By Elianna Novitch
When asked what they want to be when they grow up, children’s answers can range from doctor or hairdresser to firefighter to superhero. For Glenn Townes, the answer was always “journalist.”
From a young age, the Daily Iowan alumnus has had a passion for journalism.
“People say to me frequently that ever since I was a child, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a journalist, writer, reporter,” Townes said. “That I’m doing it 40-some-odd years later, I think it just shows that once you determine and focus on doing something and you really put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.”
Townes has worked at a number of publications throughout his career in journalism, and he is now a senior contributing writer at the Network Journal — a business magazine and website based in New York — as well as a contributing writer for other publications, including Black Enterprise magazine, the South Jersey Journal, and US 1 News.
“My interest in journalism has always been from writing business and financial news, but working as a general-assignment [reporter] at different publications kind of gave me the background that I needed to later on in my career focus on business news and financial news,” Townes said.
During his time at the DI, Townes was a general-assignment reporter for two years, 1982-1984, helping cover the police beat and courts.
He also worked as one of the first editors of the UI African American student newspaper, the Challenger, in the early 1980s.
Townes graduated from the UI in 1986 with a B.A. in journalism and mass communication and a minor in English.
Some of his major accomplishments include being invited to speak as a Professional-in-Residence twice at the UI, in 2007 and 2016, and being awarded the Frank Allen Field Reporting Award by the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources in July 2017.
“The award will enable me to travel to Cuba in the coming months to write in-depth articles regarding the plight of Cuban farmers and their alliance with African-American farmers,” Townes said in an email. “In addition, the organization awarded me a reporting fellowship in April 2017 to cover the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. I was able to publish several articles from my stay in Flint, including one story that was an exclusive and picked up by the national wire services … a major coup for a journalist.”
In his 30-plus years since his time as a journalism student at the UI, Townes said, he has seen the journalism industry change enormously.
“Nowadays, everyone is tied to a cellphone or laptop and prefers to get news instantaneously,” he said in an email. “While I don’t condemn the concept, I think it deters journalists and writers from becoming more entrenched when writing a story. I think relevant details and other salient points of an interview with a subject may be overlooked or dismissed for the sake of immediacy.”
He said that he doesn’t regret pursuing a career in journalism.
“I can honestly say that I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do — be a journalist,” Townes said. “I followed my passion and not the money. No regrets, no regrets.”