raven copeland headshot

Depression, racism, doubt and opposition are the biggest obstacles I had to overcome during my time as an black female college student pursuing her journalism degree and career.

When I first stepped foot on the University of Memphis campus, I was happy to be here and excited to see what these four years had in store for me. The Meeman Journalism Building became my home, but being surrounded by upperclassmen with advanced writing and reporting skills made me feel overwhelmed.

I knew I loved writing and wanted to be in front of the camera reporting my findings, but I did not think it would be that hard. How did Sydney Neely and Jurnee Taylor, my former classmates, make it look so easy?

As a freshman journalism student, you take courses that teach you about the Associated Press style of writing and journalistic ethics. While taking these courses, I was given writing assignments that tested my ability to write feature and news stories. It was then that I began to doubt my ability to grasp the material and excel in journalism.

Have you ever put your all into a paper and received it back with a bunch of corrections and an unexpected grade? This often was the reality for me in several courses and as time progressed, my doubt increased.

I prayed about it and expressed my feelings to my parents, who encouraged me to keep pushing to try to become successful. 

I decided to take a leap of faith and applied to become a copy editor for The Daily Helmsman. I did not apply for the News Reporter position because I did not think I was ready yet. 

As a copy editor, I edited reporters’ stories and searched for potential grammatical and AP style errors. As the semester progressed, I began to gain confidence in my courses and realized I was capable of potentially becoming a news writer and reporter.

In 2016, I was scrolling through several tweets about a UofM student who found a racist note on her car windshield. The note said, “You dumb n*****s, and “F**k North Carolina.” The note was directed towards a North Carolina native and the reaction to the death of Lamont Scott, who was killed in the city by a police officer. It was then I knew it was up to me to shed light on the victim in hopes it would create a much-needed conversation and potentially expose the individuals responsible for the crime.

Although no one was ever found responsible for the note, my story received the attention of local media outlets and UofM President M. David Rudd, prompting the student body to hold a protest against racism on campus.

Under the leadership of my former Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Capriel, I finally developed the confidence I had been longing for and decided to become a News Reporter the following semester. I worked as a reporter for The Daily Helmsman for about two and a half years, and to this day, I am amazed by the number of stories I have written.

During my time as a reporter, I wrote stories about the Memphis State Eight and past Black Student Association members who paved the way for UofM students today, black people who are making a name from themselves in their communities’, student-led protests and campus renovations and events, among many other stories.

My work at the student newspaper enabled me to receive an internship at The Commercial Appeal, where I worked as a news intern for 10 weeks and covered a range of different topics. At the time, I had just finished my junior year of college, and I was surrounded by professional journalists and UofM and other college alums who had more expertise than I did. Being in this environment, the self-doubt consumed me, and I began to question if I was capable of being as successful as my peers. One night, I prayed and asked God for guidance and faith during my time at the internship.

As time progressed, my confidence resurfaced, and I wrote stories on new business initiatives and openings, school reconstructions, the medical field and a plethora of other stories. I am grateful for my time at the newspaper, because my editors and colleagues pushed me. I was responsible for writing several news stories at a time, finishing stories by specific deadlines, contacting sources and reporting to certain locations in a timely manner.

With my accomplishments, some of those around me became envious of me, which resulted in opposition and even racism among my peers within the journalism field. Despite the envy, I overcame it and continued to let my work speak for itself.

During my last semester of my senior year, I was recruited by Nick Lingerfelt, the newly selected Editor-in-Chief, to become a managing editor for The Daily Helmsman. Nick was one of a few people who acknowledged my work ethic and potential and assured me I deserved a spot on the staff.

As managing editor, I have witnessed my reporters grow as journalists under my leadership, and that alone has been the most beautiful and rewarding part of working in this position.

My last semester of college has been the most challenging, with my grandfather’s death and my battle with depression for the first time in my life. Self-doubt also resurfaced during this time.

As I reflect on my four years at the UofM, I am amazed at how much I have grown as a journalist and person. I received the opportunity to travel to Atlanta and visit CNN, I was selected as the youngest intern at The Commercial Appeal, and I toured FOX13 News where I now work as a digital content producer.

From the outside looking in, it seems as if my life is perfect and I have it all together, but that is far from the case. I continue to doubt myself, and there are days when I feel sad for no reason at all. But I continue to pick myself up and strive to work harder than I did the day before. No matter what you are going through or what people may say, never let that determine your fate. Overcome it.

As graduation approaches, the words of Cardi B resonate in my head, “Knock me down nine times, but I get up 10.” That will continue to be my motto as I embark on my post-grad journey.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.