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Journalism, Money, and Giving Yourself Permission to Remake Yourself and Your Career with Toni Johnson

Talk Bravely

Release Date: 06/08/2020

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Actor, karate-school manager, Apple Genius (before there ever was such a thing), journalist, philanthropy executive, and potential future politician? Yep, Toni has lived each of these lives and is ready to talk about it!

Journalist and communications expert Toni Johnson is a former deputy editor and staff writer for the Emmy-winning website of the Council on Foreign Relations, she spent four years as a reporter for Congressional Quarterly where she covered a range of legislation. Her work has appeared in numerous major publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN.com, and more.

Toni is currently CEO and founder of Mission OutLoud. In her former role as head of knowledge and influence for the Heron Foundation, Toni led the foundation’s long-term public influence and engagement strategy. 

Basically, Toni is a huge politics and policy wonk - which are some of my favorite people.  She’s been awarded prestigious journalism fellowships and has a masters in international journalism from American University. I also happen to put her up as one of the thought leaders I follow on social media.

What we’re talking about:

This episode was recorded before the tragic murder of George Floyd and the protests that are ongoing as of the release date. It’s important to note this is why our conversation revolved around COVID-19 and not current events.

  • We discuss Toni’s early ambition to become a lawyer, yet surviving a school shooting at Simon’s Rock impacted her greatly and shifted her career trajectory.

  • Toni gave herself a 5 year plan to pursue acting in NYC instead of going to law school and during that time acted, managed a karate school, temp’ed for a nonprofit, became a certified apple technician, and then finally decided to pursue journalism.

  • How she believes her upbringing and Montessori education and then attending college at a young age at Simon’s Rock helped shape how she learns and approaches life.

  • Her story of becoming guardian to her siblings just before going to grad school for journalism, how she dealt with homelessness in DC the week before 9/11, and how American University believed in her so much they offered her more scholarship and access to a supporter who provided an apartment.

  • Her career trajectory working her way through DC’s elite political journalism organizations and how she chose a job when offered THREE jobs in one day.

  • She defines herself as a “policy journalist and not a politics journalist” during her time in DC.

  • Toni’s career life lessons for aspiring journalists (33:00):

    1. Journalists will have a long life. It’s okay to remake yourself.

    2. How people treat you at work is important. And we need to rely on our network to build us up so we don’t get caught up in toxic environments.

    3. There’s a tension between being a doer and a helper and what you need to do to further your own ambitions.

    4. “Being fearless and talking bravely is really the life lesson for everything.” (35:00)

  • Life lessons about money as a successful Black woman.

    1. Her period of severe poverty growing up and how that impacted her ambivalence to money right now.

    2. She sees money as a tool, and in the past has had a distrust of the markets. 

    3. The discomfort of making a lot of money working for a philanthropic foundation and questioning the impact of how she’s serving the poor.

    4. The philosophy that if she has enough money to splurge on cable, she’s going to be okay.

  • The idea that it’s never too late to get in to politics - and maybe how Toni thinks she’s a little more Bernie Sanders than Joe Biden - and might run for local office one day

Connect with Toni:

On LinkedIn

On Twitter @ToniOutLoud


Connect with Talk Bravely:

Instagram: @talkbravely