Alumni Spotlight: Toni Konz
Name: Toni Konz
Graduation Year: 2002
Degree/Major: News Editorial
Current Employer: The Courier-Journal
Current Title: Reporter
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Currently Reside: Louisville, KY
What do you do on a “typical day”? I cover K-12 education for the most part, but I also get to dapple a little bit in sports reporting. I do a lot of online research during the day. I constantly stay in contact with my sources. I am out on my beat visiting my schools at least twice a week. I also tweet and use Facebook daily to connect with my readers.
What led you to this job/career choice? I have been employed with Gannett for 10 years. I started working for the company in Hattiesburg but then transferred to Montgomery, Alabama before landing at my paper in Louisville (which is one of the largest in the company and in the country). I always loved to write when I was younger, so finding a profession where I could write for a living was a dream come true.
What are some of your career highlights/accomplishments/achievements? In 2002, while covering a speech in Hattiesburg by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, my tape recorder and cassette tape were illegally seized by a deputy U.S. marshal. Scalia sent me a personal letter apologizing for the incident. My newspaper sued. We won and as part of the settlement, deputy marshals must learn about the first amendment as part of their training. The letter from Scalia, along with the recorder and cassette tape were donated to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
I have been an education reporter for 10 years and have won numerous awards for my coverage, most recently a second place national award from the Education Writers Association for my coverage on some of Louisville's most struggling schools.
Aside from doing the education thing, I love being able to cover the Kentucky Derby each year here in Louisville. I usually get to cover celebrity parties and red carpet appearances, which is a lot of fun! I have also had the chance to do some fun stories on local athletes who have made in big in professional sports.
What other jobs did you hold before your current position? I was a deputy sheriff for the Forrest County Sheriff's Department in Hattiesburg for four years before becoming a journalist.
Why did you choose Southern Miss? I actually found Southern Miss by accident. I was on a road trip to Biloxi from Milwaukee in December 1997 when we drove by the university. The next day I drove back up to Hattiesburg to tour the campus, and I fell in love with the school. They had great programs in both criminal justice and journalism, and that pretty much was what made me transfer mid-semester from the University of Wisconsin.
What was your favorite/most useful class while at USM? My favorite course would have to be the History of Journalism course I took from Dr. Dave Davies. It was so fascinating and interesting. I loved learning about the history of the profession that I am now proud to call my career.
My other favorite courses were in criminal justice. I had so much fun learning about criminal law and procedure.
And some of the best times I had at USM was while I was on staff at the Student Printz newspaper. Those were some great years, and I learned so much about writing, reporting and editing during those years.
Did you complete an internship/practicum while at Southern Miss? If so, tell us about your experience. I completed a criminal justice internship with the Forrest County Sheriff's Department. It was a wonderful experience that led to full time employment as a deputy sheriff. It was so useful to actually work in a field I was interested in and to see if it was something I would want to do as a career after college.
Anything you would change about your college experience? I would have come to Southern Miss right after high school, instead of a semester after I started college!
What advice do you have for students going into your field? Journalism has become an online-driven industry. Newspapers still exist (thank goodness) but everything is shifting towards online. Learn how to shoot video and edit it for the internet. It's still important to be the in-depth reporter and ask all the important questions, but editors are looking for anything extra you can do to make your stories "pop" online.
Who are your role models? Ronald Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt. I am also fond of Betty White.
Tell us about your family. My parents still live in Milwaukee and I live in Louisville with my 10-year-old son, Cameron.
Any memories of your time at USM you’d like to share? My favorite memories include the many friends I met while I was at USM. I loved working at the Student Printz and covering fun and important events involving the university. I loved going to football games and other events.