There’s the spirit of giving. And then there’s the policy of giving.
“I came through a high school journalism program called ThreeSixty. I met key players in the Twin Cities media market that went on to help me through my career,” said Carew Grovum. “I had an early policy of giving back to that program. Every time I had an A1, I sent them $25. Every time I got a new job, I sent them $100. I believe in the mission, and I believe in supporting programs that helped me.”
Another program that Carew Grovum credits for propelling her media career forward was Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media. She was one of 28 women selected for the March 2018 program after a record year for applications: More than 600 people applied, prompting Poynter to expand the number of annual academies from one to three. A year later, Carew Grovum returned as a faculty member to teach about navigating newsroom culture.
Now, ahead of the 2022 women’s leadership academies, Carew Grovum is including the program in her corporate giving. She is funding three full-tuition scholarships for participants of color from news and media organizations outside of the United States.
I caught up with Carew Grovum to talk about what prompted her to pave the way for more alumni-funded scholarships, how the program empowered her to start her own consulting and coaching business, and what she hopes will transpire for the scholarship recipients. Below is our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Mel Grau: You’ve already given so much to Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media. You’ve returned as an instructor, reviewed applications, promoted the program on social media, contributed to The Cohort newsletter and mentored on digitalwomenleaders.com. What inspired you to give money for a scholarship?
Emma Carew Grovum: I’m in the third year of running my business, and I am making really good money. I feel confident about what I do now and I attribute so much of that to my cohorts … both as a participant and as faculty member. And I would never want someone to not be able to have that experience because their employer wouldn’t pay for it or because they’re like me and they’re a contractor. Or because they live overseas. Those seem like really dumb barriers! If I can break them down, then that’s what I want to use my money for.
Mel: Why now?
Emma: For Poynter’s program, the cost was not a barrier for me because my company paid for it. But I was very fortunate. That was pre-pandemic. I can see the first thing that goes (in budget cuts) is professional development funds for people. But for a news organization to say ‘we can’t spare $1,000 to invest in someone who we think is the future of our news organization’ just doesn’t sit well with me.
Mel: Why designate the scholarship for international applicants?
Emma: When I heard that there was a need for funding international folks, that blew me away. I think often we think of international media as being more well-funded than American media, especially in Europe. But the truth is, there are journalists all over the world who don’t have access to the kinds of training that we have here in the States. And I can’t imagine my cohort, or the cohort that I coached, without the international participants. That need really resonated with me, and I felt like I was in a position to do something.
Mel: What are some of the things you learned during the women’s leadership academy experience that helped you be successful striking out on your own as a coach and consultant?
Emma: In the past, I didn’t value my voice very much because other people had told me it wasn’t valuable. I thought my ideas weren’t worth sharing because other people told me I wasn’t old enough, wasn’t experienced enough. Going through the cohort program and meeting my Poynter Sisters taught me that I’m more capable than I know.
The cohort was also there for me when I was at my lowest. I lost my job and my cohort sisters sent me flowers. I lost my job and Katie (Hawkins-Gaar, academy co-founder) was like, “Come be on the faculty.”
The opportunity to be a participant — I learned a lot about myself. The opportunity to become a faculty member — I learned I’m good at coaching!
Now what I see is that my skill set really is oriented toward helping people, and helping people is what I’ve always wanted to do. I thought I was going to help people by telling stories from their communities. But I think as I’ve transitioned into this stage of my life, I have found that my superpower is helping other people reach their full potential as a journalist, especially women, and especially journalists of color.
Mel: It’s pretty amazing to hear you talk about your Poynter Sisters.
Emma: Shout out to my cohort! One year, we fundraised $1,000 together as a group and that is the first time that I came to this realization that we should continue to support the program. The tuition can be a barrier and we as alumni can help break those barriers down for future Poynter Sisters. This was just the natural way for me to move that work forward.
Mel: What do you hope the experiences will be for the people who get these scholarships?
Emma: I just hope it’s magical. I have no expectations about what they’ll accomplish or what they’ll achieve, but I know it’ll be great. I’m really excited for whoever these folks turn out to be. I hope they make the most of it, and I hope that they walk away as changed as I was.
Mel: In the final week before recruitment ends for the 2022 program, what advice do you have for applicants or potential applicants?
Emma: Apply! Let somebody else say no to you, but don’t say no to yourself. Never say no to yourself. Never self-eliminate.
What I tell people often is to focus on impact. What are the challenges in front of you today? And how would you be able to better break them down as a result of going through this program? What tools are missing from your toolkit?
Sometimes the answer is “I just need that kick in the ass to get myself moving.” “I need to see myself in a different light.” “I need to understand my skill set and the value of my skill set on the open market.” Gaining peers through the cohort and understanding their circumstances relative to yours, their experiences relative to yours, helps you to validate what is and isn’t working for you.
The deadline to apply for Poynter’s 2022 Leadership Academies for Women in Media is Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Learn more here.