NY Times reporter shares insights with H-F’s journalism class

  Astead Herndon, a 2010 graduate of Homewood-
  Flossmoor High School, addresses a question for
  a student journalist. He will be a political reporter
  for the New York Times.
(Provided photo)
 
Journalism students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School had an up-and-coming journalism star in their midst when Astead Herndon, a New York Times reporter, sat for a question-and-answer session on Friday, April 20.
 
The 25 year old was laid back as he described his assent to one of the premier newspapers in the world, where on May 3 he is set to begin covering the 2018 midterm elections and prepare for the 2020 presidential election. 
 
The former Flossmoor resident told students the profession needs new, diverse voices to impact journalism locally and nationally and urged them to “have confidence in your perspective.”
 
For him, it all started when his mom, Myrna Herndon, encouraged him to write for H-F’s “Voyager” student newspaper.
 
His teacher, Glen Leyden, brought out copies of columns Herndon wrote, pointing to one that encouraged then President Barack Obama to recognize H-F as a multi-cultural school that is an academic standout.
 
“Working for the Voyager was my introduction into learning how journalism can be impactful and how journalism can be enjoyable too,” he said.
 
After graduating from H-F in 2010, Herndon went to Marquette University thinking he’d move into a profession in politics. He worked on political campaigns his freshman year and decided it wasn’t for him. He fell back on journalism and focused on sports. That didn’t work for him either, so he took a year off and joined AmeriCorps, teaching school in the Milwaukee inner city.
 
Herndon admits he took that step because he didn’t really have a direction for his life. That gap year helped him learn about himself and pointed him back into journalism. His teaching experience got him an internship with the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel covering education, then one with CNN in Atlanta.
 
When he graduated in 2015, he got hired at the Boston Globe. For a year, he covered crime. He told students it was one of the most difficult things he’s had to do. He found himself asking questions of people at the lowest points in their lives and many of their stories, like the father washing his son’s blood from the street, have stuck with him. 
 
While investigating a crime story, he was offered a $5,000 bribe. He refused the offer and  then investigated the person who offered him the money.

His next assignment was covering Boston’s city council and local politics. His proximity to New Hampshire got him a few assignments covering the 2016 presidential election. When Donald Trump won, the Boston Globe gave Herndon the White House beat.
 
He started the day after the inauguration covering the Women’s March. He has been in the daily press briefings and on occasion was a pool reporter called into the Oval Office.
 
“I have done the very difficult task of trying to get Donald Trump to answer questions,” he told the students.  “It’s so overwhelming to cut through some of the noise” of the Trump administration. 

Herndon called the work “so emotionally exhausting,” and it has led to a critique in the profession on how to cover the news. Herndon points out that it often requires factual corrections of Trump statements and challenges reporters on how to present subjects that are dividing readers, such as the white nationalist movement.
 
His advice to students: continue writing and be open to criticism, it will help you improve your work. And, keep reading. Herndon said he has learned from other writers both through their writing style and stories and their willingness to share their insights.
 
Journalism has many facets, he said. He told students he chose the written word because it allows for in-depth reporting “and I’ve always liked to write,” but he recognizes that journalism today can mean posts on social media, audio and video, as well as photojournalism. 
 

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