2011 JAWS keynote speaker: Margie Freivogel shares her biggest mistakes

What happens when you and your husband both dream of covering Washington for your hometown paper and there’s only one position available? Well, for the 2011 JAWS Keynote Speaker and former president Margie Freivogel you offer the unique option to share the job.

Thinking creatively and critically has led to a successful career for Frievogel, including 34 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and founding editor of the St. Louis Beacon, an innovative news website funded mostly by donors, already achieving $4 million of the $5 million goal for the next five years.

Margie Freivogel - 0D7000-0789

She has re-energized journalism in St. Louis at the Beacon with expanding outreach, including partnerships with the Missouri History Museum and reader meet-ups called “Beacon & Eggs.” “We have a better St. Louis thanks to journalism. The Beacon is a regional non-profit news organization. News use to be thought of as getting the paper to someone’s lawn. Now the job is much more about meeting people where they are. I don’t have the problems in journalism figured out, but everyday I’m grateful to be part of the adventure,” she shared.

In Frievogel’s keynote presentation, titled “My Favorite Mistakes,” she achieved her goal of topping the park ranger and his beaver puppet from a past JAWS keynote, by sharing how her roadblocks were really stepping stones. She listened closely to Steve Jobs’ words of wisdom at Stanford’s commencement. He shared how his three biggest failings – dropping out of college, being fired from Microsoft and getting cancer – gave him the unique insight and courage to succeed. “I’m a few billion dollars from Steve Jobs, but my obstacles taught me.”

Brick Wall #1
“Right after college, my husband and I graduated one weekend and got married the next. I got offered a job at the Post but wanted to get out of St. Louis. The following fall, my husband went to Harvard Law School. I got a job doing what women are suppose to do, support their husband. But there were two problems: I was making no money and hated the job. Come October, we were thrilled to be working at the St. Louis Dispatch and stayed for 34 years. I never could have started the Beacon without the connections made there.”

Brick Wall #2
“My husband and I both had the dream to cover Washington for the paper. They offered him the job. We proposed that we would share the job and they would get two reporters. The Washington bureau chief was really skeptical. Joseph Pulitizer, publisher of St. Louis was intrigued and we got it approved. We shared the job in Washington and at home. Our lives were pretty frantic and I remember trading off caring for the kids and covering a presidential campaign. The balance of commitment made us better parents and journalists. Even though some thought it was nuts, having the courage to ask to share the job made the difference.”

Brick Wall #3:
“Once we returned to St. Louis, the paper was sold. I took the buy out after 34 years at the paper and thought my days were done in journalism. Having the time to step back, me and other journalists saw the bigger picture of what was going on in journalism. The old model was broken but digital was full of opportunity.”

Lesson on Brick Walls: “In retrospect, earlier brick walls paved the way to listen to my heart, make long relationships and propose new ideas even as others say they are crazy.”

Just as quickly as she started, Frievogel ended her speech to a standing applause, imposing the new Kay Mills Imperative for no JAWS speaker to interfere with the time members spend with each other.

Back to building lasting bonds, ladies.