Five Questions With…B.J. Terhune
“Five Questions With…” is a series of profiles of CJC graduates and the career paths they chose.
B.J. Terhune, B.S. Journalism 1993
1. Tell us about your current job.
I have been an editor at the Los Angeles Times since 2015, and I’ve been in charge of breaking news for our California section for the past three and a half years. I’ve led our daily coverage of COVID-19 and other major stories, from wildfires to the Kobe Bryant crash. I also shared in the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
I was recently promoted to Assistant Managing Editor for News. In my new role, I will be leading a Fast Break team of reporters and editors who will be handling the biggest stories of the day, whether those are developments in California, national, business or entertainment. In addition to breaking news, we will write explainers to help people make sense of what’s happening and why it matters to them. We want our news to be distinctive, whether that’s delivering scoops on a big, competitive story or trying out new forms of storytelling.
2. Why did you choose to come to the UF College of Journalism and Communications?
I grew up in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and initially attended my local community college to save on tuition. I knew early on I wanted to be a journalist, and there’s no better place than UF, so I transferred there after earning my associate’s degree.
3. Was there a defining moment, personally or professionally, at CJC that set you on your current path?
I have fond memories of taking [retired Journalism Professor] Jean Chance’s fact-finding class. That was some of the best training I received for tracking down sources and information and learning how to check material for accuracy, which are all essential skills on deadline.
I knew I had found my calling when I took my first editing class. I also got to immediately apply what I learned in class at the Independent Florida Alligator, where I held a series of editing jobs.
4. How did your time at CJC help prepare you for this current position?
The College frequently brought editors and other newsroom managers onto campus to interview students for internships and full-time jobs. Those interviews and receptions at the Reitz Union helped prepare me for my career and paved the way for my first job as a sports copy editor at the Palm Beach Post.
5. What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?
As an editor, it’s about more than just fixing a headline or nut graph in a story. It’s about managing people and learning how to listen, inspire and bring out the best in your colleagues. I want to help people reach their next career goal even if that means losing them to another job or team. Daily journalism can be a grind, and it’s important to make sure your staff feel recognized for their hard work. Late last year, I made holiday ornaments for my staff as a small token of my appreciation.
I urge journalists to take advantage of opportunities for networking and professional development. I attended Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media in 2019, and that weeklong program helped me reflect on my career and what I wanted to accomplish next.