By Alex Nicoll
Annabelle Blair was working in the office of the TimesLedger newspaper in New York City, when a church member from the Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Queens borough walked in to speak with her.
Blair had just finished a piece about the church and the uncertainty that surrounded its future after there had been discussions to tear the existing building down and build a larger and more modern one in its place, an idea that caused dissention among the church’s members.
The man didn’t stay long — only about three minutes if Blair’s memory serves correct. He politely thanked her for the piece and for taking the time to talk about an issue that was so important to people in that community.
For a young reporter who still struggled with her passion for her profession, the man’s words spoke volumes and helped affirm her drive for journalism.
“Just having someone thank you for caring or writing about something that matters to them. That was really cool,” Blair said.
Blair is a senior at Taylor University, a private Christian school in Upland, Indiana, where she currently resides. She’ll be graduating in May of 2018 with degrees in journalism and public relations. She also served as co-news editor of The Echo, the university’s student newspaper, her junior year and was part of a group called the Student Press Coalition that examined censorship at Christian universities around the country.
Even with all of those experiences under her belt, she still wanted to do more with her chosen career path and thought she was not as prepared for a career in journalism as she could’ve been during her time at Taylor, she said.
Entering her senior year of college, Blair intended on studying abroad in Ecuador to get college credit for Spanish and because she had an internship with a radio station lined up. That plan changed though when a friend from The Echo told her about the NYC Semester in Journalism program run through The King’s College in New York City.
Students take a 15-hour college course load of journalism classes and also are set up in a newsroom in the city, according to the program’s website.
Enthralled with the prospect of being immersed in journalism and interning at a professional publication, Blair, who hails from Newton, Iowa, a town of just over 15,000 people, moved to the Big Apple for a semester and was placed at the TimesLedger.
The TimesLedger encompasses a chain of weekly newspapers that cover Queens, according to the publication’s website.
She covered everything from crime to art and lifestyles pieces for the paper, but one of her favorite stories remained to be her article about the Macedonian church because of all the time and effort she put into researching the history of the building and the narratives that surrounded it, she said.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this has a really clear purpose, this is like really important for society and it's something that I actually care deeply about,’” Blair said. “I think I've always loved telling people's stories, like even when I was little, but actually practicing journalism in a real community in New York and getting some really cool training I think was kind of what lit the spark of passion for journalism for me.”
Blair impressed TimesLedger editor Zach Gewelb, who served as the deputy editor during Blair’s tenure, with her ambition, drive and “tremendous amount of skill,” he said.
This summer, the 24-year-old will be working for the Pacific Coast Business Times after being accepted into the business reporting program of the Dow Jones News Fund.
After her time with the Pacific Coast Business Times, Blair does not know for sure what the next step is for her career, she said. She would love to stick on with the Times but is open to any opportunity that comes her way.
“She’s going to do very good things,” Gewelb said. “Her work ethic, her drive and her motivation is clearly there. She’s got the skills and the wherewithal to go out and do it. I have complete faith in her ability to become a top-notch journalist.”