Kirkwood High School student newspaper

photo courtesy of Blythe Terrell

Where are they now: Blythe Terrell

Profession: Podcast Editor - Location: Brooklyn, New York - Class of 2001

Sophomore Blythe Terrell proudly walks down KHS hallways to her journalism class, knowing that everything that will happen in her future starts here. Fast forward 16 years and Terrell, KHS graduate of 2001, has traveled from Kirkwood to Texas to Africa to New York, working as a newspaper reporter, Peace Corps member and currently a science podcast editor at Gimlet Media in Brooklyn, NY.

“I got into journalism because of the realization that journalists get to ask people whatever questions they want and [have] the ability to be a curious person in the world for a living, and to help people understand the world around them,” Terrell said.

Prior to working at Gimlet Media, Terrell was senior editor for science and health at FiveThirtyEight, an online media company that centers around opinion poll analysis, politics, economics and sports. In this position, Terrell moderated online chats on topics like “Does It Matter That Senate Republicans Wrote Their Health Care Bill In Secret?” She also contributed to a feature called “Significant Digits,” which featured statistics in the news, such as the number of food poisoning recalls and the number of successful Mars-bound spacecrafts. Also, National Public Radio featured Terrell for using data to calculate her ideal NFL team to replace the St. Louis Rams.

Terrell credits TKC for being the push that really sparked her interest in journalism. The day she started on staff was the day she really decided what she wanted to do with her life. She was not only a editorial writer, but also was the editor-in-chief her senior year.

“I really don’t think there was a bigger influence on my professional life than my experience on TKC,” Terrell said. “It really launched me into what I would study in college and what I would end up having a career in.”

Terrell shared her passion for journalism with her younger sister, Morgen Rockel, KHS graduate of 2003, who was also a TKC writer. Even though there were some challenges with having a sister for an editor, Rockel liked that she could always receive honest feedback from Terrell.

“Blythe treated me professionally, even though I was her sister,” Rockel said. “She was very mature for her age and she did a really good job of separating family and the work we did on TKC.”

“It’s so easy to feel alone and forgotten in high school,” Terrell said. “I would really encourage people to support each other because it’s a big world out here, and we need all the support we can get from everyone around us.”

I got into journalism because of the realization that journalists get to ask people whatever questions they want.”

— Blythe Terrell

After high school, Terrell studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and from there she went into the newspaper industry. She was a copy editor at the Austin American Statesman in Austin, Texas, and then she was a reporter and the city editor at a small newspaper in Steamboat Springs, CO. From there, she decided that she may not want to pursue journalism anymore, so she went back to school to get her master’s degree in science and public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Then she went into the Peace Corps and spent two years in Swaziland in southern Africa. Terrell said that Swaziland has about 1 million people, but it has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, which means about 26 percent of adults there are HIV positive.

“[In the Peace Corps], I was a community health educator and I worked with women in the community to help them train,” Terrell said. “Also, there was a middle school girls empowerment group, so I helped them understand their bodies and we talked to them about all kinds of issues that teenage girls deal with.”

After Terrell came back from Africa, she worked as a writer and editor for Partners in Health, a non-profit organization in Boston, before a friend and colleague attracted her back to journalism. They told Terrell they were looking for a copy editor at FiveThirtyEight and Terrell was interested in the data journalism FiveThirtyEight was doing, so she decided to take the job. From there she moved into her current position at Gimlet Media.

“I think I’m proudest of the fact that I’ve been able to have all these diverse experiences in my career,” Terrell said. “I’ve worked at newspapers and I’ve worked in the public health world a little bit, and I’ve been fortunate to do all of these different things.”

Terrell’s friend and former design editor of TKC, Jordan Crean still keeps in touch with Terrell today. They began traveling together to journalism conventions in high school, and they have continued to travel across continents to visit each other and explore places like Thailand and Africa. Like Crean, Rockel said she is very proud of everything Terrell has accomplished and is not surprised that she has done so well.

“Blythe’s just a very unique person who does her own thing and goes where the wind takes her,” Rockel said. “I think she’s gotten every job she’s ever applied for because people can just tell when they meet her that she’s extremely intelligent, responsible and she gives you the impression that she is someone who is trustworthy.”

Rockel and Crean both said Terrell’s intelligence and ability to build positive relationships with others has made her successful. Rockel said people feel so comfortable talking to Terrell, and they feel they can confide in her. Terrell said she can’t overstate the impact working with others on TKC has had on her life and career.



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