffer gave her a note that called her a racial slur.

Speaking about the Boston Herald internship experience, Ifill exclaimed, “They didn’t know what a college-educated black woman was and they didn’t know how to treat me.” Ifill didn’t let the incident detract from her work or ability. In 1999, she became the first black woman to host a national TV political talk show. Truly, Ifill was a Washington mainstay embodying a rewarding career, having moderated U.S. presidential debates. It was an honor to watch Gwen on the news for so long. She is an inspiration for all.

I hope to channel that same tenacity and determination Ifill radiated, but I often falter in believing myself. Here I am, a 21-year-old with less than eight months to go before college graduation. What will I make of my life and how can I ever match up with such talent that has preceded me?

These are short-sighted questions to ask. A recurring theme I find after reading about the colorful lives of professionals is that they didn’t exactly know what the end game was. It takes years for individuals to build their skills to become the best.

Talented people do not passively wait for opportunities to come their way. Gwen Ifill quit her job after being told that she wasn’t prepared to cover Capitol Hill. Gwen knew what she was capable of: she pursued a position with the New York Times to report on the White House.

While I personally do not believe in destiny, I maintain that each opportunity has the potential to be a stepping-stone for something better. Immediate gratification is rare, and most things require arduous work. So cut yourself some slack if you’re not an award-winning journalist just yet. Your time will come with work and dedication.