Clever Belle is excited to introduce you to Maggie Hendricks, a journalist who writes for USA Today Sports, and previously worked for Yahoo Sports and NBC Chicago. She has some wise words to share about stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing your passion despite obstacles. Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your inspiring message with us!
Interview with Maggie Hendricks:
Maggie, who in your life encouraged your love of writing, and how did they impact your desire to pursue journalism as a career?
I've been lucky enough to have supportive family, friends and teachers throughout my life, but one in particular stands out. My junior high language arts teacher, Mrs. Excell, taught me about the beauty of language, and I'll never forget when she wrote on a paper, "This is a draft. You could have done better." She was right, and I knew it. She helped me see what I was capable of, and that definitely led me to find a career where I could write.
As a journalist who covers sports, what is your favorite sport and why?
Getting to cover the Olympics and Chicago sports means I'm exposed to so many amazing sports, so picking one is so hard. But if I had to, it's gymnastics. It just amazes me how the sport grows so much every year because of how the athletes push themselves to innovate.
Did anyone ever discourage you from being a sports reporter or journalist? If so, how did you respond to that?
When I was trying to get into the journalism school at Missouri, where I went to college, a professor said "Maybe you're not a journalist" when I struggled in an introductory journalism class. I believed him and changed my major. It took me a long time to believe in myself enough to start writing again, but that writing did lead me to the jobs I have now.
Who is your role model and why?
Christine Brennan has been my role model since I first read her figure skating coverage in the early 90s. Her ability to get the story, and then to write it well, has always impressed me. Now working at USA Today, I have gotten to know she is kind, funny and incredibly supportive of women, which makes me want to be like her even more.
What is one challenge you had to overcome in your career? What did you learn?
Dealing with social media hate has been tough, especially when one television commentator called me a name Clever Belles would never use. Learning when to block and move on, and when to recognize fair criticism that's worth listening to, has been hard and I continue to work on it every day.
What do you love most about your job?
Being a journalist means I'm constantly asking how and why, and the best part of the job is how often people will answer me! I wanted to know more about how Hamilton was staged, so I wrote about it. I wanted to get to know people who are using sports to make Chicago a better place, so I wrote about it. I love that I get to do that.
Who is your favorite person you've interviewed and why?
Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic bronze medal-winning fencer who is also the first American woman to represent the U.S. wearing a hijab. She is so strong in her faith, and is also *incredibly* competitive and a top-notch athlete. She shows those two things aren't contradictory.
What's next for you and where do you want to take your career?
I want to continue writing features and talking about sports on the radio, because I have a really great job. In the future, I want to be combine my love of sports with some of my other passions, which include baking, cooking and history. Seems like it can't be done but I have some ideas.
Any words of advice for girls and young women who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism?
Say yes! Be willing to try jobs and situations outside of your comfort zone. You never know when you'll find a new passion.
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