Posted by StreetWise in Latest News
My first day as an intern at StreetWise was a whirlwind. Suzanne Hanney had been to a meeting about creating jobs, ending hunger or something to do with making the world a better place. She dropped a folder in front of me, gave me a list of numbers (Hanney seems to know every social worker and politician in the city), and said, “We’ll need this by Friday.” I had never interviewed a politician and I was on the phone with Congressman Danny Davis’ office my first day of work. I had never analyzed statistics coming from opposing parties before – again, the first day of my internship. My stress level was high enough that I lost sleep those first few days. By Friday, my editor-in-chief had taken what I thought was a lost cause and helped me report an informative and very readable article. Her confidence in me and her trial-by-fire leadership made me twice the journalist in a short amount of time.
I have told several fellow J-school students that StreetWise is the place to write about important subjects and create worthwhile clips. I only tell those who I feel are hard-working. The job at StreetWise is not easy. The magazine is better when its interns are dedicated. In a world where pop culture hogs media attention, it is refreshing to work in an environment where your leader works relentlessly to improve lives by printing socially conscious news in an honest manner.
Writing for StreetWise was an invaluable experience because of Suzanne’s energy she brought to the magazine and my work. She never hesitated to go the extra mile to help me improve my writing or photography skills–even if that meant staying late with me to edit on a Friday night or spending a Saturday at a conference teaching me hands-on photo skills.
Suzanne is an editor who ensures the articles in StreetWise inspire readers to actively engage in issues the stories address. The holistic journalism done under Suzanne’s direction represents responsible media for social justice.
The last story I wrote for StreetWise was about the Cornerstone Community Outreach (a community center in the neighborhood where StreetWise has its offices) throwing its annual back-to-school fundraiser. The assigned word count was 200 words, still making it by far the shortest story I wrote this summer. No story is unimportant, but the deadline for the story was approximately four hours after the event itself took place. Given that, it should mean something when I say that I would still be working on it today if it weren’t for Suzanne’s editing.
I could see the problem easily enough. I was trying to force the amount of information into it that would fit in a story twice the size. Suzanne both helped me cut it down, and made sure my writing did the story justice. Still, the most important point I learned from that editing session wasn’t technical. It sounds obvious, but she taught me that a story didn’t have to be long to get across the most important details. Eventually, it dropped close enough to the 200-word mark that we could rest easy. I still consider it one of the best things I wrote for StreetWise, and it never would have gotten done at all, let alone that well, without her.
If I think about it, most journalists have this kind of conversation several times a week. They write too much. Their editor deletes what doesn’t work. It wasn’t the first time I had a conversation like this, and I don’t expect it to be the last. At the same time, I will be surprised if I ever learn more during one than I did from Suzanne.
Since I began my internship at StreetWise, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a journalist and how to write a great story. Much of this I learned from my editor, Suzanne.
Her dedication to the magazine has inspired me to always finish a story as if it’s the most important thing I’ve written. No matter how late it is and how much work there is left to do, the details and the facts matter. Whether we are hunting down a picture of the grand marshal of the Disability Pride Parade or trying to verify that Harpo Studios is said to be haunted by victims of the 1915 Eastland disaster, it’s all important in writing a good story.
Equally as important as finishing a story right is having the confidence to begin the story in the first place. Suzanne doesn’t treat her interns as interns, but rather as real journalists. I was working on a story my first day on the job. If I had any doubts that I could do it, I didn’t have time to dwell on them. Suzanne gave me guidance when I needed it, but she let my story be my story, something any journalist can appreciate in a good editor and something that gave me the confidence to keep writing.
I’ve also come to realize that even when Suzanne isn’t trying to teach anything, I’m still learning. When the day is long and everyone’s focus seems to be lost, Suzanne is likely to break the stupor — often with a funny story about “Bird,” a friend’s pet. Not only am I learning about how pet birds tell their owners they are hot or hungry or confused, but I’m also learning about journalism. When my story seems long, boring and overloaded with information, a nice anecdote — whether about a bird or not — can keep a reader reading. I’m not likely to forget Bird or the lesson that came with it now.
Instead of getting coffee and making copies, like some journalism interns do, I’ve written publishable stories. Suzanne has turned my internship experience into a learning process, and I must say it’s been quite an enjoyable one at that.
There are certain people that come into your life; that the memories you share with them, outlive others in your mind. That’s how it is for Suzanne Hanney with me. I met her when applying for an internship with StreetWise Magazine and felt an instant connection. I wanted to learn more of what she had to offer and was eager to explore opportunities she offered to me.
Working under Suzanne for approximately two semesters as a reporter, taught me a side of journalism and life for that matter, which I carry with me. The insight that Suzanne sees into her stories and sources is real and is what mainstream journalism is lacking. Fearless in her reporting, Suzanne would talk to anyone, go anywhere and out of her way to discover a story, meet a source or discuss ideas. Nothing is off limits and anything is manageable in her book. A brilliant woman, who doesn’t seek enjoyment in our materialistic society but rather in the connections she makes with people and the subjects she offers to the public. Suzanne is the ideal Editor- In-Chief of not only a philanthropic magazine but also of an approach to people; it will be hard to work for any other Editor.
People come and go at StreetWise, but Suzanne Hanney has been a stabilizing force in the editorial operations for as long as I can remember. StreetWise newspaper is in good hands with Suzanne at the helm. She strongly believes in — and has never wavered from — the organization’s mission.
Beyond her professional acumen, Suzanne is a just a great human being. She is the Michael Jordan of weekly newspaper editors. Like the Chicago legend, Suzanne has grace, soundness, artistry and an improvisational ability that has served the organization well over the years.
President of the National Federation of Press Women
Suzanne has volunteered to serve on the 2011-2013 National Federation of Press Women leadership team as the assistant director of the annual NFPW Communications Contest and, starting in September, the contest director.
Her responsibilities include contacting the many professional judges needed for entries that include newspaper and magazine writing, photography and design; advertising; public relations; broadcasting; and books.
This is a critically important position for NFPW and its state affiliates because a communications contest that starts on the state level and allows first-place winners to compete for national awards is a vital membership recruiting tool for our organization.
Suzanne’s many contacts in higher education, publishing and many areas of professional communications have been valuable even before she joined the board as an appointed director. She had volunteered to help find judges for past contest directors.
As she continuously looks for timely issues to share with StreetWise’s wide audience of readers, Suzanne sometimes draws on her background as an agriculture reporter in Downstate Illinois to inform urban readers about food issues. A recent example was to explain that nutrition programs, including food stamps, are the major part of what is known as the federal farm bill.
She is genuinely interested in people from all walks of life and is dedicated to her journalistic career.
NFPW Professional Contest Director
She has served as assistant contest chair for the past two years. In that capacity, she has done an excellent job in helping enlist judges, especially through the Rural Institute of Journalism, based at the University of Kentucky. She helped me hand out awards at last year’s conference and will do so again this September at the conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is in line to become contest director. I find her to be highly intelligent, hard-working and enthusiastic, certainly an asset to NFPW.
President of Illinois Woman’s Press Association
Suzanne Hanney’s sleek blonde hair frames her bright face. It’s lit by her huge smile, with eyes wide behind the signature round glasses she wears. She is beaming as she collects an award for her writing during the 2012 Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. The story was published in two editions of StreetWise on youth homelessness and gambling. The magazine is something Suzanne is passionate about. This annual contest honors the talented professional writers who are members of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. A 128-year organization with deep Chicago roots it has had a roll call of stellar women skirting its history who have reached many great achievements during their lifetimes. Suzanne continues to follow in their well-traveled footsteps.
– Full testimonial at http://bit.ly/TOctnc