My Mentor Taught Me to be A Real Reporter

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The first time I visited my mentor was nerve-wracking. I pictured her as an obnoxious, rude, demanding editor who would have no time to help anyone, let alone a 16-year-old.

Mary Heffron, an editor for the Los Angeles Times, turned out to be friendly, pleasant, and helpful. Over the past three years, she has helped me with about 10 articles for LA Youth.

When I visited her in her big glass office, I felt like I was a real reporter, too. It's the first time I ever saw a newsroom. When I was there, other people were coming by to talk to her, the phone rang, and messages came in on her computer, but she always took some time to talk to me about my story.

For my dating violence piece, she explained to me that all court records were public after a county clerk told me I couldn't get information about a trial. She helped me get information from the Los Angeles Times internal library. It's the first time I ever saw a fax machine. She helped me rewrite stories. She told me how I should reword a paragraph and what to move up and delete.

All of this was new to me, since I never had such a demanding copy editor. But Mary was much more than that. In my senior year of high school, I told her about all the stress I was going through. She gave me her home phone number in case I needed to talk to someone. Whenever I needed a reference for any scholarship or journalism workshop, she wrote me one.

On every article I wrote, she told me that I improved. With a compliment coming from her, it built my confidence. The day before I graduated, she came to my house and gave me a present. I wanted to cry. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor and friend.

(c) LA Youth, Los Angeles, Calif.

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