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September 4, 2001

Life beyond the byline

By Eric Rangus


What are the two most common misconceptions about journalism?

Catherine Manegold, Cox Professor of Journalism, didn’t hesitate.

“Fame and money,” she said with a knowing grin, gleaned from more than 20 years in the business, crisscrossing the globe from New York to New Delhi, Philadelphia to the Philippines, the Gulf War to the Eastern Shore.

“I really think journalism is a profession of service. If you examine it closely, the best journalism has always some out of this sense of service, not a desperate scramble after fame and money.”
It’s that dedication to craft that has driven Manegold throughout her career. She has seven Pulitzer Prize nominations to her credit: Three of them stemmed from her Southeast Asia reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Others honored stories such as a yearlong effort chronicling a contested adoption case, and Manegold’s team coverage of the Philadelphia police department’s 1985 bombing of the MOVE house (an activist group seen by many as radical).

She was part of the New York Times team honored with a Pulitzer in 1994 for coverage of another bombing—the World Trade Center.

But now, after two decades as a reporter, Manegold decided to embark on a new career: journalism professor.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to serve a profession I’ve really loved,” Manegold said. “I truly adored being a reporter, and I adored the profession, but I think right now it’s quite troubled. So, when I project ahead to my work in the classroom, my goal—like any teacher’s goal—is to inspire people to go out and practice not just adequate but great journalism because I think it’s badly needed.”

Emory is a bit of an interesting choice for a reporter with Manegold’s lengthy resume. But she said the University’s low-key, still-growing program was one of its appeals.

“I found it really appealing that Emory’s is a smaller program,” Manegold said. “And I like the fact that it is fairly new and still growing. [The program is] very much about serious reporting and writing and doesn’t also have to handle the components of publicity, advertising and PR—Things that are often packaged in [journalism programs], but are not of particular passion to me.”

For many years, Manegold’s passion lay in covering foreign news. Like many young reporters, Manegold started small, beginning her career at a small daily in Easton, Md., on the Upper Eastern Shore. After taking some time off to attend art school (not immune to quirky career tangents, Manegold also worked as a crabber while researching a book), she moved to a paper in Levittown, Penn., then on to the Inquirer.

After doing a few turns in the paper’s suburban bureaus, Manegold was promoted to Southeast Asia bureau chief. Then she boarded a plane and jetted to New Delhi, India.

Writers who cover foreign beats are some of the hardest working. They rarely receive assignments from home and instead develop practically all of their own ideas. Manegold, in fact, took the initiative and moved the Inquirer’s bureau (which was just her, basically) from India to Philippines, setting up shop in Manila. That was 1986, and President Ferdinand Marcos had just been overthrown. Manila was where the news was.

“It was an exceptional time all over Asia,” she said. “They were wonderful times for me. I loved it.”
In 1989, Manegold moved to Newsweek, where she first worked on the foreign desk and eventually posted in Tokyo. In between, she covered the Gulf War.

“I never, ever thought I’d be a war correspondent,” she said, describing the experience as exciting. She added that most every conflict she covered involved an uprising of people who wanted access to things like democracy—that type of radical change makes the blood flow just a bit more quickly.

“When people go to war, they’ve been pushed to such extremes that it is truly an extraordinary human story,” she said.

Manegold moved to The New York Times in 1992, where she was a general assignment reporter.

Soon after, she was assigned to the Shannon Faulkner case. For those unfamiliar, Faulkner sued what was then the all-male public military college, The Citadel. It had admitted the South Carolina teenager as a freshman, then rescinded the invitation once the administration learned she was female.

The case dragged on for years until she was finally admitted in 1995. After one week she dropped out, but her legacy remained. Women now attend The Citadel.

While she covered the litany of court cases surrounding the trial for the newspaper, Manegold’s instincts told her that a much deeper story lay beneath the surface. She spent much of the next five years digging it up.

The book that came out of Manegold’s research, In Glory’s Shadow, was published last year and made the Los Angeles Times’ list of best nonfiction books of the year. The 330-page volume not only interweaves the history of The Citadel with the Faulkner battle of the 1990s, but also places the evolution of the college within the context not only of its Charleston, S.C., home, but of the nation itself. The conflict between these often contradictory worlds is one of the book’s driving themes.
Manegold described writing a book as much lonelier than newspaper reporting. But she added she couldn’t have told the story any other way.

“I just thought there was a much bigger and ultimately much more important historical story there than I could capture in daily journalism,” she said. “Newspapers aren’t about history. Newspapers record things as they happen—it’s like history live. The book was a way to integrate a contemporary story with where it came from.”

After working on the book for the better part of four years, Manegold was ready for a change. And that has what eventually brought her to Emory. She hasn’t given up book writing, though. She is working on not only a novel, but also a children’s book. Manegold wrote her first—and only previous—novel at the age of 20. It was a study on the change of her native Eastern Shore was changing from a rural, deep South enclave to a more affluent vacation spot.

Manegold calculated that her latest move—to Decatur—is her 29th since leaving college. Not a way to live one’s life, she laughed, but a method that appears to work for her. Journalists and writers, in general, need an intellectual switch every few years Manegold said. Coming to Emory represents just that type of change.

“This is a very different community from those I have dealt with in the past, and I look forward to that,” Manegold said. “I think it will be a time of great personal growth.”


Back to Emory Report September 4, 2001