From Wheaton College to TIME Magazine: Elizabeth Dias’ Advice to Aspiring Journalists

“All journalists are insecure overachievers-learn how to make mistakes and own them. Your mistakes don’t define you.” This was one of many memorable phrases shared by TIME Magazine reporter Elizabeth Dias at Wheaton College’s Homecoming weekend 2013. The weekend marked her fifth year college reunion, and she came to campus as a guest of the Wheaton College journalism certificate program to teach a section of Wheaton’s intro to journalism class Friday. She also packed out a classroom on campus for a public forum later that afternoon.

Elizabeth Dias with students from COMM 215 at Wheaton College
Dias sharing with students at her alma mater (Wheaton ’08) about job skills and current opportunities in journalism

During her visit, she discussed stories she’s written for TIME over the years, including cover stories “The Rise of the Evangelicos” and “After Trayvon” and online stories including coverage of this year’s Catalyst conference and the Warrens’ son’s suicide.

When I picked her up from Chicago’s O’Hare airport Thursday evening, she had just gotten off the plane from Atlanta.

“I can’t believe it’s been five years since I graduated,” she said in between bites of spinach, pepperoni, and cheese deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. “If you would have told me when I was a senior that I’d be speaking on Wheaton’s campus five years later, I would have laughed at you. I was planning on spending my fifth-year reunion on a Caribbean island.”

Alas, it would have been nice to host a Wheaton journalism event in Barbados, but we were glad to host her on our Midwestern campus instead. Here are seven tips she shared with campus on landing a career in journalism:

  1. Figure out your own way.
  2. Think practically, and take risks.
  3. Find a mentor who can be present to you. Emotional and spiritual mentors are important, but professional ones are important too.
  4. Journalism is not about the $$$.
  5. Take another language: Spanish, Arabic, or Mandarin. Also do coding, video, and graphics!
  6. A tip on cold calling: don’t demand a lot of people’s time.
  7. Making mistakes is okay.

And, the question that intrigued me most from her public Q&A session Friday afternoon:

Q: “What do Evangelicals need to learn from your world at TIME Magazine?”

A: Don’t operate out of fear.

With that, I’m confident America’s religion news reporting is in good hands with Elizabeth at TIME.

Dias presenting at a public Q&A / forum at Wheaton College, Homecoming 2013


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