Mario Parker wouldn’t be where he is today — and many days, that’s 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500 — if not for a couple award-winning journalists turned persuasive professors.
First, there was John W. Fountain, a one-time News-Gazette intern who went on to work for the best of the best in media — reporter at The Washington Post, national correspondent for The New York Times — before returning to his alma mater to teach journalism in the mid-2000s.
“I’d met Fountain years earlier, prior to my enrolling at the UIUC, but one memory stands out,” says Parker, who now covers the White House for Bloomberg News.
“The academic year had reached its midpoint, graduation was on the horizon and I was at a crossroads between choosing a path that would lead me to my goal of being a journalist, or changing course and pursuing opportunities in public relations. There was some angst among myself and some of my classmates about the career prospects for journalism and my confidence was wavering a bit.
“Fountain reassured me that I had what it took to become a journalist and encouraged me not to waver on what had been a dream career of mine. Some 14 years later, I’m still plying my craft, now here in Washington, these days, covering the White House.
“Another professor that had a profound impact on me was (Post Pulitzer winner) Leon Dash, who taught meticulous reporting techniques, that I still use to this day.
“As part of one assignment for his class, I interviewed and reported a story about the Canaan S.A.F.E. House in Urbana, a faith-based substance abuse rehabilitation center, where the men there shared with me intimate details about their life stories and also their aspirations.”