In our ongoing Alumni Spotlight series, current Duke undergraduate students write profiles of university alumni who pursued careers in journalism. Below, junior Daniela Flamini writes about Julia Love ’11, who is currently a reporter at the Reuters office in Mexico City.
When Julia Love arrived at Duke University as a freshman, journalism was the last thing she was interested in doing. Having been raised by two journalist parents, she wanted to do something different with her life.
Within weeks, though, she found herself in the office of The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper.
“I can’t remember what changed my mind, but I just thought it was a lot of fun, and it became my passion and my hobby at Duke,” Love told the Duke Reporters’ Lab. By the time she was university editor as a sophomore, tweaking staff writers’ stories and pitching ideas for articles related to university affairs, she was spending around 80 hours in the office on a weekly basis.
David Graham, another Duke alumnus from 2009 who now works as a staff writer for The Atlantic, remembers his time as Love’s Chronicle editor when she first started writing Graham said her writing ability and spark made her stand out among all the freshmen.
“Julia was one of those people who showed up at the beginning of the year, and we all just immediately knew that she was going to be amazing,” Graham said. “You could just tell from the quality of her writing and reporting that she was really good.”
Love remembers many of the stories she wrote for The Chronicle in great detail, and with great fondness.
“My first beat was social life, covering fraternities and sororities and things like that,” Love said. “I also remember for one of my early stories, I went up in a helicopter with some administrators and student government leaders who were skydiving to raise money for charity, and it always just felt like a real adventure for me.”
Though watching people skydive out of a plane may have been enough for some Chronicle reporters, Love never stopped finding more leads to write about and investigate. When asked about her best memory at Duke, she plainly said, “It always comes down to the stories.”
One of her favorites was when she decided to investigate the men’s lacrosse team’s house, which had been evidenced as part of a pending civil case after three team members were falsely accused of rape. Love recalled that the house had been left standing as a painful symbol for administrators, so she decided to write about it.
“I just remember every memory of tiptoeing around like it was a crime scene, notebook in hand as I took copious notes, noticing all these interesting little details, like when I rang the doorbell [and] it still rang perfectly,” she said.
“While it’s impossible to predict the future, I really believe that as long as I can be employed as a full-time journalist, it’s a really enriching, rewarding career.” — Julia Love T’11
Chelsea Allison, another of Love’s Chronicle colleagues who graduated from Duke in 2010, recalled that “it felt that everything was being reshaped, if imperfectly, in the wake of the case. It was an exciting and interesting time to be a journalist there, because it felt that our reporting had real impact, and it was so critical to put everything in context. No one was better at doing that than Julia.”
Love’s counterparts at The Chronicle were not the only ones in awe of her talent. Administrators like Sue Wasiolek, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, also became quite familiar with her investigative persistence.
“She was surprisingly thorough and probing, but in a very delicate way,” Wasiolek said. “Julia has a very youthful voice, and in many ways, I think it was a weapon for her, because at the beginning of the interview I’d always expect that it wouldn’t last very long or go very in-depth, but minutes later, I’d find myself still engaged in the interview, telling her things that I hadn’t even thought about or had forgotten.”
Julia graduated from Duke in 2011, after which she started working at Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that recruits college graduates to teach in public schools across low-income communities in the United States.
“In my head, I really wanted to be a journalist but was just scared because of the climate and the industry,” she said. “There were a lot of newspapers collapsing and newer outlets hadn’t really taken off yet, so I felt like I owed it to myself before embarking on such an arduous career path.”
The influence that technology would have on the world of journalism was already clear to Julia while she was an undergraduate, and one of her biggest doubts as a student was whether she’d be able to support herself as a full-time journalist. But when she eventually left Teach for America a year later and began to work for Reuters, she was pleasantly surprised and reassured to find that it was possible to pursue her inherited passion.
Her first station with Reuters was in San Francisco, covering technology for two years before moving to Mexico City to cover business, telecommunications and a variety of breaking news. She has been in Mexico for about three months, and her most recent articles have focused on the country’s response to the two consecutive earthquakes that took place 12 days apart at the end of September. She explained that “covering the earthquakes was unlike anything I have ever experienced. As a business reporter, it was very powerful to tell a human story like that.”
So far, working with Reuters has been “very much a dream” for Love.
“There’s kind of been a lost generation of journalists, due to people who didn’t pursue the profession because it seemed so bleak,” she said. “But this has been such a fulfilling career for me and while it’s impossible to predict the future, I really believe that as long as I can be employed as a full-time journalist, it’s a really enriching, rewarding career.”