Success Stories

Alumna hones journalism skills

AJ Colley

Grand Valley alumna AJ Colley, a 2007 graduate of the School of Communications, is working as an education reporter with the Marion Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Indiana. But she also finds herself pitching in on the police beat and writing other community stories that need to be done.

“It’s a team effort to get the paper out,” she said.

Colley said her role overall is keeping an eye on local school districts and being a constant reminder to the community that education is important.

“They have made it a priority, and I'm making sure they stick to it,” Colley said.

The most challenging part of the job is getting to know the community, Colley said.

“Smaller communities like Marion seem hesitant to welcome new people with open arms,” she said. “My first week, I ran into many people who refused to comment. It's been a challenge to convince people that even though I'm a city girl from Chicago, I care about the community here.”

Colley said her dream job would be serving as a London correspondent for an American paper. She would ultimately love to live in London, but prefers the American print media, so it would be the best of both worlds.

“This new role is a starting point,” she said. “I can't report on a gigantic place like London until I've learned to report on a small town. I'm also a huge proponent of community journalism, so this job coincides with that completely.”

Colley said during her three years at the Lanthorn, Grand Valley's student run newspaper, she wore many hats, including managing editor and editor in chief.

“My favorite role was assistant editor, by far,” she said. “Although there were a lot of sleepless nights, it was the most rewarding position I had there. Our staff at the time was incredibly talented and a great group of people. I've seen some of those people already go on to do great things.”

Colley said the Lanthorn is a great place to learn a lot of different jobs in order to get an idea of what a student ultimately wants to do professionally.

“It also introduced me to some amazing people,” she said. “I've made great friends there and that in itself is a benefit, but it will be helpful for all of us to know each other when we're looking for jobs.”

Colley said her journalism classes at GVSU have taught her different ways to present a story, and her internships gave her the confidence to be able to walk into a seemingly foreign town and not be completely afraid.

“When they say you learn most of journalism in the newsroom, I'd agree to a point,” she said. “But if I would have walked into this newsroom four years ago, they never would have hired me. I think the university as a whole helped mold me into a confident person, one who cares about communities. It's that whole concept of a liberal education. I became a well-rounded person and leader, and that has helped me tremendously.”

by Matt Marn

This story was filed with the tags: Chicago, Communications, Impressive Jobs, Journalism, Undergraduate Alumni