ThreeSixty Journalism is extremely grateful — and always excited — to add new faces to the mentorship fold. A veteran of the Twin Cities police and community beat, Brandt Williams is coaching two campers about the finer points of journalism this week. ThreeSixty intern Thomas Wrede spent some time with Brandt on the road and at Minnesota Public Radio.
Brandt Williams attended Barack Obama’s inauguration back in 2009 — driving all the to Washington D.C. — with no media credentials. He couldn’t get onto the crowded mall where Obama made his address or even see one of the projected big screens. He simply listened to the historic oration on a radio among the masses of people.
The veteran journalist just wanted to be there and do a little reporting for Minnesota Public Radio, where he works as a cops, courts and crime reporter. Brandt’s first job in journalism was at Insight News, a family-owned African American community newspaper centered in North Minneapolis. He started there as a reporter and within a few years, became the executive editor. The University of Minnesota graduate then interned at MPR for six months and quickly landed a job there. Some of his favorite experiences in the field involve our last two U.S. presidents. Brandt attended President Obama’s first inauguration and also covered President Bush’s visit to Minneapolis to review the 35W bridge collapse. One of his most impassioned stories, however, was a recent profile on a woman whose son was murdered several years ago. Her son’s murderer confessed to the heinous act after being incarcerated for another crime. Brandt appreciated the woman’s openness. She displayed a tremendous sense of relief and joy in the interview. Brandt said, she later forgave her son’s killer at his sentencing.
This may be Brandt’s first time officially mentoring at ThreeSIxty, but he has been to organizational events in the past. He is most eager to pass along his journalistic sagacity to the campers this summer. His best advice for high school students pursuing journalism is to not be so reserved. “Don’t be shy like I was back then,” he said, “people will usually answer all of your questions.” His primary hope is that campers will develop key people skills and make themselves vulnerable throughout these two weeks, two cornerstones of the journalism profession. When not at camp, he advises students to write — constantly! “Write for people to read, looking into issues and develop readers,” he said. This is especially easy with the presence of online blogs today.
Brandt believes people can form social “blind spots” — never interacting with individuals outside one’s fixed realm. Mentoring at camp will allow him to be exposed to young people outside his age group; and this is what he is most happy to learn from this ThreeSixty experience.
Brandt does not see the news radio industry disintegrating any time soon. MPR, for example, picks a variety of news to broadcast for the listener so they don’t have to do so on their own. Radio also provides unique audio to enhance a story and can refer the listener to view extra content, pictures or audio on its website.
The adept reporter received a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for a series of stories about racial disparities in the criminal justice system in 2002. He earned an award from the National Association of Black Journalists for a series on gun violence in 2012. In his spare time, Brandt plays guitar and rides his bike. He is a big fan of the lakes, restaurants and live music venues around town, too.