Letters Home: Jeremy Harlan

Jeremy Harlan is a photojournalist for CNN in Washington,
D.C. He graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism
in 1999 with a degree in broadcast journalism.
The following letter was submitted June 25, 2012

Dear ONA Mizzou,

Being #2 is for pencils.

I don't know if Greeley Kyle still has that line hanging somewhere in his office, but it's forever etched in my head. And today, as I write this letter back to you, it's the first thing that comes to mind as advice for Mizzou journalism students.

Sure, there are some anecdotal suggestions: don't drink the water on international assignments. Have an overnight bag sitting under your desk for breaking news.  Always carry a disc, mic, and battery on the plane to still do TV when the airline loses your gear.

But none of that's a concern if you don't have the drive and desire to WANT to be in those situations.

I know every single person in Mizzou's J-school has it in them to be the best. It's why we all chose to go to the top journalism school in the world. This faculty that sits in front of you during every lecture and lab will teach you the tools necessary for a rock-solid journalistic foundation. Know that these very basic and essential skills are not found in many folks working in local and network news organizations. You have an advantage straight out of the gate.

But, as soon as you walk that stage in May or December, the responsibility to build on the foundation and become a dynamic journalist lies squarely on your shoulders.

Our business is not a T-ball game. Not everyone gets to play equally. If you want a spot in the game, you have to go get it. You have to set yourself apart from your colleagues and your competition. When the proverbial news hits the fan, it's your name the news director, assignment editor, and/or executive producer should think of first.

How do you get to this position? You have to stick your neck out there and swing big. Do not think about the consequences of failing. Think of the gratification of succeeding. If it's 15 minutes until the top of the newscast and a big fire has erupted 10 minutes away, be the photog to yell at the desk that you'll have a live shot up for the top of the show. Be the producer ready to conduct the control room orchestra for election night coverage. Be the anchor to fill-in on the three-hour morning weekend show when everyone else winced at the request.

Step forward and do what others don't or can't. Will you always succeed? No chance. But your failures will make you better. And if you have confidence and rely on the tools taught to you at Mizzou and proceeding career stops, I promise you failures will be few and far between.

Confidence is essential for success in this business. And the hunger to be the best never ends. Everyday you have to outwork everyone. Never give an inch. Never give the news director a sliver of doubt on whom to send out for breaking news or big assignments.

Be the first and the best.

Don’t be the pencil.

Jeremy Harlan
BJ ’'99 Broadcast
Photojournalist at CNN in Washington, D.C.

Check out the rest of the Letters Home series

Editor's note: If you're a Mizzou journalism alum who would like to contribute to the Letters Home series, send us an email at onamizzou@gmail.com with your letter, your name, your sequence and graduation year, your current job and contact information.

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