Role: Senior Early Childhood Reporter, KPCC

1.   How do you describe yourself, Priska?

I’m 29, from Silver Spring, MD, now living in Los Angeles. I went to NYU, where I got a BA in Journalism and Linguistic Anthropology. I sing in a gospel choir and sometimes do the whole singer-songwriter thing with my guitar.

2.   How did you get to KPCC?

I just got a new job at KPCC: senior early childhood reporter. I cover issues facing kids zero to five and those who care for them.

Before that, I spent two years on another of the station’s highly specialized beats: arts education. Prior to that, I was at NPR as a producer with the late program Talk of the Nation and then at Weekend All Things Considered. I started at NPR as an intern for All Things Considered and hustled my way to temp and employee.

3.  How have you leveraged experiences you’ve had and connections you’ve made at the NABJ/NAHJ conferences?

I actually interned for NABJ the summer after college. At the convention, I popped into the radio session for student journalists and met NPR's Walter Ray Watson. When I finally got an internship at NPR (after applying twice before), I reconnected with Walter. That’s how I got my first temp job. You just never know!

4.   Why is Think. Public. Media. An important message?

I have wanted to be a journalist since I was a child, but radio — especially public radio — was not on my radar when I was growing up. I imagined being on network or cable TV. In college, I learned that TV wasn’t the right fit for me. If I hadn’t found public radio and its unique approach to storytelling, I may have given up on journalism altogether. It is so important that people in this field know that this is an option.

5.   What tips do you have for this year’s attendees at AAJA, NABJ, and EIJ?

Talk to people! Rather than focusing on sharing information about yourself, find someone who you admire or respect and ask sincere questions about their work. Share something about your authentic self. See where that leads. Networking may not yield instant results, but building connections can be amazing down the road.

6.   What’s the best professional decision you’ve ever made?

Getting to know people at work and building connections. I often wonder why journalists don’t apply the skills of their craft to their own professional development. In the same way that you’ve got to make yourself known and ask questions when you start on a new beat or start a position on a show, you need to do the same thing at work.

When I was intern at NPR, I made a list of people who I wanted to meet with. I’d ask to have coffee or to just steal a few moments of their time in their cubicle or office. The list included editors, producers, reporters and even Keith Woods, then the VP of diversity. I knew his secretary and got her to put me on his calendar. He met with me for like 20-30 minutes. We had a great conversation! He didn’t care that I was an intern. We’ve stayed in touch and he has been a great resource and reference as I’ve moved forward in my career.

Talk to people about their work, ask them questions and you’ll learn things, they’ll remember you and you never know where that could lead. If you carry this approach into your work as a full-time employee, it will spur collaboration in the newsroom.

What are your excuses? You’re nervous? Channel the same energy that allows you to cold call people. Don’t know what to talk about? Treat it like a pre-interview. Do your research, make conversation, keep it short. Everyone has headphones on? They will have to take them off eventually!

7.   What moment in your career are you most proud of?

When I was on the arts education beat, I started a series called Age of Expression, featuring teen artists talking about what they do and why. I wanted to give teens the chance to look ahead and share their dreams for the future. These are first-person, non-narrated pieces with young artists in a variety of fields. I’m proud of this because it put teens on the radio.

8.   What does your unique voice add to your media organization?

I’m out in the field a lot and I feel that as a black woman covering education, I access people and information in different ways. I may talk to different students or teachers. They may tell me different things. I ask different questions because of who I am. We all do. It’s not that one way is better or right, it’s just important that I’m on the team here — that my perspective is included in the storytelling of the newsroom.

Sometimes it can feel lonely (and awkward) being a young, black reporter in public radio. This doesn’t make me want to run away. It makes me want to stay, grow, learn and help make public media more reflective of the communities we cover. That’s one reason I like to attend NABJ and be there for prospective employees.

Follow Priska: @priskaneely