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International Newsweek journalist speaks

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Melinda Henneberg, a journalist for Newsweek Magazine and a 1980 Notre Dame graduate, spoke of her experiences as a journalist Monday in the first of a series of events scheduled for International Education Week.

Henneberg stressed that students interested in journalism should not be discouraged by unsupportive parents or declining readership at major newspapers.

“If you are drawn to this, that is who you are,” Henneberg said. “My father wanted me to be an accountant, but I would be the worst accountant. I’m a words person.”

Even as a toddler, Henneberg was certain journalism was her calling. A Pulitzer Prize winner for her work with Newsday, Henneberg is now involved with political profiling at Newsweek – where she writes in-depth stories on prominent politicians.

“Political profiling is a challenge, but usually you end up liking the people. We are not focused on the flaws of each person, but instead who they are. Most [politicians] are hardworking and truly believe in what they are doing,” she said. “[Political profiling] is more complicated than people realize. Sometimes I agree with the political stances of politicians but think they are a misery, and other times I disagree with them but find the person to be a delight.”

Henneberg said successful journalists have a broad range of knowledge about a variety of subjects.

“Learn all you can about government, history and literature,” she said. “The actual mechanics of journalism will take care of themselves.”

Henneberg acknowledged reporting may be slightly different today than it was years ago.

“It’s a scary time for reporters with ad revenue and reader confidence down,” she said.

However, Henneberg remains devoted to journalism despite studies saying only 44 percent of readers believe what they read in newspapers is accurate.

“I’m not worried how things will shake out because people will always be interested in what is going on in the world. There will always be a need for people who can write.”

Henneberg has traveled the world during her work as a journalist – covering such stories as the election of Pope Benedict XVI in the spring of 2005 – and said being a female made no difference in her personal success.

“It’s a very competitive business, but I have never been challenged or rewarded solely because I am a woman,” she said.

After her speech, Henneberg fielded questions from the audience and provided tips for success in the industry.

“Don’t make friends with your sources,” she said. “Every reporter needs an editor. Internships are very important. Don’t be upset when rejected from jobs, keep trying because persistence will show you are serious. It’s been a great ride, and I would do it again in a minute.”

Henneberg was an American Studies major at Notre Dame and a member of ROTC. She interned for the European Commission in Belgium and has worked for such publications as the Dallas News, New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Toronto Star and Kenyon Standard.