As a reporter, you live in constant fear of the dreaded “scoop.”
You know something interesting? You tell folks immediately otherwise some other media outlet will.
Here, I’m having to learn how to not “scoop” myself. That’s the “strategist” part in my title “story specialist/strategist.”
(I had a funny conversation about that with a group of MU professors, by the way. It went something like:
Professor: What will your new title be?
Me: Story specialist and strategist.
Professor: A who?
Here’s the challenge. Every day, I’m interviewing people and learning all sorts of interesting things that I want to tell people about. The problem is we have a number of publications that go out at different times, so if I tell you now, it won’t be interesting when you get, say, the Spring 2013 edition of Beyond Stephens magazine.
That’s the “strategic” part of my new storytelling gig. And it’s why you don’t immediately see everything PR people do all day.
I did have an enjoyable conversation with an alumna this morning that I can share, though.
Nancy O’Brien, who was Nancy Johnson when she attended Stephens from 1947 to 1949, has a hilarious story about getting caught in an awkward situation involving Maude Adams—the famous actress who taught theatre at Stephens after retiring—and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Nancy was president of the student body when Mrs. Roosevelt was visiting campus, so she had the honor of riding to Kansas City with then Stephens President Homer Rainey to pick the First Lady up at the airport. On the ride back, Mrs. Roosevelt mentioned something about Adams, and a young Nancy could not resist telling the First Lady how much she loved taking Maude Adams’ theatrical speech class. She apparently went on and on until Mrs. Roosevelt asked her to give Ms. Adams her regards.
The respect apparently was not mutual. When Nancy – thinking she was delivering the most important message ever – gave Adams the First Lady’s regards, Adams wrapped her long brown coat around her, twirled around and said “Weeee are not of the same political persuasion.”
Nancy was mortified.
“I went from being about 5’2″ to about two inches tall,” she said.
The next day, in Mrs. Roosevelt’s nationally syndicated column, My Day, she wrote all about Nancy gushing to her about Adams. Thanks to the My Day Project, you can read the whole column about Roosevelt’s trip to Columbia here, but here’s an excerpt:
One of the girls told me last night with bated breath that she is taking a course with Maude Adams. I gasped, for my memories of Maude Adams go back many years. She was not a teacher in those days but a perfectly charming and delightful actress. No one who ever saw her in “Little Minister” or any other of the various plays that she appeared in will ever forget her charm and great ability. Evidently she is exerting this same charm over her students here.The young girl talking to me said, “It is extraordinary what depth and volume there is in her voice when she herself is such a little thing. She makes us appreciate the beauty of poetry and the value of diction.”
Adams apparently realized she hadn’t been very strategic with her response. Nancy later got a note from her apologizing for her initial reaction. Nancy still has the letter today.