Journalism major Sydney Hood balances her time at Grady with working as a weekend multimedia journalist for WRDW/WAGT News 12 NBC 26. She also serves as the president of DiGamma Kappa Broadcast Society, works as a senior production manager for Grady Newsource, is a reporter for the Newsource election show, and she writes for the Cox Institute’s Covering Poverty Initiative.
What does tenacity mean to you?
Being tenacious is all about stepping up to the plate when life knocks you down. It’s working for the life you’ve always dreamed of despite criticism and hardships. It’s embracing the uncomfortableness and facing adversity head-on. Tenacity means being fearless in pursuing what sets you apart from the rest and finding what makes YOU special.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Do not take yourself too seriously. Take your job seriously, but not yourself. I am a ridiculously goofy person. I cut up and laugh (cackle actually) at every little (and silly) mistake and stay optimistic about the obstacles. When it comes to spaces with rules (school, work, meetings), my quiet, no-nonsense side creeps out. I practice rigorous self-judgment and hold myself to the highest of high standards. It’s an approach that robs me of the peace that comes with self-acceptance and celebrating those smaller but just as big goals. I am slowly realizing that not taking myself seriously allows for people to see the real, genuine me. The silly, quirky, hardworking and determined me. The human in me. It’s a practice I am constantly improving on everyday, but I believe that loosening up on yourself allows for exploration and change.
Why did you choose your major?
I’ve always had an itch for writing – whether it was an essay for school or an entry in my journal. I am a naturally curious (borderline nosey) person. I love history. I enjoy digesting new information and the ability I have to captivate one’s attention by explaining this information. With all of this said, journalism was always in the back of my head growing up. As a soft-spoken and shy person afraid to leave her comfort zone, I didn’t think this was possible for me. Ultimately I let that fear get to me and abandoned my dream. I started college as a biology major and it took a mid-semester crisis (and UGA chemistry) my freshman year to realize that was not for me. Ultimately, sitting in the middle of my dorm room crying my eyes out because I didn’t know what to do with my life, I pulled myself together and finally declared myself as a journalism major. I always look back and think of this as an “ah-ha” moment because it was truly the first time I really walked out of my comfort zone. It really is true that nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone. I’ve realized my passion for storytelling was far bigger than my fear of not succeeding. Grady has shown me that journalism is much, much more than writing and telling stories. This place has taught me – and continues to teach me – how I can go from good to great and be the best in my field. Long story short, I am forever grateful 18-year-old Sydney took a leap of faith.
What motivates you?
I am motivated by my constant fear of being just average. I do not want to go through life feeling like I had all this potential and never touched or used it. I always strive to be intentional in everything I do. I am also motivated by the word “can’t.” I am often told I can’t handle everything I am involved in from school to work and everything in between. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I make it my mission to not only do it, but do it better.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
This past summer, I lived in Copenhagen for a month and studied travel journalism with some pretty amazing people. To say this was an experience I’ll never forget in quite the understatement. I tested all of my creative outlets, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and opened my eyes to understand the flow of global news. This trip also instilled in me some practical knowledge of solutions journalism: what it is, what it is not and the importance of this type of journalism. All of this I still carry with me and will continue to do so beyond my career at Grady.
What are you passionate about?
I love putting a story together, hearing what people are passionate about and understanding what drives them. The people you meet and speak to are the ones who create and tell the story. It’s exciting to connect with people, listen to their extraordinary stories and provide a voice for them. I am always amazed at how a simple idea at a 9:30 a.m. pitch meeting formulates into a 6 p.m. story with real people and real life impact.
What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?
Every time I am out in the field or in the newsroom, I always think back to the tips from various professors. The “SWEFF” checklist from Professor Shumway is tattooed in my brain. “Write to the video you have and not the video you wish you had,” from Professor Cantrell is something I have to remind myself each time I sit down to write a script. I learned all the fundamentals in the classroom, but it is outside of the classroom where I put all of my tools into practice and learn beyond the walls of Grady. Before Grady, I did not know how to shoot video. I didn’t know how to white balance or frame a camera. I didn’t know where to find sources or how to find people. I’d never published a story before. Now, I shoot, write and edit all on my own.
Who is your professional hero?
Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, Judy Woodruff, Barabara Walters – all for the obvious reasons.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I do not have it together all the time. I am bad about putting up a perfect front and acting like I have all of my ducks lined up in a row (when in fact a lot of them are at the bottom of the pond). It is important to share the lows in life just as much as we share the highs. College is hard. Work is hard. Life is hard. And that is all okay. Sure you are going to have days where you are stressed and overwhelmed. But in the end trust that it is going to all be okay.
I also enjoy running (like, a lot). Everyday I set aside at least one hour for a run – rain or shine, day or night. I do this not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. It’s the one time in my day I can clear my head and step away from reality. I ran my first 5k when I was six and haven’t stopped since. I trained for and ran two full marathons before graduating high school (for the awkward 12-year-old Sydney who couldn’t run a mile without crying, this was (and still is) a big deal for her). I also love a good half-marathon – I signed up for one out of the blue while studying abroad in Copenhagen to get familiar with the city (I still needed to use Google Maps afterwards to find my way around the city but it was worth a try!).