Stories of Our Halls Ep 02: Mary Bock – A Pioneer for Women in Journalism

Firdous Khezrian, Associate Audio Editor

Welcome to episode two of The Daily Texan’s audio series, The Stories of Our Halls. In this episode, we hear from Dr. Mary Angela Bock, an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Bock spoke with Associate Audio Editor, Firdous Khezrian, about the path she has taken to become a renowned author and leader in communication studies and journalism.

Episode reported and produced by Firdous Khezrian. Episode art by Grace Cao. Music by BlueDot Sessions. The full transcript can be found below:


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Firdous Khezrian: Welcome to episode two of The Daily Texan’s newest audio series, The Stories of Our Halls. In this episode, we hear from Dr. Mary Angela Bock, an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Dr. Bock is a renowned author and leader in communication studies and journalism. And much like many young journalists today, she too got her start writing for the school paper in her rural Colorado high school. 

Bock: It was a fabulous introduction to journalism, and photojournalism too, because I worked weekends. And so I did a lot of festivals, carnivals, kids interacting with animals, those kinds of things. And I really learned how to use the camera. I also learned how to talk to people. There was some, you know, a lot of shyness, you know, there’s some trepidation to get started. When you’re a journalist, you have to talk to strangers. And I actually was also really interested in acting and theatre at the time. And so I was so nervous my first day, reporting professionally, I actually just sort of went into acting mode and like, ‘Well, how would a reporter act?’ Okay, well, let’s take on that persona. And that helped me that at first time, but it was a terrific job. 

I was only in print, for the time that I was working as a high school student. As I when I went into college, I started working for a radio station. And then I fell in love with video editing. So most of my career, prior to getting my PhD was in TV news. 

Firdous: Dr. Bock has some advice to those who want to follow in her career footsteps.

Bock: And I think what I would tell young people is that if you start a career in TV news, it really is still a very visual medium. And you have to balance your journalistic ethics, your journalistic skills, with also knowing that you are constantly judged for your appearance. And women moreso, fair or not, women are assessed according to their appearance in TV news, far more than men, they get far more feedback from the audience regarding what they wear, how they cut their hair, what their makeup is like. And it’s there’s just a tremendous amount of pressure. And so I would encourage women who are going into the field to just be ready for that, and to know that it’s there, but to not neglect their journalistic ethics, their journalistic skills, but just know there’s always going to be an extra burden for you.

Firdous: I asked Dr. Bock what her biggest career tribulation has been thus far. 

Bock: I think the biggest challenge of my career and life was working for a TV news operation in Philadelphia. So it’s the number one station in Philadelphia, one of the top stations in the country, extremely high stress environment, while also being a single mother for nine and a half years. That was a challenge, because news is not very supportive of mothers, or parents really. It’s really hard because spot news, the news that is the most exciting, it happens all hours of the day. And so trying to arrange for childcare at that time, and even though I had the closest thing to a nine to five job that you could possibly have in this newsroom, it was still really challenging, and having to leave on time to pick them up from the daycare center, not being able to come in early all the time until daycare open, and just kind of knowing that people were like, here she is again, trying to balance that was tough.

Firdous: Dr. Bock has started anew many times throughout her life. But she doesn’t fear change. Here’s what she suggests. 

Bock: I strongly suggest to people that about every seven years and this was advice somebody gave me when I was a TV reporter back in Des Moines. He was a business person who then went into politics and then did other things. He said, Every seven years, I change everything. And and I thought, well, you’re kind of like living like a cicada. But in a same way. This is probably going to be heard more by college students who are trying to decide the big picture, what am I going to do with the rest of my life, you can’t possibly know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, all you can do is decide what to do next. And consider that maybe living like a cicada isn’t the worst thing. And by that I mean, every seven years or so you might really, really change everything. And that’s okay. The economy moves at a faster pace. Now, society moves at a faster pace. We need to know what we’re going to do next. We need to be independent, we need to be financially viable. We need to live lives and balance between career and having the people around us who love us. And so we can love them and develop those relationships. But you don’t have to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Because that’ll tell just squash you down. Don’t worry about it. Think about the fact that you’re going to do this next. And you might change it. Take it from someone who’s had two kids, two husbands and two careers.

Firdous: I asked Dr. Bock about the legacy she hopes to leave at the University. She told me about the role that the success of her students plays in her legacy here. 

Bock: My legacy is is their good work. And that is, that is what is so nice about being in higher ed. So when I was a TV reporter, what I did that day or when when I was a TV producer, I would work all day, I would break a sweat, sometimes just kind of trying to meet deadlines, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And the work I did left the planet at the speed of light. And that was it. There was no lasting record necessarily, of what I did. Of course, I had an impact on my audience, I had an impact on the people that I worked with. But still, it doesn’t have the same emotional reward, that teaching people mentoring people, helping them achieve something like a PhD, and going off into the world to teach again. It’s just wonderful. It’s a wonderful feeling. So I hope to make more PhDs, I hope to write more books, I’ve got four with my name on it, I just my fifth one is called Gender and Journalism: An Intersectional Approach that textbook should be out later this year. So so my books and my research will also be part of my legacy. I hope. 

Firdous: Dr. Bock and I spoke around women’s history month. She told me about what she hopes women in journalism know. 

Bock:  It’s, it’s there for us all. It is, period. It’s just the book that I just wrote, you know, really has some histories of what women have gone through trying to get into the business, stay in the business and prevail. And, but it also because it takes an intersectional approach, it defines gender, or it considers gender and all its manifestations. So for women and people who identify as women, the world is out there to cover. And institutions have been hostile to us in the past, and institutions have been hostile to LGBTQ folks and trans folks, and anybody who doesn’t fit the mold. But new technologies, and the digital age has opened other doors. And so if one door closes, just keep knocking.

Firdous: Dr. Bock has a message for the version of herself that was just starting in this industry. 

Bock: Oh, stop being so afraid. Just stop being afraid. You’re good enough. You are good enough, stop being afraid. And, yeah you’re good enough. That’s what I would tell her.

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Firdous: That was Dr. Mary Angela Bock who taught us to start anew every 7 years and keep knocking on doors. Thank you Dr. Bock for paving the way for women in journalism. 

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Firdous: This has been a production of The Daily Texan’s audio department. Reported and edited by me, Firdous Khezrian, and supervised by audio editor, Molly-Jo Tilton. Music from BlueDot Sessions Bundt by Confectionary. 

For The Daily Texan, I’m Firdous Khezrian.