Melissa Angle graduated from Wichita State University in 2002 with degrees in
Print Journalism and Political Science, and never intended to go into newspapers.
“I wanted to go to law school, until I got the first payment letter,” she reveals. “I panicked and called a friend who was working at The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I’d worked on the high school and college newspapers; I had a background in editing and design. I figured whatever job I could get would come with a learning curve, but I was desperate.”
After graduating, moving back into her parents’ house and sending out more than 300 cover letters and resumés that summer, she set out to live by the beach in September 2002.
Angle got her start as a copy editor and designer at The Sun News for about three years, and in 2005, moved to Florida as a senior designer at the Orlando Sentinel, designing A1 and special projects. In late 2007, she came to Atlanta as a senior designer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When Cox Newspapers consolidated the design desks in June 2012, Angle started her new role as Projects Editor.
How did you first get involved with SND?
Those 300 resumés I sent out in the summer of 2002? Most were in response to posts I saw on SND’s job board. Once I was in Myrtle Beach, I attended a Quick Course here or there and submitted a few unsuccessful entries for the competition. But I didn’t really get involved with SND until I came to Orlando and was able to help with the 2006 workshop. Since then, I’ve been a regional director, education and training director, competition coordinator, and volunteer for dozens of SND events.
How has your involvement with SND — or attending an SND event — helped you grow professionally or personally?
Workshops, competition judging, Quick Courses, the SND board … these experiences and connections helped shape my career. The organization has created such a strong and open community for visual journalists. Thanks to SND, I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world and have worked with some amazing mentors along the way. Even with the ups and downs of this industry, I will always have a one-of-a-kind support system comprising some of the world’s most talented journalists.
Tell us about a project in your portfolio that you’re particularly proud of.
One of my favorite projects happens to be one of our biggest. Several years ago, the AJC found irregularities in standardized test scores and exposed likely cheating in the public schools here. That story received national attention and helped lead to a 65-count indictment accusing 35 Atlanta educators of conspiring to cheat on these federally mandated tests. When our watchdog team wanted to take this investigation nationwide, it seemed almost too big to handle. Seven months of work, 1.6 million records from 69,000 U.S. schools … and we had to figure out a way to present it all in print.
We must have sketched 30 different kinds of pages … iconic images, large typography, classroom photos, none of it seemed to work. Editors were pushing for a U.S. map that would show the breadth and depth of this investigation … but I had only basic graphic skills and no experience working with data sets this large.
I wouldn’t even say the final pages were some of my best or favorite design work, but the project was challenging and it represented the whole team working to give readers all the best information in the fastest way possible. The page was also released to national news media with our report, and my grandparents were very excited to see my work on NBC Nightly News.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t wait for things to happen.”
I still use this advice every day. You have to be proactive. Want to become indispensable? Find ways to get the training you need and try new things. Want to be involved with a big project? Find out when the meetings are and go. Learn more, work harder, speak up, present ideas and don’t be afraid of “no.” Visual journalists sometimes work behind the scenes, but we can’t work below the radar.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you?
I won an art contest in the first grade. It was this huge Hawaiian scene with women in hula skirts dancing next to oddly detailed palm trees and pineapple plants. Unfortunately, at only 6 years old, that was the height of my artistic skills. I’ve regressed to stick figures and squiggles, so don’t expect to understand anything I sketch! I’m not really artistic or creative in the traditional sense; I’m just a total Type A personality who’s obsessed with alignment.
Instagram video or Vine?
Vine. Six seconds is more than enough!
And finally, of course, which typeface would you be?
I’d need a good ampersand, something unexpected, so I guess I’d say Hoefler Titling. The italic has one of my favorite funky ampersands.