The Philadelphia Inquirer
Adrienne Lu is a staff writer covering education at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
How do you spend your day?
A big part of my day is spent trying to figure out what to write about and what is newsworthy. I spend a lot of time taking in information: reading, interviewing people, or just calling people to talk. After that comes reporting a story: researching and interviewing sources. And then a smaller part of my day is spent actually writing the stories.
How were you introduced to journalism?
At Williams I worked at The Record. I never really thought I was going to do it as a career, but I loved it. I spent so much time there. And then it was time to graduate and I didn’t know what else I was going to do. I applied for a bunch of jobs and internships and wound up at an internship at Newsday in Long Island, which is where I grew up. And so I did that, and I loved it.
I then came to The Inquirer. At the time, they had a two-year internship program. All of us interns, about 50 of us, were working in the suburbs at lower pay than the regular staff. That was a lot of fun. We all worked there for two years, but then had to leave. But it was a good launching platform, a good place to learn how to do the job.
You eventually pursued a degree in public policy, not journalism. Why public policy? And how did it affect your career choices?
I guess getting a master’s in journalism was a possibility, but I felt like I wanted to specialize more. And at the time, I wasn’t sure if I would be returning to journalism. I thought it would be a good idea to have something else to fall back on in case journalism didn’t work out. Then, when I went to school, I found out I really missed writing. So I did all my internships in the field and eventually I returned to journalism. I just really missed the day?to?day of being in the newsroom.
What makes journalism a good fit for you?
I love being paid to ask questions and show my curiosity. Basically if I’m curious about something, I can pursue it as long as it falls within the range of things that are in my beat and I can sell it to my editor as something that our readers will find interesting.
I also think having the chance to remake yourself every few years is really interesting. You can always try to get a different beat—and usually you can. For example, my coworker here in the Trenton bureau recently left to take a position as a sports reporter. It’s something that he has wanted to try for his whole career and he had the chance to do it. If I wanted to write about the environment or health, I could do that and I would be using the skills that I have already, but also it’s a completely different area. I have a short attention span, so it’s nice to have options.
You are a new mom. How do balance your work and home life?
It’s really hard. My son is almost two. I took a four-month maternity leave, and when I was at home, I really missed being at work, and now when I’m at work, I really miss being with my son. But, I know that work is a part of who I am. It makes me happy, and it makes me a better mom. Even though I can’t be at work as much as I could before having my son, I do think being a mom makes me a better reporter. I can relate better to a lot of readers. Being a working mom also has also made me more efficient. There’s nothing like knowing I get to see my son at the end of the day to motivate me to get my stories done before deadline.
What about your academic experience at Williams prepared you for a career as a reporter?
What Williams taught me was how to think critically and process large amounts of information in order to distill what’s essential. I use those skills every day.
Advice for recent graduates interested in a journalism career