SPJGA member tackles journalism as

post-retirement career

By Adina Solomon, Associate Editor, SPeachJ News

Larry Johnson mug

Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson was not deterred when he realized he was triple the age of his fellow journalism students at Georgia State University.

Johnson, an SPJ Georgia member and non-traditional student, is studying to enter professional journalism as his second career. He is 64 years old.

He spoke with SPeachJ about his decision to work in journalism and the challenges of being a non-traditional student.

Tell me about your education and career up until now. Where have you worked? Where are you from?

I grew up in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta in the 1950s and 60s. My sister and my 93-year-old mother still live in my childhood home. I briefly attended Georgia State University, for the first time, in 1969. I dropped out
and held a variety of industrial and construction jobs through my 20s and into my early 30s. In the mid-1980s, I discovered that I had an aptitude for computer programming and re-entered GSU as a computer science major. The Department of Computer Information Systems at the school hired me, and I worked there until my retirement in 2011.

What made you want to go into journalism?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and research. I ran a blog popular among smart growth advocates, urban planners, and Atlanta community activists for about 14 years. After retiring, I decided to go professional with it.

What are the challenges of being a non-traditional student?

The only real challenge for me is getting accustomed to always being the oldest person in the room. Since I’m retired, I can put as much time and focus on the academic aspects as I need and want to. But when I first returned to school, it felt weird realizing that I’m three times as old as the other students, and twice as old as most of my professors.

What do you like about journalism?

I like writing, researching and interviewing people. I also think journalism, despite its many problems, is the only profession consistently reporting on the workings of governments and corporations.

What are your least favorite aspects of journalism?

I’m not always happy with what the 24-hour news cycle, and the speed with which the internet propagates rumors, does to the accuracy of reporting. I’d like to see journalism move toward a slower and more deliberate approach.

What do you see for the future of journalism?

Despite the revenue challenges of traditional journalism, the need and demand for news has not gone away. I feel certain that journalism has a future in the age of the internet. We just have to figure out how to fund it.

Why are you a member of SPJ Georgia?

I’m a member of SPJ Georgia because it’s important to participate in the professional organization of my chosen career. SPJ does advocacy on a number of issues critical to the future of a vibrant and free press, including freedom of information and setting ethical standards.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan on doing hyperlocal journalism. I’ve always written about Atlanta’s neighborhoods and the issues that impact them, and intend to continue doing that.

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I don’t have an enormous amount of free time at the moment, but I enjoy walking, cycling and reading.

Adina Solomon photoAdina Solomon is Assistant Editor at Asian Media & Marketing Group and co-founder of SPJ Georgia. Contact Adina at adinars9@gmail.com



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