Alumnae Spotlight showcases amazing Laurel women and the paths they have charted since graduation. Whether they are doctors, designers, artists, authors, scientists, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, or civic activists or volunteers, Laurel women inhabit nearly all careers and corners of the world helping to make it a better place. Our alumnae and the journeys that they have taken speak to the essence of a Laurel education and what makes this School and the community of women who call it their own distinctive. This space highlights their fascinating lives and the mountains they continue to move.
If you would like to be featured in our Alumnae Spotlight, or know of an alumna who might, please email Megan Findling.
February 2018 Alumnae Spotlight
Jennifer Beeson Gregory ’88 and Michael Chandler ’94
“I like having someone close by who has shared some of my experiences and knows what it’s like to be a Laurel girl,” says Jennifer Beeson Gregory ’88 of working with Michael Chandler ’94. The proud Green Team members work together at The Washington Post, where Michael is a reporter and Jenny is a photo editor. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree from Mills College before joining the Post in 2005. Jenny, who has worked at the Post for 20 years, is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and holds a master’s degree from George Washington University. This month we chat with them about the changing landscape of the media, the rise of the Internet and the role of reporters in today’s world.
Can you tell us about some favorite memories from your time at Laurel?
Jennifer Beeson Gregory (JBG): I’m not sure I can choose just one. The 1987 trip to the then Soviet Union was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I also really enjoyed our class trips to Toronto Sophomore year and then to look at colleges Junior year. I have fond memories of Mrs. Schenk leading us through the Senior play, The Skin of Our Teeth, and of Senior pound-down when it felt like we really came together as a class.
Laurel encouraged my curiosity to learn and gave me the courage and confidence to participate in glee club, the CCIS musicals, and yearbook and then to try new things in the years to follow. The support of Laurel’s teachers was (and is) instrumental in laying a solid foundation for the students, as well as providing opportunities for participation and leadership.
Michael Chandler (MC): Summer theater with Rosaneil Schenk, singing show tunes in Middle School choir, acting goofy in the homerooms every year!
What were your interests when you were a student at Laurel? How did you first become curious about journalism/photography?
JBG: I first became curious about photography in Eighth Grade (before coming to Laurel). I inherited some old cameras from my great aunt and joined the photo club to learn how to use them. I was interested in art (including photography), history and Latin at Laurel. At the time I had to choose between AP Art History and Fine Art/Photography classes. Art History won 😊. In grad school, I had a renewed interest in photography when I took a history of photography class which led to studio/darkroom classes.
MC: I definitely enjoyed my English classes and writing. I did not get interested in journalism until after college, when I was trying to find a way to write for a living.
What do you see as the most valuable role of the reporters/photographers in today’s world?
JBG: All journalists are truth-seekers.
MC: Reporters "write the first draft of history,” as the saying goes. The reporters I know take that responsibility very seriously, and we work very hard to be accurate and fair.
How has the changing landscape of the media affected The Washington Post? Has it altered the way you do your jobs? Do you think the new film The Post starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks will have any sort of impact?
JBG: The Washington Post has changed a great deal since I started as an editorial assistant in 1998. So many of the older generation of “typical newspapermen” have left or retired. The newsroom has a lot of young people who have grown up with the Internet. Technology has been the driving force for the changes—it’s become a media company, not just a newspaper. Also, the Graham family’s selling of the paper to Jeff Bezos has led to the Post moving to a new hi-tech space and an increase in staff, which is unusual for newspapers these days. My role as a photo editor has changed immensely over the years. The biggest change is that I edit for all types of platforms, not solely for the print product.
I hope the film The Post has a positive impact. Mrs. Graham and Ben Bradlee were larger-than-life personalities to me and although while watching the movie it was hard to reconcile the characters Streep/Hanks played and the real-life people I knew, I liked the movie’s “we must publish the truth” and “women ARE leaders” messages. The film reminds us of the vital role the press has played in our country’s history. As our new Post t-shirt declares—“Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
MC: I think there is a lot of concern at The Washington Post about the rise of "fake news," both real and perceived. There are so many places on the Internet for people to find news and it seems that readers are increasingly partisan in their news consumption habits.
The approach to the work at The Washington Post has not changed: reporters strive to be skeptical, report facts, double check them and be fair.
It's nice to have a major movie showing the news business in a positive light. The Post illustrated an important piece of history along with the importance of publishing news that’s in the public interest and not in the interests of those who are powerful or personal friends.
With the rise of the Internet, consumers today get their news in a very different way than when you were in school. How have you adapted professionally? What do you see as the future of journalism/photography?
JBG: It’s weird to think that there was no Internet, email or even home computers when I was in high school. If I don’t constantly learn the latest programs and apps I cannot do my job, so the changing ways of communication have provided me with many opportunities for professional and personal growth.
I see the future of photojournalism as an uncertain one. News is everywhere. Access to images of breaking news events is constant. The quality of imagery seems to be becoming less important. There’s a person capturing the scene on his or her phone faster than a photo editor can send a photographer there. Essentially, the nature of photojournalism will have to adapt to these changing conditions.
MC: When I first started working at the Post in 2005, most of the focus was on meeting the needs of the print newspaper, writing stories for a local section, pitching stories for the front page. Now everything we write is for the web, and it's more of an afterthought whether the stories run in print. Some of the fastest growing parts of the newspaper focus on promoting and packaging stories online and creating video or audio content for the web site.
What would you tell a current student interested in pursuing a career in your field? What skills make for a successful journalist/photojournalist and what challenges should they be prepared to face?
JBG: I didn’t set out to become a photo editor; in fact, I planned to become an art curator. Twenty or thirty years ago, one could work at a newspaper without going to school for journalism. In fact, my first boss was a lawyer by training. That’s not the case these days. Go to school, get an advanced degree in photojournalism if you can.
Being a photojournalist means not only being creative and having a good eye, but also being very organized. You also need good people skills. Without them, you won’t likely get access to or be trusted to photograph difficult or challenging subjects. Be prepared to go to war-torn countries. Be prepared to separate yourself from heart-breaking events unfolding before you.
If you would like to be specifically a photo editor, you will need the same foundation as a photojournalist, though your war-torn country might be a newsroom!
MC: There are lots of opportunities in journalism. You will get a job! It probably won't pay well. Be flexible. Be curious. Be brave enough take risks and do hard stories that at first you may find intimidating.
What is it like to work with another Laurel alum?
JBG: I remember Michael as an extra in Oklahoma!, which was the spring musical at Laurel in 1988. She was about 12 years old. I like having someone close by who has shared some of my experiences and knows what is like to be a Laurel girl.
MC: I love working with Jenny—it’s so nice to connect with someone as an adult who comes from the same place that you do.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
JBG: I love to paint. But these days, I rarely have time, so I settle for sitting down with a coloring book! I also like to read, mostly art crime novels.
MC: I have two small children—so not a lot of spare time!
How do you stay connected to Laurel School today?
JBG: I am blessed with close Laurel friends, whom I hope to see at reunion!
MC: I came back to Laurel for our 20th reunion at Alumnae Weekend a few years ago. It was great to see old friends and also fun to be there with my mom, Rebecca Chandler, who is a former teacher at Laurel.
How do you think your time at Laurel influenced the years since graduation?
JBG: My time at Laurel influenced my choice of going to a women’s college, which intensified my appreciation for single-sex education, as well as my commitment to the empowerment of women. Also, if not for my AP Art History class at the Cleveland Museum of Art Senior year, I would not have discovered my love of art history and therefore, would not have gone to grad school in Washington, DC, and ultimately found my way to the Post.
MC: I got a great education at Laurel and I learned how to write. Thank you for that! Also, my time at Laurel helped me think of myself as a serious student and someone who was interested in doing ambitious things.