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Calling the Shots

Carolina Leak, recent Nofer scholarship recipient, on moving from journalism to law

Lea en Español

by Cam Ellis

A week after graduating college, Caroline Leak was calling the shots. As a news producer for the NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama, Leak – born and raised only 90 minutes south in Birmingham – had landed the type of gig that post-graduate journalists dream about. It was the type of job that almost made nine-hour shifts starting at 10pm seem tolerable – a triumph as exhausting as it was impressive, especially considering that just a few years prior, Leak was studying business.

“My heart wasn’t really into business anyways,” she said. “I just did that as, like, the smart major to do. I didn’t like my business classes very much. I was already pretty open to something else.”

So when Leak crossed paths with Washington and Lee professor of journalism Toni Locy, change was an easy sell. Locy, who has an impressive collection of bylines that include The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Philadelphia Daily News, convinced Leak to give the profession a shot; and in a way that only a journalist could, she sold her on the romanticism of it all.

“She basically swooped in with all of her war stories,” Leak added. “And the glory days of covering the Washington, D.C. courts and working at The Boston Globe. She just has a crazy amount of stories where it really seemed like she lived life.”

That enthusiastic embrace of life’s challenges appealed to Leak, no stranger to adversity herself. By eight years old, she had already had cochlear implant surgery on her right ear – a decision that was by no means an easy one. Up until the first grade, both Leak and her parents had been content with her use of hearing aids – Leak was a good student, and the thought of purposely losing all of her residual hearing wasn’t exactly appealing. After some long conversations with her parents about the benefits and drawbacks of the procedure, they decided to go forward with the surgery. It wasn’t an overnight sensation – Leak still remembers how disappointed she felt after the activation session didn’t provide an immediate difference. Slowly and surely, however, her hearing improved. By the time she left for college, she had implants in both ears.

“I realized it was better the first time I heard a flag flapping in the breeze,” Leak said. “And I had never really heard a cat meowing.”

At her job, Leak was quickly promoted. There was, she admits, a trial-and-error period at first – “I kept a detailed list of all my mistakes and every single day after I came home I cried for a little bit,” she said. “And then, I don’t know, that list kept getting shorter and shorter and shorter.”  Within her first year, she was already a producer for the channel’s primetime nightly broadcast. However, life as a journalist isn’t always the romantic affair it’s made out to be; after a couple of years, nocturnal hours weren’t suiting Leak anymore, and the appeal of trying something new – in her case, law school – was too tempting to pass up.

“I do kind of miss being at the center of the chaos,” she admitted, grinning. “I do really well under intense pressure and like constant deadlines.”

It’s the longer-term deadlines, like the ones she’s working with now at Samford Law, that still challenge her – which is exactly how she wants it. Leak spoke at length about how grateful and appreciative she is to be the recipient of AG Bell’s Nofer Scholarship, which, in the meantime, will go towards helping her figure out what’s next. Though she doesn’t know what type of law she wants to practice yet, Leak is clerking at two different offices this summer, with the hopes of finding her new direction there. It’s hard to imagine that will take her very long.

Asumir las riendas

Carolina Leak, reciente beneficiaria de la beca Nofer, habla de la transición del periodismo al derecho

Cam Ellis

Una semana después de graduarse en la universidad, se puede decir que Caroline Leak había asumido las riendas de su vida. Como productora de noticias para la filial de la NBC en Huntsville (Alabama), Carolina –que había nacido y crecido a tan solo 90 minutos al sur en Birmingham– había conseguido el tipo de trabajo con el que sueñan los periodistas al acabar la carrera. Un trabajo en el que los turnos de nueve horas a partir de las 10 de la mañana parecían tolerables, un triunfo tan agotador como impresionante, especialmente si se considera que solo unos años antes, estaba estudiando administración de empresas.

«La administración de empresas no era lo mío», comenta Carolina. «Me pareció que era una carrera interesante, pero las clases no me gustaban demasiado. Está bastante abierta a estudiar otra cosa».

Fue entonces cuando Carolina se cruzó con Toni Loc, que era profesora de periodismo en la Washington and Lee University, cuando se produjo el cambio. Toni Loc, que había publicado una impresionante número de artículos en The Washington Post, The Boston Globe y The Philadelphia Daily News, convenció a Carolina de que debía probar y, de una manera que solo un periodista puede hacerlo, le convenció del romanticismo de la profesión.

«Básicamente, me ganó con todos sus relatos de guerra», añade Carolina. «Y los días gloriosos cuando cubría las noticias de los tribunales de Washington, D.C. y trabajaba en The Boston Globe. Era una gran cantidad de relatos en los que parecía que realmente disfrutaba de vivir».

Esta entusiasta aceptación de los retos de la vida atrajo a Carolina, a la que la adversidad no le es ajena. A los ocho años, se había sometido a una cirugía de implante coclear en el oído derecho, una decisión que no fue nada fácil. Hasta el primer curso, tanto Carolina como sus padres estaban contentos con el uso de audífonos: era una buena estudiante y la idea de perder deliberadamente toda la audición residual no era precisamente atractiva. Después de largas conversaciones con sus padres acerca de los beneficios e inconvenientes del procedimiento, decidieron proceder con la intervención quirúrgica. No fue un éxito de la noche a la mañana. Carolina todavía recuerda la decepción que sintió después de no percibir ninguna diferencia inmediata después de la sesión de activación. No obstante, de una manera lenta pero segura, su audición fue mejorando. Cuando se incorporó a la universidad, ya había recibido implantes en ambos oídos.

«Me di cuenta de que era la primera vez que oía una bandera ondeando en la brisa», cuenta Carolina. «Y nunca antes había oído maullar a un gato».

En su trabajo, Carolina fue ascendida rápidamente. Al principio, admite, atravesó por un periodo de prueba y error. «Guardaba una lista detallada de todos mis errores y cada día al llegar a casa lloraba un rato», añade. «Después, poco a poco, la lista se fue haciendo cada vez más corta».  En su primer año, ya era productora de la emisión de noche en horario primetime del canal. Sin embargo, la vida de periodista no es siempre una aventura tan romántica como parece. Después de un par de años, el horario nocturno dejó de gustarle y el atractivo de probar algo nuevo –en su caso, la facultad de derecho– era demasiado tentador como para dejarlo pasar.

«Extraño un poco no estar en el centro del caos», admite, sonriendo. «Trabajo bastante bien bajo una presión intensa y me gustan los plazos límites constantes».

Son los plazos límites a más largo plazo, como los que tiene actualmente en la facultad de derecho de la Samford University, los que todavía siguen siendo un reto, que es exactamente lo que persigue. Carolina habló extensamente de lo agradecida que se sentía al ser beneficiaria de la beca Nofer de AG Bell, que servirá para ayudarle a descubrir los pasos siguientes. Aunque todavía desconoce el tipo de derecho que desea practicar, Carolina trabaja en dos bufetes diferentes este verano, con la esperanza de encontrar su nueva dirección. Es difícil de imaginar que tarde mucho tiempo.

 

 

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