Alumni Spotlight: Brooke Anderson (JOURN '11)

College of Communication alumna Brooke Anderson (Journalism '11) came to Chicago by way of sunny Florida to study in with the College of Communication . During her time with the college, she worked as a political consultant with local pubic relations firm Serafin, and conducted media relations for Gery Chico, a Chicago mayoral candidate. Through her education with DePaul and her working experience while a graduate student, Brooke has since taken on the role of press secretary for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

You were already working professionally in Florida before making the move north to Chicago to study at DePaul. What led you here to our Journalism program? 

My first job out of college was at a young and fashionable PR firm in Boca Raton, Florida. I also did some freelance reporting on health/beauty/fitness issues on the side, to further develop my reporting skills. 

I quickly learned that I liked a fast pace in the working world. Everything moved quickly in PR and required you to manage a lot of issues, solve a lot of crises and work with a lot of people all at once. I loved the excitement and being in the middle of the action. Working with reporters and clients proved to be fun — and a challenge.

After working there for about a year, I felt very comfortable, which in turn made me uncomfortable, because I knew that I wouldn't be able to reach some of my goals if I stayed put. I had always wanted to live in a big city where I could walk downstairs and grab a latte at a cute little café. I wanted to advance my skills as a reporter. And with the presidential primary campaign gearing up, I wanted to get into politics.

So, I quit my job, sold my car, applied for graduate school at DePaul and packed my bags for Chicago.

For a southern girl, how did you adjust to Chicago, particularly our famous winters?

One of the first people I met through my DePaul connections was NBC5's legendary political reporter Dick Kay, who gave me wise advice: "Dress warm." I get by okay as long as I dress for the wintery occasion!  

While studying at DePaul, you worked at Serafin, a media consulting firm that specializes in PR work for corporations and non-profits. Were you able to compliment the work you were doing at Serfain with the education you were getting in the classroom?

Working at a communications firm with strong city and statewide ties like Serafin worked seamlessly with my journalism pursuits. I attended events, worked with local reporters in Chicago and around the state, and payed close attention to all the political news and daily developments that impacted my clients at Serafin, but also were of interest to me on a journalistic level. Sometimes, I would be at an event, meet politicians and then follow-up with them with an interview request for one of my classes.

Through DePaul's program, I met so many top reporters whom today I am lucky to call my friends. They came in and spoke to us, they mentored us and they edited our work. At the time, I remember calling my dad on the El home after class at 10 p.m. and being like, "Dad, I feel like the luckiest girl! The Tribune's top sports columnist is editing my story! A nationally-renowned Chicago Sun-Times columnist is teaching me how to report on urban issues and navigate City Hall!" My teachers were inspiring.

How did DePaul help prepare you to work as press secretary and spokesperson for Gov. Quinn?

You definitely learn that reporters have deadlines, and being responsive is really important. During my grad school days, I would find it so frustrating when a source wouldn't get back to me on something and I'd be down to the wire trying to complete a story. So, I try to get back to reporters as fast as I can nail the information down. DePaul taught me how to capture the news from an event and pick up on little things that are of interest to people and add texture to the story. As Professor Bruce Evensen would say, it's good to look for the "news they need to know."

My professors were such good examples on how to handle questions respectfully and report in a fair, balanced way. Being on the other side now, I am always quick to notice when a story doesn't give us a fair shake, and I learned how to do that kind of analysis at DePaul. As press secretary, fairness is the most important thing I ask of the reporters who cover us.

One of the greater concerns for students on the verge of graduation is how to achieve to their professional goals. They're armed with the knowledge, practical experience and diploma, but how does one use all these to a professional end in your experience?

Get in the game. Throw yourself into something that's uncomfortable. Once you get there, you'll learn.