David Beard says he can remember sitting in high school English class reading books like “To Kill A Mockingbird” and thinking, “Scout can really come up with good stories from her little patch of land. Maybe my world has stories, too, and I should start checking them out and writing about them.” Like that, the seed was planted. Beard wanted to write.
Beard spent his time at Medill surrounded by motivated peers. “The professors had high standards, but the students had even higher standards,” he remembers. “I was astounded by what other students were accomplishing. They pushed me to do better work.”
That motivation to do good work – and to always strive to improve and innovate – is something that has stuck with Beard throughout his career. After several years at The Boston Globe, a gig at the National Journal and a few years at The Washington Post, Beard now works as an executive editor at Public Radio International.
In his current role, Beard relishes the demographics of the PRI audience.
“The average age of a PRI reader is 34 or 35, and at the Post it was deep into the 50s or even 60s,” he says. “All of a sudden, I was able to gain 20 years of life in readership.”
This younger readership – coupled with the largely millennial staff at PRI – has encouraged him to think about the next phase of journalism.
“I think it’s almost like a step beyond accountability journalism,” Beard says. “You’ve managed to identify a wrong, but what’s the right? You take it to the next level by saying, ‘I’m no expert, but here are some things that seem to be working in other places to address this problem."