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Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81)

Sports Columnist, USA Today
Christine Brennan

Why did you choose Medill?

I spent many hours in high school researching journalism schools the only way you could back then -- by leafing through those massive college guides -- and a theme quickly emerged: Northwestern and Medill always popped up at the top of every list. What sealed it for me was a Time magazine story about top journalism schools. Here was this relatively small, incredibly prestigious J-school attached to the biggest and most interesting "lab" you could imagine: Chicago. Throw in the overall Northwestern education and Big Ten sports and it was a no-brainer for me. I applied early decision, got in and never looked back.

Why do you think Medill is unique?

Medill is practical. Medill is firmly entrenched in the 21st century. And Medill gets results. There's no journalism school in the nation (undergrad and grad) that's part of a better overall university than Medill is with Northwestern, which means you get the best of everything: a Medill education and a Northwestern degree. It's really extraordinary. One of the great things about Medill is that everyone gets to go on an internship through the Journalism Residency program, what we used to call Teaching Newspaper. Internships mean everything as you start looking for jobs, so with Medill, you're already at a huge advantage.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far? Are there skills or lessons you learned at Medill that you still use today?

Only every single day. When I'm researching or writing a column for USA Today, or on the set at CNN or ABC, something will pop into my head and, invariably, it will be a thought or tip or word of advice I heard from a professor at Medill. At the top of the list: the imperative to get things right and spell every name right. I check and re-read my columns four, five, six times over the course of an evening. You're only as good as your last column, your last TV appearance. That thinking comes from my Medill training. I have said this before and will say it again: Medill launched me into the adventure of a lifetime, and I never forget how that happened.

What advice do you have for someone who might be looking to pursue a degree in journalism?

Follow your heart and your passion. If you love writing, reading, asking questions and adventure, journalism is for you. These are interesting times for the journalism industry, and there's never been a more important time for good journalism in our nation than right now. Bottom line, if you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life. It sounds like a cliche, but it's true, and for me, it all began at Medill, in my classes, with my classmates and at The Daily Northwestern. When I realized I could turn my avocation into my vocation, I was on my way.

How have you tapped into the Medill network in your career?

All the time. I'm very involved with our students and recent grads as a Medill professor of practice and member of the NU board of trustees, and it's an honor to give back to the school and college that mean so much to me. Going way back, my classmate and dear friend Michael Wilbon brought a week's worth of my clips from my Miami Herald coverage of the 1983 Orange Bowl to the sports editor of The Washington Post and said, "Hire my friend." Eight months later, I was walking in the door at The Post. That is the essence of the wonderful Medill network.