In trying times and circumstances, understanding makes all the difference. Laura Smythe, KLN '19, prioritizes connecting with others in all areas of her life, and her journalism is no exception. As the tourism and hospitality reporter for the Philadelphia Business Journal, she has taken her journalism training from Klein College of Media and Communication to new heights.
Smythe found her way to Temple University after attending a semester at Ithaca College in New York and extensive traveling. In total, she has traveled to 28 countries via budget backpacking, including Kenya, Peru and Switzerland. While abroad, she realized how much she enjoyed interacting with others.
"I fell in love with doing something a little bit different every day, talking to people, hearing their stories, being able to share those with other people and learning something new all the time," she says. "So I started to think that journalism might be a good career to do some of those things."
During her time at Temple, Smythe maintained impressive grades while working as a bartender and completing internships at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine. In student media, she was a freelance reporter and photographer turned features editor for The Temple News. John DiCarlo, managing director of student media, remembers how Smythe not only continued to push her own limits, but also motivated her colleagues to do the same.
"She was a terrific writer, terrific reporter, really cared about making people better," DiCarlo says. "She was a great peer mentor — I would sometimes hear her running one of their section meetings and she took great care with how she ran her meetings, the time that she spent with her reporters. She really invested the time in helping people get better and it just helped make us a better paper."
Along with other commitments including freelance reporting and traveling to South Africa through Klein's Office of Global Opportunities (Klein GO), Smythe was also a writer for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab. She was selected as one of the publication's Lew Klein Fellows and reported on immigration. Her work was important and timely according to Christoper Malo, program manager and editor of Philadelphia Neighborhoods. During Smythe's time as a fellow, she exhibited an extraordinary balance of empathy and integrity, which he says demonstrated "what an outstanding reporter she was."
Smythe graduated summa cum laude and won a Hearst Award and a Keystone Press Award along with nominations for two other Hearst awards and finalist slots for eight EPPYs. She then worked as a news reporter for the Philadephia Gay News, writing several articles a week and conducting in-depth journalism on economic justice as part of Resolve Philadelphia's "Broke in Philly" reporting collaborative. When she started her current role at the Philadelphia Business Journal at the end of 2019, she was ready to branch out into tourism, hospitality and gaming journalism, finding that those industries aligned well with her interests. While no one could have anticipated the devastating economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smythe's journalistic sensibilities allowed her to cover business news with compassion.
"I've watched her kind of bring the same spirit, same approach, that I found her to have during her days at Temple to other places, other topics, other beats, other outlets as she's continued her reporting," Malo says.
Smythe, who has received two Professional Keystone Media Awards, two NLGJA awards, and one award and one honorable mention from the National Newspaper Association, says she cherishes her journalism career and her role at Philadelphia Business Journal. Learning more about the people and businesses who make up the fabric of Philadelphia is an experience she does not take for granted.
"It's an 'on-the-go' job, you're never just sitting around at your desk all the time and I find that very invigorating. I never really wanted to just do the same thing every day so it's kind of been the perfect opportunity," she says.
Building community through her work is also important to Smythe. The journalists she met at Klein have also moved on to fulfilling careers, and she advises current students at the university to cross-network and take advantage of the immersive experiences and curriculum the university has to offer.
"I still keep in touch with a lot of people or I have friends who report on maybe a different beat than I do," she says. "But if I ever leapt into that I'll shoot them a text and be like 'What does this mean? How does this work?' and they'll help me out. So I think just fostering those relationships as much as possible has been beneficial."
Although she already has many experiences and accolades under her belt, Smythe believes she has a lot more to offer. Mostly, she wants to lend an ear to those who have a story to tell — and she is always ready to listen.