“Is the story good?” asked Glenn Proctor, entrepreneur and executive editor of Lake Norman Publications. He was speaking to sophomore Laura Roller, copy editor and staff writer for the Threefold.
“I think it is, but—”
“No. Is the story good?”
After a moment of hesitation, Roller said, “Yes.”
Direct questions like these are part of Proctor’s stock in trade as both a successful journalist and a leadership trainer. Using his talent for straight talk, as well as his love of networking and skill as a writer, Proctor has become one of the more famous journalists of our time.
“I probably know every editor in America,” Proctor told a John Brown University marketing class on Oct. 23.
But this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist faced more than his fair share of challenges to get this far.
Born in Philadelphia, Proctor did not have an easy childhood. He was a foster child at the age of 3 and raised for much of his life by his grandmother. After high school, his career options were limited to either factory work or the military, Proctor said. He chose to join the Marine Corps.
“Everything taught me to be physically and mentally strong, to understand leadership, to have pride,” said Proctor of his time in the Marines. Proctor said that his service gave him direction and taught him that he “can accomplish anything. There are no barriers to personal success.”
Proctor served overseas during the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged, he began studying accounting at Brandywine College and worked in a steel mill, but this did not last for long.
“I met a journalist at a crime scene,” said Proctor. Two groups of men had gotten into a fight, resulting in a casualty. Proctor was present when the reporter arrived, and watched as he interviewed police and witnesses.
“I was fascinated,” said Proctor. He introduced himself to the reporter, utilizing his notable networking abilities. The reporter was able to get him a formal interview, and in January of 1970, Proctor was working at a suburban Philadelphia daily paper.
Proctor had no formal training in newswriting, but had been writing stories and poetry from his childhood.
“I try to write a couple of poems every week,” Proctor said, describing poetry as his doorway into journalism.
Proctor worked hard and learned fast, and soon opportunities presented themselves to practice journalism all over the country. He went back to the Marines for a short time as the editor of the base newspaper at Camp Lejeune, N.C., worked as a press secretary to former Rep. Dan Mica in Washington, D.C., and later worked as an editor for papers in Ohio, Kentucky, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina.
“The more energetic you are, the more opportunities avail themselves to you,” said Proctor.
Such successes did not come without challenges, however. Proctor remembers how his struggle with alcoholism dragged him down.
“[Drinking] was just what we did as kids. Some could control it and some couldn’t. I was one of the ones who could not control it,” said Proctor.
Eventually, he learned to like the taste, which later gave him health problems and got him in trouble at work. When he realized that the drinking had to stop, he checked into a detox center.
“I’ve been dry since March 24, 1984,” said Proctor. Just three years later, he and a team of journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for their work on a series of articles about Goodyear Tire Co.
Overall, Proctor has had over 40 years of experience in journalism. Following his battle with prostate cancer, Proctor retired last year. Proctor stayed busy, however. He founded his company REDDjobb in June 2011. REDDjobb offers executive and career coaching, leadership training, creative thinking, and motivation, presented in non-traditional sessions and workshops.
“It’s just a continuation of what I’ve always done,” said Proctor. “I was a trainer, I was a recruiter, I was a mentor, I was a coach.”
REDDjobb is a way for Proctor to live out his passion, helping people to set the right course in life.
“If you don’t find your own direction, others will help you stay lost,” Proctor said. “How many [college seniors] have I talked to that have no idea what to do after college? That bothers me.”
Though mentoring is passion, Proctor didn’t stay out of journalism for long; he was appointed executive editor of Lake Norman Publications in July 2012. He said he’ll continue to work there as long as he can.
Journalism can be sobering, Proctor said. This is especially true for him, as he was working in Newark, N.J. on 9/11 and in Richmond, Va. during the Virginia Tech shooting.
“It really brings your life into perspective. We meet people on the best and worst days of their lives.”
Despite all his work, Proctor is far from finished. He plans on “finding new and interesting coaching opportunities” with REDDjobb, running Lake Norman Publications, and moving forward wherever he goes.
“I’m running like a crazy person,” Proctor said, but he did not seem displeased.