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From SF Chronicle to 60 Minutes, Alumna Shines

From SF Chronicle to 60 Minutes, Alumna Shines

Since enrolling at UCLA, Claire Fahy '13 has worked her way up from beat reporter for the Daily Bruin to sports editor, and is getting professional experience with coveted journalism internships at a local newspaper and a national television program.

As a senior at Convent High School, Claire Fahy '13 served as the editor-in-chief of the school's award-winning newspaper The Broadview. Equipped with a strong foundation in journalism, Claire continued her education at UCLA where she joined the staff of the Daily Bruin, the only five-day paper serving a University of California campus. Starting as a freshman beat reporter, Claire worked her way up to sports editor last year, leading a staff of 50 while traveling the west coast covering football and men's basketball. This experience – and a strong mentor relationship – led her to the San Francisco Chronicle where she worked as a sports staff intern. By the end of last summer, Claire had dozens of articles published in print and online. She's currently working at a coveted internship at 60 Minutes in Washington D.C. as part of UCLA's Quarter in Washington program and will graduate in June with a degree in political science.

What was your experience at Convent?
It's really hard to sum up the experience that is Convent in just a few sentences. My favorite thing about my time there is that I feel like it's ongoing. Any time I'm really challenged or struggling in some way, I always find myself reverting back to conversations I had with my high school teachers or experiences I had with my peers. My teachers were always rooting for me and allowed me to be whatever I wanted to be, whether it was a basketball benchwarmer or an overeager student journalist. They always humored me and my ambitions, however varying and contradicting they sometimes were. The amount of responsibility and respect I was given at Convent really shaped me into who I am right now and also laid the groundwork for who I want to be.

What is something fun or interesting about Convent that people might not know?
My favorite thing about Convent was that no teacher was only one thing. We all looked up to Mr. Grant enormously. He was our life guru and he also taught us the card game Bridge -- I don't think you could say that about any other high school dean or computer science teacher. Mr. Lewis was my math teacher, but he's been one of the driving forces behind my journalism career. Before I met with a college representative my senior year, he would Google how well-regarded their student newspaper was and he didn't let me avoid applying to my college paper due to a fear of failure. Ms. Sena pushed me to meet an incredibly high standard of reporting and storytelling that gave me a solid foundation in the field and a really strong appreciation for good journalism. Ms. Randall and Ms. Arce are the reason I fell in love with writing. They both taught me to never accept anything at face value and also pushed me to hone my writing style, two skills that have definitely served me well over the past three years. The day I found out whether I got my internship at CBS, my little brother let it slip to Ms. Sena that I was in the running for the job. She had everyone at Convent pulling for me, and that afternoon I got the call telling me I got it. I'm 22 and I know my high school teachers still have my back, which to me says a lot.

Briefly describe your main responsibilities as a San Francisco Chronicle intern this summer.
I was a sports intern at the San Francisco Chronicle this summer and helped cover the Giants, A's, Cal and Stanford while writing some Olympic features. Getting to hang around the Giants clubhouse was definitely surreal seeing as we worshipped Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford in high school. I actually got to cover an A's game completely by myself, which was stressful but the other beat writers really banded around me and helped make sure I made deadline. I went to Stanford for an Olympic media day with the swim team and was able to interview Maya DiRado and Simone Manuel, who both ended up being major factors in the U.S. medal count.

What sparked your interest in journalism?
For as long as I can remember, I've always loved to write and tell stories. That motivated me to join Convent's paper, The Broadview, which is really where everything started taking shape for me. I read the San Francisco Chronicle every morning before school and every Sunday my family would watch 60 Minutes. I was very lucky to have Karen Randall as my junior year English teacher, because she introduced me to Joan Didion and Ernest Hemingway, luring me away from AP Bio and my claims of wanting to be a doctor. Once I was a high school senior there was no other career path that made sense to me and four years later not much has changed in that regard.

What role have mentors played in your life, and how have those relationships helped launch your career?
I owe a lot of my career to Ann Killion from the San Francisco Chronicle. I started begging the Chronicle sports editor Al Saracevic to hire me back when I was in high school, and after my freshman year at UCLA he put me in contact with Ann, who is a UCLA graduate. We met up for coffee and she sat with me for over an hour fielding all my questions. For the next two years I would send her recent articles I had written or more questions I'd developed and she always responded with feedback. Ann was an integral part of helping me intern at the Chronicle this past summer, which is the most legitimate professional print journalism experience I've had. It was crazy to see my byline in the same paper as hers and think about all the emails I sent into the void as a teenager. Even if I'd never met Ann, her work as a female sports journalist made my career possible, so as a mentor she's definitely as good as it gets.

Based on trends you see in journalism, what should current students know about starting out on this career path?
I think current students should know that there really is no career path. The road that got me to where I am right now is definitely not the one I mapped out when I was 18. A great and intimidating aspect of journalism is that it's a field that is constantly changing. There are challenges facing all media outlets, whether they're print, online, or broadcast. People are continually consuming news in different ways and I don't see that changing, which means the field is going to be in constant flux. You never know what opportunity will develop into invaluable experience, so you really just have to trust your instincts and do what you want to do. I think an ability to be creative and write well will never go out of style. If you're willing to work hard enough and be very uncertain at times, that's half the battle.

What stands out about your time at 60 Minutes in Washington, D.C.?
Moving to a new city the fall of my senior year has been an exciting challenge and I'm really enjoying DC – especially since two of my best friends from Convent go to school out here. I'm getting to work almost full time while attending class once a week, so this is a gentle introduction to becoming an adult. Everyone at 60 Minutes is so receptive to my experience and so willing to explain their work that I definitely feel like I've learned a lot in the short time I've been here. The opportunity to contribute in the smallest of ways to the production of the show is a surreal experience.

What is your plan or vision for life after college?
This question is essentially a running joke among my friends, because as much as I've wanted to be a journalist since I was at least 14, I tend to answer this question differently depending on the day. As of right now, I'm really interested in further exploring broadcast journalism. I love writing and I love the print medium, but now that I've gotten to see a little bit of the broadcast side it's something I want to get more involved in. The work is incredibly diverse and there are so many different aspects to the job. It's a career in which I could see myself growing and improving for a long time, which in such a fickle field is definitely something to pursue. Ask me again when I graduate in June and I could have five different answers for you, but that's my goal right now.