Heart and Soul (Herbert and Mira Lowe)
The Samuel E. Cornish Memorial Lecture Conference for Minority Journalists of Faith The King’s College (New York City, NY
November 2, 2007)
Mira Lowe is editor in chief of JET magazine, the world’s No. 1 Black newsweekly, at Johnson Publishing Co. in Chicago. As editor, she oversees all aspects of the magazine’s editorial content, staffing and evolving direction on both print and digital platforms. First published in 1951, JET boasts more than 9 million weekly readers.
Mira is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of management, editing and production experience.
Prior to joining Johnson Publishing in 2007, Mira was the associate editor for recruitment at Newsday, on Long Island, New York, where her responsibilities included recruitment and hiring; staff development and training; and directing internship programs. She was the director of the paper’s Minority Editorial Training Program (METPRO), which trained journalists of color interested in pursuing an editing career.
She also oversaw LI Life, a Sunday lifestyle section, in which she brought fresh inspiration to one of the paper's most popular features. Mira joined Newsday in 1989 as a copy editor and over the years became a supervisory editor on the news, business and features desks.
She has taught journalism courses at Columbia University and York College in New York, and has been a guest speaker on diversity and recruitment issues at various colleges and conferences.
A member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Mira served as the copy editor of the acclaimed “Committed to the Cause: Salute to NABJ’s Presidents,” a 44-page book detailing the association’s first 25 years; national Special Honors and Awards chairwoman; NABJ Stylebook committee member, and 30th Anniversary chairwoman.
She also was vice president for Dreams Into Action, a nationally recognized nonprofit mentoring group for teenage girls in New York.
Mira graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in Television and Radio and from Columbia with a M.S. in Journalism.
Herbert Lowe is senior writer/editor for the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and principal of Aim High Media, a communications firm based in Chicago. He served as director of communications for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation from 2007 to 2009. In 2003, Lowe was elected to a two-year term as president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the nation's oldest and largest organization for journalists of color. His 22-year journalism career includes stints at Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Virginian-Pilot, The Record (N.J.), The Press of Atlantic City, The Milwaukee Community Journal and Amateur Sports magazine. A native of Camden, N.J., and a past adjunct professor at Norfolk State University, he graduated with a B.A. from Marquette University in 1984, and was named 2009 Communicator of the Year by Marquette's J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication.
A MARRIAGE OF LOVE, FAITH AND JOURNALISM
By Herbert Lowe and Mira Lowe
HERB: When Bob Case e-mailed me asking if Mira and I would stand here tonight to discuss marriage, journalism and faith, I quickly wrote back saying he should find someone much more qualified. Mira and I have been married only eight years. We should be sitting with you, with our pencils and paper, taking notes from someone much more expert.
MIRA: As you can see, Bob held firm and we are honored to be here. We are also very grateful. For in preparing our lecture, Herb and I have been forced to reflect on the basic aspects of our courtship, our relationship, our marriage and our future. As they say, reflection is always good for the soul.
HERB: Yes, but what’s good for the soul is not always good for the public. Tell me, how do you give a revealing and substantive lecture about marriage without putting all your business out in the street?
MIRA: Oh please, you’re always putting our business out in the street!
HERB: Not true! Not true! I’m plenty happy without the spotlight.
MIRA: We also had something else to consider. As we know, this isn’t your ordinary conference. Bob, the organizers and sponsors want us all to be “encouraged and challenged to integrate our Christian faith and journalism practice in a fashion appropriate for today’s mainstream newsrooms.”
HERB: We’ve read the first two Samuel E. Cornish lectures, by Karima A. Haynes and John W. Fountain. They were both awesome. They were heavy on encouraging and challenging attendees to be “mightier than the sword” – full of evangelism in a way that I, for one, can only marvel. If you haven’t already, we urge you to read their monographs.
MIRA: Herb and I believe in the sovereign power of God; we study the Word; we strive to abide by the Ten Commandments; and we long ago accepted that Jesus is the Son of God, who died so that our souls may be saved.
HERB: Thankfully, though, Bob has assured us that he’s not expecting an altar call. So we will share our experiences and thoughts about love and journalism – and hopefully they will help you tonight and in the future.
MIRA: You will hear a lot tonight about choices and consequences. Proverbs 16:3 teaches us to “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Every time we have been faced with an important decision, we have prayed about it. And for me, at least, I would always know it was a good decision when I had peace about it. Prayer brings peace.
HERB: Romans 12:10 teaches us to “be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” If nothing else, we hope that we impress upon you tonight that – just as in journalism, every reporter, photographer, editor, editorial assistant, graphic artist, anchor, producer must depend on each other to tell the best stories – in marriage the story is never going to end right if you don’t put the marriage first.
MIRA: OK, so let’s get to what we want to share with you. We hope to do this in three parts: Frequently Asked Questions, Part I; Frequently Asked Questions, Part II; and Choices and Consequences. Afterward, we’ll be happy to take your questions. So let’s get started.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, PART I
MIRA: At the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Las Vegas in August, Herb and I were in our hotel room together, sitting quietly, alone with our own thoughts. We realized that we were thinking about the same thing: So many people were worried about our new commuter marriage.
HERB: That’s Mira being polite. What she always asks me was, “Why are they all in our business?” Here’s what folks want to know: “How often do you see each other?” “How is the commute?” “Is [insert spouse name here] in town this weekend?” “How long are you two going to live this way?”
MIRA: Bob and others have described us as a trophy couple or a power couple. But we don’t see ourselves that way at all. We see ourselves as a regular, ordinary twosome. I believe that helps keeps us grounded. Yet, to my chagrin, there’s no denying that our marriage is often quite public.
HERB: Don’t get us wrong. It is much better to be loved than to not be loved. And we know that, for the most part, all this interest means that we are loved. But it still means we must strive to balance privacy versus publicity. People have a vested interest in our marriage – or at least that’s the way many act – and so we don’t want to disappoint them.
MIRA: But more than that, we don’t want to let down each other. We have invested a lot of ourselves into this union. We have been brought together by God to take care of one another, and we can help make a difference in this crazy, mixed-up world. Plus, Herb made me promise that I had to give him 50 years before I even think about leaving him!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, PART II
HERB: In preparing for this occasion, we reached out to Kimberly Collins, the institute’s deputy director, and to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for working so hard to make sure all is well here this weekend.
MIRA: I sent Kim an e-mail asking what questions students/young journalists here at the institute most want to know about journalism, careers and relationships. Kim sent back a few sample questions, and she made a point to say they usually come from female students:
HERB: 1) How do you balance the needs of your spouse/family with the needs of your editor? 2) How do you weigh the importance of a promotion against the needs or job of your spouse?”
MIRA: 3) How do you decide the issue of children in a marriage of two professional journalists? And how do you decide who, if anyone, stays home to raise the children? 4) How do you avoid situations that might lead to complications in a marriage of professional journalists? 5) How are marriage (couple) decisions made when the husband and wife work in different cities for different companies with different mission statements?
HERB: Excellent questions, ladies. Why is it always that women are the ones said to be thinking of marriage and family? Like men don’t care? I, for one, know that is not the case and so men, I got your back tonight.
MIRA: Can we get to the questions, please?
HERB: Yes, dear.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE NEEDS OF YOUR SPOUSE AND FAMILY WITH THE NEEDS OF YOUR EDITOR?
MIRA: Your spouse and family always come first. That is often easier said than done. The demands of a journalism career – long days, late nights, weekend and holiday shifts, last-minute assignments and calls from editors or colleagues – they all can take their toll on a relationship or marriage.
HERB: To make it work, you must be creative, flexible and focused. Find ways to get the job done and set time aside at home for your spouse or loved one. Go in early so you can leave early or at least on time. Cover a co-worker’s shift so that you can get another day off in return. Time management is critical and having a supportive partner is key.
MIRA: Early on, Herb worked days, I worked evenings, so we spent little time together during the week. We spent a lot of time on the phone and saw each other on weekends. After we got married, our schedules didn’t change that much. We figured out how to spend quality time together and get basic things done. Sometimes things just didn’t get done.
HERB: Why are you looking at me when you say, “Sometimes things just didn’t get done?” Seriously, I couldn’t agree more. Not having comparable schedules can put a strain on a relationship, and so you have to ask, “What are the needs and expectations for the relationship?” Even after eight years of marriage, Mira and I are still figuring it out because our professional and personal lives are constantly developing.
HOW DO YOU WEIGH THE IMPORTANCE OF A PROMOTION AGAINST THE NEEDS OR JOB OF YOUR SPOUSE?
MIRA: I Peter 5: 5-6 teaches us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” We believe that whether it is at work, or in community service: All promotion comes from God, so we must aim to represent Him and goodness in all that we do and say.
HERB: James 4:10 teaches us to “humble yourselves before the Lord and He will promote you.” And the question at hand mandates plenty of humility.
MIRA: When it comes to a promotion and job changes, a couple must talk things through. What are your goals? What are you looking to accomplish? What makes sense? Usually with promotion comes more responsibility. Can the relationship withstand the added demands? Will there be regrets if you pass on the promotion? In some cases, you or your spouse will have to give up something in exchange for advancement. What will that be?
HERB: We first dealt with these issues when we got engaged. We were working different shifts, me at The Philadelphia Inquirer; she was at Newsday on Long Island. Where would we live after the wedding? We seriously considered living half way between the island and South Jersey.
MIRA: OK, that wasn’t going to work. Should I leave my paper, possibly journalism, and move to New Jersey? Herb’s paper had a nepotism policy at the time, so I couldn’t work there. At my job – I was then an assistant news editor – I was slowly moving up the management ladder, gaining seniority, visibility and responsibility.
HERB: She was going places! That’s why I married her.
MIRA: Anyway! Did I want to give all that up and start from scratch somewhere else? After talking to both of our employers, it became clear that my paper didn’t want to lose me, plus they offered Herb a job in the Queens bureau. After much discussion, we decided that my future looked brighter at my paper, so he resigned from his to join me in New York.
HERB: That’s one point of view. Here’s another. Gentlemen – and I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know – it’s a new day. A new generation. Let’s say things didn’t work out exactly as I planned. And that’s because we didn’t do any planning. Honestly, before I proposed, Mira and I didn’t talk much about marriage and what might or would come afterward.
MIRA: As a matter of fact, our presentation here tonight will roughly rival the amount of time of our formal premarital counseling. Not wise. We wholeheartedly advise you to get plenty of premarital counseling so that you can talk about stuff, all kinds of stuff, so both sides know what’s what.
HERB: Like I was saying, how we merged our lives was not as simple and easy as Mira made it sound a couple of moments ago.
MIRA: I said there was much discussion!
HERB: When I got down on one knee and proposed to Mira in the middle of a street, on a small two-lane bridge over I-95, with tractor trailers whizzing underneath just yards from her parents’ home in rural North Carolina … well, maybe I should have gotten things down in writing before I got up. Would she change her last name? Where would we live? Who would give up whose job? How many children would we have? Would we have children? When would we have children? Who would stay home and watch them?
MIRA: Let’s not forget our respective professional and community activities. Proximity to our relatives and lifelong friends. Where would we worship?
HERB: What about my season tickets to the Philadelphia 76ers? I had spent more than a decade working in different states, just to get back home to South Jersey and my hometown newspaper – and now here I was having to move again. But no sacrifice was greater than not being with the Lovely Mira Thomas – that was what everyone called her – and so yes, we agreed, after much discussion, that her future promise at Newsday, versus the same opportunities for her two hours south, mandated that I move to New York.
MIRA: Remember what you said about NABJ.
HERB: That’s right. At the time, given that Mira had lived and worked most of her life in New York, most of her friendships and civic activities were there, and maybe ran the risk of lapsing if she moved away. On the other hand, because I had lived and worked in several states and had made friendships through my service in a national organization, I concluded that my life would be far less uprooted if I moved.
MIRA: The point is it’s not always just about the J-O-B or his career or her career. You and your intended must consider all aspects of your life, including the impact on you both from the office. And don’t be surprised if, in this global economy, especially in this topsy-turvy industry, you don’t find yourselves having to consider these things more than once.
HERB: Since 1999 (the year we got married), we’ve had many serious talks about possible promotions and or taking a job outside the industry, and or taking the buyout versus not taking the buyout – but each time we’ve asked ourselves what would be beneficial for the two of us, now and in the future.
MIRA: Earlier this year, incredible job opportunities for each of us came within weeks of each other. I was approached to become an assistant managing editor at Johnson Publishing Co. We quickly set our sights on moving to Chicago, making a new start in the Midwest, finally getting to buy our first home, while I went to work for the venerable Ebony and Jet.
HERB: Soon my phone soon rang and here was this opportunity as communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C. Two great jobs but in two separate cities. This time, you can be sure, we talked a great deal about what we should and would do. We talked about what it would mean if I moved to Chicago and looked for a job there; what that would be like if my job search was unsuccessful at the same time Mira was making an impact in her new fantastic job. And we talked with some really smart people who gave us incredible support.
MIRA: We believe that God places angels in our lives to help guide us through those difficult or important times. We have been blessed with many angels, some married, some not, most in journalism, some not – all of whom are secure in their own lives and faith to tell us what we need to hear, not just what we might want to hear.
HERB: Pay attention to these angels. They are invaluable.
MIRA: In the end, our advisors helped us see that a commuter marriage, though unenviable or undesirable, would not be the worst thing. We also both want to grow professionally and personally and to be a part of something – Ebony, Jet, Congressional Black Caucus - bigger than ourselves. So in the long run, we believe, we hope, we pray, pursuing these opportunities will help us reach our long-term goals as Mr. & Mrs. Lowe.
HERB: Just to be clear, though, this arrangement is for the birds. It’s not fun. Not one bit. So be careful before diving into it. (More on that later.)
HOW DO YOU DECIDE THE ISSUE OF CHILDREN IN A MARRIAGE OF TWO PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS? AND HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO, IF ANYONE, STAYS HOME TO RAISE THE CHILDREN?
MIRA: Herb and I don’t have children. I think, in part, because we haven’t made the time, or better word – space – in our lives for children. Starting a family is not easy when both people are constantly on the go. Working couples have to have serious discussions and make conscious decisions about having a family, and when. Who stays at home? What’s best for the family unit, emotionally, financially, spiritually? Can you afford a nanny, babysitter, daycare? How much time will your job allow you to take off? Can either of you afford not to work and be a stay-at-home parent? I think we are in a better position now, financially, to raise children and it may be easier to manage now that our work hours are more stable. Our jobs are still demanding but at this level our bosses are more flexible and understanding as long as the work gets done. Now we just need to be in the same city!
HERB: We talked earlier about making sure to ask all the right questions before settling down, whether near or from afar. When it comes to starting a family, Mira just outlined excellent questions that all ought to be considered, whether you are both journalists or not. But I caution against stressing too much about having children. When do you ever have enough money to raise children? I believe children are a blessing from God. When it’s time to be blessed, you will be. I know a couple that sought their bundled blessing for nearly 25 years before it finally arrived. I’m still hopeful that our blessing is on its way.
HOW DO YOU AVOID SITUATIONS THAT MIGHT LEAD TO COMPLICATIONS IN A MARRIAGE OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS?
MIRA: By sharing with each other what’s going on. Being open and forthcoming. Avoid circumstances and people that are not in the best interest of you or your marriage. Reinforce you marital status to others. Talk about your spouse. Have photos on your desk. Invite your spouse to attend newsroom events to meet your colleagues. When people see you as a unit, complicated situations are often diminished. We are asked “Where is Mira?” or “Where is Herb?” when without the other. Family, friends and colleagues hold us accountable to each other as well as ourselves. And that’s a good thing. We have great trust in each other and don’t want to do anything to bring shame to the other – or to disappoint the other.
HERB: I couldn’t agree more with Mira. That’s good advice for any couple. But what’s it like to be a journalist married to another journalist? In many ways, it’s very helpful. Mira laid out the litany earlier: long days, late nights, weekend and holiday shifts, last-minute assignments, cancelled plans and inopportune calls from editors, bosses or colleagues. A journalist spouse hopefully understands. Sometimes, I think, perhaps too well. Take Sept. 11, 2001, for instance. I was down at Ground Zero from about 9:45 a.m. – but I didn’t hear from my wife until nearly 7 p.m., and she said she was calling to say my mother was losing her mind because she, my mother, hadn’t heard from me that day. I presume my dear wife didn’t call because she figured my name was on the news budget, so I must have been alive.
MIRA: WHATEVER! Seriously, it’s important to remember that as a married couple in journalism, it’s helpful to leave the work at work. As an editor or manager, for example, it was always interesting when my reporter husband would complain to me about an editor or an assignment and he’s looking for empathy, not a management pep talk.
HERB: What’s also interesting is when, during a disagreement, and my wife doesn’t answer a key question because the sentence did not end with a question mark? It’s then I become the “reporter” at home, struggling to ask the right question just to get the best quote. At the same time, as a reporter, I’m trained to ask the incisive question, the one that will draw the most emotion and, well, it’s not always good to be so good at home.
MIRA: Speaking of home, what about bringing work home? You know, the work you didn’t get to finish at the office as well as all the drama and trauma. Let me tell you, Herb loves to bring his work home – he’ll tell me everything that happened every second of his day – good, bad or indifferent. I, on the other hand, just like to give the highlights.
HERB: Make sure to spend time together, even if eating dinner while watching your favorite TV shows, before rushing to the computer to finish your work assignment. And figure out how much your partner cares about the who, what, where, when and why of your day. I’m not saying you have to have rules; just be mindful of not bringing him or her down.
MIRA: I couldn’t agree more.
HERB: Let me just say, before we move on, that for me, as a reporter, and as NABJ president, and even now as communications director, it has always been and continues to be a blessing to be married to the world’s best copy editor. Before meeting Mira, I didn’t have much time for copy editors. Now, rarely do I send out anything important that Mira hasn’t edited. On the flip side, however, she has made me rewrite things three or four times before letting me release them to the public. Take this lecture, for example ...
MIRA: Not true. Exaggerating – as usual.
HOW ARE MARRIAGE (COUPLE) DECISIONS MADE WHEN THE HUSBAND AND WIFE WORK IN DIFFERENT CITIES FOR DIFFERENT COMPANIES WITH DIFFERENT MISSION STATEMENTS?
HERB: Psalms 37:4 teaches us to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
MIRA: 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 teaches us that “love is patient … it keeps no record of wrongs … it always hopes, always perseveres.”
HERB: Working in different cities is weird enough. But working in the same city for companies with different mission statements would be even weirder. Mira and I work for organizations that want better circumstances for Black America. So we’re OK in that respect. But it wouldn’t surprise me if there is somebody working for the New York Post who’s married to someone working for The New York Times. We know of married couples working on opposite sides of the political spectrum. In such cases, it’s important to understand that no organization’s values should supplant or supersede yours as a human being, or a couple.
MIRA: Now, with respect to making decisions as a couple when living apart, well, in most respects, it’s no different than making them while living together. Our lives are reflections of our choices and all choices have consequences. When we consult each other and work as a team, I think, we make wiser choices. Just as with any relationship, married or not, saying what you mean and meaning what you say is also very important.
HERB: No argument there. But practically speaking, when you’re living in different time zones, it’s often a lot more complicated. At the very least, it requires a lot more discipline with respect to communication and planning. For example, getting to see each other a couple of times of month can mean planning and scheduling weeks in advance to get the best airfares.
MIRA: Communication, respect and inclusion are paramount. No major decisions, especially major purchases, are made without us discussing things together first, even if it means waiting until we’re actually together first – which is not always easy when there’s a sale! Still, Herb and I communicate via telephone, regular mail, overnight mail, e-mail and text messages; we also send lots of links to articles on newspaper and magazine Web sites.
HERB: This from a woman who when I first met her barely even sent e-mail; she complained she was on the computer all day at work and didn’t want to be on one at home.
MIRA: Oh, that was 10 years ago!
HERB: Now, she insists on having her own laptop … she’s always downloading music and her favorite TV shows off the ‘Net and … on top of that … she loves to flaunt her iPhone! … And let me tell you my favorite e-mail from my lovely wife, from her new job: Nice and neat. Only three lines: “Hope you’ve eaten today. Met Tom Joyner and Kelly Rowland today. The IKEA guys will be there on Saturday morning.” She’s always showing off.
MIRA: I just wanted him to know I was thinking about him. Anyway – technology should not replace personal touch. We make it a point to talk voice to voice, almost every day, whenever possible during the workday, and certainly at night. And now we’ve just discovered iChat! (That’s webcasting for those still not part of the Apple/Mac culture.)
HERB: And it costs so much less to talk to each other these days – most of you are too young to remember having huge monthly phone bills; I had some real doozies back in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, we’re able to watch together, even from different states, episodes of our favorite TV shows – particularly “24” on Fox and “Dancing With The Stars.”
MIRA: What we’re really talking about here is sharing. It really is just as simple as that. Just as journalism is about the sharing of news and information with our readers, viewers, listeners and visitors, marriage is about the sharing of two lives. The sharing of a joint commitment to God and each other. The sharing of values. The sharing of a friendship.
CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES
MIRA: OK, before we conclude, we would like to leave you with a few thoughts to tie all this together. Remember, as we said before, our lives are reflections of our choices and every choice has a consequence. When we consult each other and work as a team, we make wiser choices.
HERB: And it is no surprise that these words apply to the three areas of concern most relevant to us here tonight: Journalism, marriage and faith. All are noble endeavors. All require a moral compass. All are rooted in service. All are expressions of passion.
MIRA: Here are a few mandates that we believe will help anyone achieve success in journalism or marriage, and, in our case, even when those life choices converge: Put family first. Be creative. Be flexible. Be focused. Manage time, , , effectively. Be supportive. Be honest. Continue to grow. Communicate. Be open-minded. Be forthcoming. Be accountable. Keep your word. Treat each other with respect and love. Keep smiling. Keep laughing.
HERB: Sure, there will be challenges and missed opportunities. Being alone. Loneliness. Having no one else to rely on. Extra expenses. Not enough time. Unhealthy diet. But remember, each new day, each new assignment brings a new opportunity, a new blessing, a new chance for a promotion.
MIRA: OK, that’s pretty much it. Of course, it’s a lot easier telling someone what to do, how to live, than it is actually doing it.
HERB: Mira and I haven’t made all the right decisions. But we keep working on it each and every day. And we keep reaching out to our angels.
MIRA: We pray that God will continue to bless our marriage. We pray that our love for each other will continue to grow. We pray that we will continue to grow in knowledge and understanding. Grace and peace to you all.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
MIRA: Now we’re going to open this up for questions if there are any regarding commuting, regarding marriage, regarding journalism. Anything that you’d like to ask or talk about.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Herb, did you deal with jealousy or other challenging emotions while your wife was going on to a higher level in her career and places that maybe you didn’t want to go?
MIRA: I’m going to sum it up, for those who didn’t hear. Did Herb encounter or feel any jealousy when I got my promotion or job through Johnson Publishing? How was he able to deal with that and did he want to stay in New York when I decided to go to Chicago? So, as the wife or the woman in the relationship rises, elevates in their career, what’s the man’s perspective or reaction to that?
HERB: The first time I looked at her, I knew she was going places. Back then, she was a copy editor. And I would come up [to New York] and see her and she was the best-dressed copy editor I’d ever seen. She was going to work in a suit. So I knew that she was something special. One day, she called me and said, “I got promoted to news editor.” I didn’t know what that meant. But it was important to her, so it was important to me. And when we were talking about whether she’d come (to Philadelphia) or me go (to New York), she said her goal was to be the first black female assistant managing editor at Newsday. I told her that was a lofty goal but I said: “Just [focus on being] the assistant managing editor. Let that be it. It doesn’t have to be at Newsday. So through all the progression she’s now achieved her goal. She’s an assistant managing editor at Ebony and Jet.
MIRA: Herb has been unbelievable, one of the most supportive people in my life, when it comes to promotion and just moving forward. He’s my cheerleader. In this regard, there wasn’t any jealousy on his part. He was always behind everything. He was always saying, “Do it, do it, let’s do it and move forward.”
MALE SPEAKER: What do you fear? What are you afraid of?
MIRA: Fear? Well, you know, somebody asked us when we were thinking about doing this commuter thing, did we worry about anything, so I’m going to take it from that angle. I said that I did worry initially whether we would grow apart, because couples are couples for a reason. They live together, they play together, whatever. And so living in the two separate cities, I wasn’t quite sure, even knowing how strong our union is, how that was going to play out over the long haul. We’ve been able to manage that pretty well through constantly communicating with each other. Herb, any fears you have?
HERB: The one thing I am scared of, the biggest fear, is being forced to live without Mira. I fear who I would become if I’m not around with her.
MIRA: Good answer.
HERB: What I also fear is if we are both really, really successful with the jobs that we have now. Because the jobs as they are in a lot of respects mean that we have to be where we are. And I mean they’re apart. Johnson Publishing is in Chicago, and the sort of network, the second network that I’m building, is kind of based in D.C. So if I’m successful and opportunities present themselves, at some point as we continue to be successful, one of us is going to have to say no to an opportunity in order for us to be together again, that is to be together the way we’re supposed to be. And that I do fear.
MALE SPEAKER: So in those choices where it’s really difficult to make those choices, how would you recommend in terms of who has the final say? How do you decide?
HERB: The question as I understand it is when push comes to shove, whose way is it gonna be? It’s hard to say no to this woman, although she’d probably say I’m pretty good at it.
MIRA: I’m glad you said that. He doesn’t say no often.
HERB: When we got married I knew right then and there that my value as a man would be determined by how well I treated her. That is what people would remember me by. What I don’t want to happen is that my job is so great and her job is so great that we stay apart. So perhaps we need to find something to do that we both step back. Perhaps we both leave our [jobs] together and go do our own thing. And therefore, we both are in it together.
MIRA: We’ve talked about that down the line. And that could be an answer to your question. Once you have two people who are operating at a high level in their careers, maybe the answer is to do something together. Create something together that will allow you to be husband and wife, business partner, whatever. So that’s something we’ve been talking about. We don’t know what the “it” is. It’s just something that we’re thinking about as we grow professionally and personally. But when it comes to deciding, it really kind of depends on what’s happening in your life at the moment and what’s best for the relationship long term.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I was wondering where you guys went to school.
MIRA: I’m a Brooklyn girl, born in Brooklyn, went to Brooklyn College – undergraduate –and received my bachelor of science in communications, TV/radio. Went to Columbia University, got my master’s in journalism there. So that’s where I went to school.
HERB: I’m a graduate of Marquette University, double major in political science and journalism from the College of Journalism. I wanted to be a network television news anchorman. But I didn’t get my internships like I was supposed to, so that means everybody here, get your internships.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I don’t experience a lot of minority journalists, and I was wondering what kind of challenges do you guys have?
HERB: Come to the (NABJ) convention and you’ll experience a lot of minority journalists. UNITY is next year in Chicago.
MIRA: What are the challenges in being an African-American journalist in this industry? In a lot of newsrooms around the country we find that we are the only one, or maybe a handful of people of color in the newsroom. Beyond that, the challenges for journalists of color boil down to retention, promotion, opportunity.
HERB: Opportunities to succeed. But I would probably venture to say that journalism, mainstream journalism, in a lot of respects reflects corporate America. So whatever your mama taught you or your father taught you about growing up as you are in America, that’s in journalism as well. The opportunities for success come from hard work, things that we talked about here, demonstrating success, being flexible and willing to take opportunities, near or afar. Being able and willing to stand up and speak out and to just simply not take mediocrity, not accept mediocrity from yourself or from those who work with you or around you. The point is that we need people who are right-minded and who are seeking the truth to put themselves in newsrooms and make a difference and stay there and grow to levels of influence, to be able to make a difference so that everyone’s life matters.
MIRA: And also your challenge, too, is not to let someone beat you down when you start doubting yourself. Herb tells a story all the time about how he had an editor that told him he couldn’t write. Just not being instructive, or constructive, but just kind of--
FEMALE SPEAKER: Destructive.
MIRA: Yes. And so you have to figure out how to deal with that and not internalize it where it impacts your self-confidence and your productivity. And that means finding someone else who can be your mentor, a rabbi or whatever, who you can talk to or get advice from and not let that one person who may be blocking you steal your confidence.
FEMALE SPEAKER: My question is to your spiritual development and making the assumption that when you were both in New York, you worshiped and had a church affiliation. Now that you are in separate cities and are working hard to connect with each other, do you have a spiritual connection established?
MIRA: Good question. When we were living together in New York, we both attended Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. (Anybody from Christian Cultural Center? Yeah! I miss Pastor Bernard. But I get his podcast so that keeps me connected to him.) Before Herb joined me in New York, I kind of already knew about Christian Cultural Center and invited him to attend with me. And he fell in love with the church as well, so I joined and then he joined. So that’s how we have a church home. In this instance, I’m kind of scouting out churches in Chicago so that when he does come to Chicago, even when we visit we can go to church together and move forward. But it’s a real challenge when you’re living apart because you can’t really worship together in a place on Sunday, but you can worship apart quietly as we pray for each other.
HERB: Confession is good for the soul. I’m struggling being apart. I value our joint journey. So I haven’t really begun to look for churches, because my experience is it helps you get rooted and I’m not really trying to get rooted in D.C., although I love D.C.
MALE SPEAKER: Mira, you said you got your degree or your master’s degree in journalism at Columbia. Is that something you’d recommend for people going into journalism? Or would you recommend they get a degree in other fields?
MIRA: It depends on what you need. For me going to J-school was a bridge, because when I got out of Brooklyn College majoring in communications and TV and radio, I did not get into the journalism field right away. I ended up teaching, which is another joy and a passion of mine. So I ended up taking a detour and teaching, realizing that after I did that for a few years that I actually did want to concentrate more on journalism. So I used J-school as a bridge to help me do that. So that’s why Columbia was very helpful in letting me do that and opening doors from then on. J-school really depends on what you need and what you’re looking to do with it. If you feel that you need journalism school to help you hone the basics even more so than what you did maybe in undergraduate school, that may be a reason why you would go to journalism school. It’s not necessary to do that. Going and getting a graduate degree in something else, you could do that, too. It’s just depending on what your goal is and what you’re looking to do will determine whether it’s journalism school or law school or anything else. Going to journalism school for me was a door opener. So I found that beneficial for me and my career.
HERB: From my vantage point, the goal was to get into the newsroom. If you’re not in a newsroom now, from what I can see there are two ways, and both of them involve demonstrated success. That’s either going through a weekly and hoping you’re going that way. Also, hopeful that you get the attention and the exposure. Or going to a place where you can work on the campus newspaper or campus media where it then demonstrates success. So if the purpose is to get into a newsroom, then going to get a graduate degree to me would only make sense if you’re going to be able to demonstrate success. And that is through clips or tapes or whatever you’re getting into now.
MIRA: And just to follow up on that, experience is the only real key to open that door to a newsroom. As he said, speaking as a recruiter, the market is so competitive now that internships or working at a weekly or working at a college paper, or coming here and getting clips, that’s the only real way that people will be able to evaluate you and consider you seriously for a job in a newsroom. So getting as much writing experience, and as he says, demonstrated success, as in clips, is going to be what’s going to help you get that job or that internship, a fellowship, whatever.
MODERATOR: I know you two will answer questions all night long because you’ve done that before. But I want to spare you. So one question more.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I’m just looking around now, and are there many black male believers that are journalists?
HERB: That’s a good question, a fair question. I can tell you if you go to NABJ, at the Sunday morning gospel brunch, they’re all there. Journalists by nature are not ones that are expressive in that venture. But I can go to a church, I’ve gone to church, and have seen many of my colleagues there. Brothers. There are equally not a lot of Brothers in journalism. Mira worked at Mother Newsday most of her career. I’ve worked at various papers, worked my way up the ladder, and there are, e.g., Byron Pitts, or a lot of the gentlemen that come through here [at the institute]. For sure, 98 percent to 99 percent of people in NABJ grew up in the church experience. You’re going to hear from the two percent that didn’t, because that’s what they do. They want their differences to be known, and it’s a free country. We support that. But I’ve got to believe that there are a great number. Whether they choose to wear bumper stickers is another matter.