This is the third in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.
Kelsey Coffey (ABJ ’20) is a multimedia journalist at WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Florida. After graduating from Grady College in December 2020, she took a job in advertising before landing her current role.
“I was toying between PR and journalism for most of my college career,” Coffey said. “But, thanks to encouragement from Dean Davis and Professor Dodie Cantrell, I changed my mind.”
Coffey anchored for the documentary about the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation at the University of Georgia. She said retelling the story reminded her why she picked a major of journalism in the first place.
“Through that project, I learned so much about the history of UGA and really seeing how our institution played a big part in Black history,” she said. “We were on the national stage when that happened.”
Coffey built a relationship with Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) while working on the documentary. She then was reached out to by the late Professor Valerie Boyd about an opportunity to work with Hunter-Gault on her book, “My People: Five Decades of Reporting About Black Lives.”
“For both of us to have an opportunity to learn from a trailblazer like her was was incredible, and to see how she has been able to speak about the Black community and advocate for the Black community throughout so many generations is incredible,” Coffey said. “No matter what was going on, she still was able to be effective in her reporting.”
What motivates you and keeps you going on challenging days?
My job is a gift and a privilege. It is difficult to be a journalist, especially in today’s world where people don’t trust us in the media and we get a lot of pushback. I believe that truth matters, I believe that fairness matters, and local journalism matters. People need to know what’s going on in their city council, on the school board and their local police department because those people and those entities are what impacts people’s lives the most on a day-to-day basis. The fact that I can live and work somewhere where I can try my best to do something, to make a difference in someone’s life – it’s great.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done in college that you didn’t do that you think would have helped you in your career now?
I don’t regret any part of my story because it’s my own and things happen the way that it should have for me and my personal growth. But, I wish I would have taken more time to be involved specifically with the Grady College and do more volunteering with Grady Newsource, so I could have better prepared myself for what the real world was going to look like whenever I got a job. No one could have told me that I would have graduated in the middle of pandemic and my Newsource experience would have been virtual.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black history means celebrating a people that have brought so much to this country, even when they didn’t get the credit for it. The fact that we are such an intricate part of the fabric of American society is something that is worth being celebrated. I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. It’s a privilege to be a Black woman. I love it, and no one can take my identity away from me.
What piece of advice do you live by?
The first thing that comes to mind is really about loving God and loving others. As a young adult, when you’re in college, you’re so focused on what you want to do. Instead, you should be focused on who you want to be. I love my job. It’s difficult, and I enjoy doing it, but my job does not define me. The driving force that leads me in whatever I do and all of my decision making is the fact that I should be pouring into others and shining a light on other people. I may not be a journalist forever. As much as I enjoy it, it may not be my career for the rest of my life. But, whatever I do will be centered around loving God and loving people because that’s what I really feel like I’m put on this earth to do.
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
I see myself happy. I see myself continuing to live a life that I love, surrounding myself with people I love, and doing what I love to do. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know where I would live. I don’t even know what job I would have – whether it would be full-time reporting or full-time anchoring – maybe doing a little bit of both. Either way, I see joy.