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Journalism Sophomore Published in WORLD Magazine

November 30th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Read Julie Smyth’s article in WORLD: “Life Begins Again”

A darkened Town Hall at Patrick Henry College rang with music and laughter from the student-organized “Harmonicomedy.” Sophomore Julie Smyth, a Journalism major, checked her watch and slipped into the ladies’ bathroom, where she set her laptop on the counter with the sinks, taking advantage of the bathroom’s light to finish her latest assignment for Journalism 101. She hadn’t wanted to miss the show, and yet she knew she had to complete an assignment already overdue because of difficult interviews.

Smyth considered herself blessed to have obtained an interview at all. A local station in Bryan, Texas had broken the story earlier that week. Abby Johnson, director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan and a 2008 “Employee of the Year” for the abortion provider, had recently resigned her post after watching an abortion being performed. Seeking to discredit Johnson, Planned Parenthood made the story public, but then pro-life organizations picked up the story and suddenly Johnson’s startling conversion became a cause celebre for the pro-life movement. Smyth’s mother heard about it and passed the news on to her daughter.

Enterprising Journalism major, sophomore Julie Smyth, left, with fellow Journalism major Brooke Butler on trip to "Newseum" in D.C.

Being an enterprising young journalist, Smyth decided to try for an interview. She put out calls on Wednesday, but by her Thursday deadline nobody had replied. But when the phone rang Friday morning, Smyth picked up the phone to find Johnson on the line.

“I was getting pretty discouraged,” admits Smyth. “But—wow! She called me back!”

During the interview, Johnson mentioned that she was scheduled for Fox News and the Huckabee Show that weekend. But Smyth talked to her first.

“I got to her before Huckabee did. That’s pretty cool!” Smyth enthuses.

Two days after she finally submitted her article, Smyth heard from Dr. Les Sillars, Director of Journalism at PHC, asking her to submit it for further publication. The next evening, she says Dr. Sillars e-mailed her to tell her that WORLD magazine wanted to publish her work.

“I thought she did a good job, so I sent it off,” relates Sillars. “Worldmag.com said it was one of the most-read stories of the weekend.”

Smyth looks back on her week-and-a-half of waiting, phone calls, interviews, and then unexpected success as “miracle after miracle.” She knew she couldn’t make the interview happen on her own. Nor did she ever expect that WORLD would publish her article, since most Journalism 101 students feel blessed simply to have their work printed in the PHC Herald, the student newspaper.

“It wasn’t because of my own talent,” says Smyth. “It was a gift from God.”

Read Julie Smyth’s article in WORLD: “Life Begins Again”