Writing the Headlines


by Laura Wisman

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SUMMARY: Senior Grant Johnson (‘24) has become adept at time-management skills as a WRTC and SMAD double major while at JMU — if only to ensure he finds campus parking. The editor-in-chief of The Breeze, he interned with The Washington Post last summer.

Senior Grant Johnson (‘24) has become adept at time-management skills while at JMU — if only to ensure he finds campus parking. Johnson is majoring in Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication (WRTC) and Media Arts & Design (SMAD) with minors in Sport Communication and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. He also serves as editor-in-chief of The Breeze, JMU’s student-run newspaper.

Johnson arrived at JMU with general interests in journalism and sports but wasn’t sure how to combine the two. He learned that JMU had a journalism program during an offhand conversation with one of his First Year Orientation Advisors (FROGs) during Orientation week, and a Career & Academic Planning course taught him to translate his interests into majors and minors. On his second day on campus, Grant applied to write for The Breeze's sports desk and, after encouragement from his editor, applied for a higher position on the paper months later. By the spring, Grant was hired as a copy editor, becoming the newsroom's lone freshman and youngest member of The Breeze's editorial staff.

He continued in that role during his sophomore year, later becoming the sports editor and finally editor-in-chief. He attributes much of his success to working with and learning from his collaborators and informal mentors.

Johnson ALR article1“Being part of a team, something bigger than yourself, is invigorating” he affirms. A summer internship at The Washington Post, where he copyedited stories and wrote headlines, cemented his goal to work in journalism after graduation.

Among the many professors and courses at JMU that have impacted Johnson and his writing, a few stand out. Professor Mike Grundmann’s advice in his SMAD 310 Advanced Reporting and Writing class to be physically present with the subject of a story has made Johnson a better reporter and storyteller. A self-directed project in Seán McCarthy’s Introduction to WRTC class led Johnson to pitch a story to The Breeze that evolved into an impactful series on student experiences with the JMU Counseling Center.

“Seán [empowered us] to relate stuff from class to real life,” he explained. The initial class assignment became a several monthslong project that drew others’ attention. Brad Jenkins, General Manager and Advisor for The Breeze, shared, “I have really been impressed by Grant’s instincts as a reporter. I saw this especially when he wrote a story last year about student-athletes and their mental health. This came soon after a JMU student-athlete died of suicide. Grant approached the story with empathy and care, but also didn’t shy away from asking questions that deepened the story. He won a well-deserved national award from the Associated Collegiate Press for the story.”

Johnson’s advice to current and future students?: “Be selfless. Faculty and staff here are gracious with their time and will go out of their way to help you. Know that you’re not alone and you have a support system. JMU is a large campus but if you apply yourself, you’ll find your people and your niche.”

And maybe even a parking space.

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Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2024

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