Within minutes of meeting Mary C. Curtis, you’ll get a full rundown of what’s buzzing on Capitol Hill, a breakdown of the big headlines in Charlotte, plus a sneak peek at the must-see cultural events coming up in the city. The woman knows her stuff. Mary is a contributor for a number of national media outlets such as The Washington Post, The Root and MSNBC, just to name a few. She extends her reach across the country all the way from Charlotte. In addition to her daily assignments, she keeps a close watch on politics impacting North Carolina with a local, weekly segment on WCCB News Rising.
Did I mention Mary is a Senior Facilitator with The OpEd Project, at Yale University? She’s not busy — that is what you called “booked.”
Mary recently invited me as her guest to the Community Building Initiative Stakeholder’s Breakfast in Charlotte and I watched as she worked the room from her seat. Several individuals, including community leaders and elected officials, came to our table to greet her. I wish I had a shirt that read, “I’m with Mary.” Luckily, I didn’t need it. She was gracious enough to introduce me and my accomplishments to her network.
Mary and I met in 2012, and I quickly realized her amazing work ethic. Within 24 hours, she is able to submit articles, make a television appearance, take care of family and find time to mentor young writers like me. Her schedule is tight, but she makes it work.
Job Title: Journalist and teacher
Office location: Home office in Charlotte
Commute: Wherever something of interest is going on — around the city, the country and the world. Travel can take me around Charlotte, to Washington to report on politics, to New York City or Yale University or the University of Iowa to work with thought leaders on sharing their knowledge on a broader platform to Berlin, Germany, to speak with leaders about race and policing. My work can be about politics, culture, race, faith and beyond.
What do you do during your commute? In the car, I listen to news stations; on long car commutes, I spice things up with musical theater soundtracks (“Hamilton” is my current obsession), and yes, I sing along. In airports, I catch up on work. On planes, I catch up on magazines (there’s always a stack of unread New Yorkers).
Phone Type: iPhone
Gadgets you can’t live without: Phone, computer, old school notebook. (Yes, a pad and pen.)
Do you listen to music while you work? Sometimes, most often NPR or classical.
What software are you a power user of? Gmail apps – trying to consolidate.
What’s your favorite spot for a business lunch? Your order? In Charlotte, I like Fran’s Filling Station (quiet and good food and the owner Fran Scibelli is a great host). Lately, the lamb burger, but seafood is my favorite meal.
Social media habits: I check Facebook, Twitter (though not enough), Google+ sometimes. But when I’m on deadline I’m focused on reporting and writing. I belong to helpful and supportive groups and listservs, from Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS), to the National Association of Black Journalists and the Charlotte chapter to my fellow Nieman Fellows from our year at Harvard.
What everyday thing are you really good at? I always try to get the unexpected quote in interviews, particularly when you’re interviewing public figures who’ve been through the drill so many times. Nurturing talent and mentoring are so important to me. To relax, I cook and bake – and I’m not bad at all – but ask my husband and son.
What’s your one favorite thing about your job? Meeting smart, interesting people. I love to discover and be surprised!
Best time-saving shortcut or Charlotte life hack: Cycle class at the YMCA is my remedy for writer’s block. It works for me and I stay in shape: a must when you’re rushing around.
Sleep routine: In bed too late, up too early. I do try catch a nap when I can – I’m a good plane sleeper.
Where do you go around Charlotte to get away from the office? Browsing, walking at SouthPark mall. Taking walks in different parks and on trails. Attending theater and Charlotte Ballet performances – I’m in awe of dancers’ skills.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Peanut butter on multi-grain bread, grapes and lots of coffee.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing? Acting on Broadway – just kidding.
Best job advice you’ve received: “Follow your gut – you’ve got a good gut.”
Last book you read (grade it on a A-F scale): “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We’re both from the same neighborhood in Baltimore. In his letter to his son, he recounts his own story. And he connects the experience of Black people in America to history – a clear-eyed view that so many ignore.
Last movie you watched (grade it on a A-F scale): Saw “Spotlight” and “Creed” over the holidays. Both “A” movies for different reasons. Journalists doing their job thoroughly; in “Creed” Ryan Coogler is a crazy talented director whose picture of Philly is more inclusive and real than the original “Rocky” movies. And there’s nothing wrong with pure entertainment.
What’s one thing people don’t know about Charlotte that they should? What you see is what you get – but not everyone sees the diversity of people and neighborhoods. We need to talk with one another at every opportunity to help the city reach its potential.
What other Charlottean would you like to answer these questions? I watch everything director, actress, businesswoman Kimberly Parati does. A home-grown Charlotte talent.