Letter from Olive Talley

Excerpted from a letter Olive sent March 29, 2012, in connection with my application for a Mayborn scholarship:

I have known Gayle for more than three decades. I first met her when I was a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin and part-time employee in the newsroom of a local radio station. Gayle had already graduated from UT and was working for an Austin newspaper, covering city hall and university politics.  I was in awe of her work because she routinely broke stories that I chased.  I regularly stood alongside her as she grilled city council members so that I could learn how to do the same thing.

For the first few years, I viewed Gayle as a mentor.  I meticulously read all of her stories, hoping I could one day be like her.

We became friends, but the personal regard for each other was rooted in our shared passion for journalism.  A couple of years after I graduated, I was working at a news-talk radio station in Houston, covering federal courts. Gayle was a reporter at the Austin American Statesman.  And we teamed up to cover an unfolding bribery scandal involving then-Texas House Speaker Billy Clayton.

She went on to the Fort Worth paper and I went on to work for UPI , The Houston Post, The Houston Chronicle and eventually The Dallas Morning News.  The DMN wisely chose to hire her away from the Star-Telegram and, after more than a decade of following each other’s careers, we worked side by side in the same newsroom.

Finally, I got to see up close what I’d seen from a distance:  her tenacity, her passion and her fierce dedication to the truth.

Gayle’s resume will list The Pulitzer Prize and the dozens and dozens of awards and honors her work has garnered. It will show you the progression from reporting, editing and managing.  What her resume probably does not reflect is the deep and abiding respect and high esteem in which she is viewed by so many in the journalism field – nationwide.

She has mentored countless other journalists – young and experienced alike – and become a stellar role model in our field.

She’s devoted untold hours of volunteer work and held numerous leadership positions in a variety of professional organizations, including Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), the Society for Professional Journalists, as well as groups devoted to investigative journalism and alternative weeklies.

Even after I left the Morning News and joined the ranks of network television as a producer at ABC Prime Time Live for Diane Sawyer, and Dateline NBC in NY, I kept up with Gayle, her work, and her move from the DMN to Fort Worth Weekly.

If you’re looking for someone with a proven track record of excellent journalism, dedication to this industry, and personal commitment to truth and integrity, look no further than Gayle Reaves.

As a former Nieman fellow, I know firsthand the value of a fellowship like this. Gayle will bring a wonderful spark to your program and everyone involved will benefit from her being a part of your team.

I wholeheartedly endorse and recommend her. And please feel free to contact me if there’s anything else I can tell you about this incredible woman – a real star in this profession.

Sincerely,

Olive Talley

Dallas-based freelance journalist

6133 Prospect Ave.,

Dallas, Texas 75214

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