Youth not wasted on Shannon Williams
Williams advanced quickly.
By Sheridan Watkins, NNPA Intern
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Those who say youth is wasted on the young obviously have not met Shannon Williams, president of the Indianapolis Recorder. At 37, she is one of the youngest newspaper publishers in the nation.
Born in Illinois, her parents divorced before she reached her first birthday and her mother moved her and two older siblings to Indianapolis.
Williams did not have a close relationship with her father. And anytime Williams felt isolated, she found a way to fill the void.
“I always loved to write and read and it did not help that I was not good in math or science so that narrowed the filter,” Williams said.
Her passion for reading and writing never ceased as she pursued a mass communications major with a minor in marketing and English at Jackson State University in Mississippi, graduating in 2000. Like her many freshly graduated counterparts, she desired to do everything and do it all at once.
“Shortly after coming home, in the matter of weeks, I inter-viewed at the Recorder and was hired. However, the publisher at the time did not have an opening for a writer but thank-fully she saw something in me,” Williams said.
She worked in marketing, which was much better than delivering papers to stores and vendors.
“Any opportunity I got [to write for the newspaper] I would write the best office memos ever so she could realize that I could write,” she said.
Evidently, they were pretty good because within six months, Carolene Mays, the publisher, had promoted Williams to managing editor.
The bond between Williams and Mays grew rapidly because Mays saw the young journalist as valuable prospect to groom to take over the family-owned business. In the span of 10 years, workers of the Indianapolis Recorder could now refer to Williams as president.
“Every day I worked as if it was my first day on the job. I wanted to show my boss she did not make a mistake in hiring me and when you work that hard every day, it shows,” she said. “There were times I wanted to throw in the towel but I realized my boss was tough on me because she saw something in me that she did not see in anyone else.”
Though short on experience, compared to most publishers, Williams says her youth works to her advantage.
“I think I have a different perspective than many publishers that are older than me. I have out of the box ideas and it is a benefit to my newspaper and NNPA. Initially, it was difficult for people to take me seriously because I was young and I was a female. I have al-ways been the youngest per-son presenting or the only wo-man but I continually proved myself.”
Williams involves herself with many organizations in the community and said she tries to educate and help her surrounding area by being involved with causes, including child advocacy, women support and police relations.
“I am really passionate about women’s rights and quality education. I am also passionate about the criminal justice system…[like] racial profiling and unfair sentencing and how the prison business is run,” she said.
Williams likes stirring the pot.
“We have had a lot of controversial stories and I think if you don’t, then what kind of job are you doing?” she said. “This profession is definitely not for everyone because it has to be innate in you for your stories to transcend and capture the feeling and emotion for the reader.”
As Williams continues on her career path, she will continue to implement new ideas and help young journalists that have the same dream she did when her publisher gave her a chance long ago.
“Just realize it does not always come when you want it. Work really hard to get your foot in the door and follow your gut. I always thought it was so corny when people said that to me but I understand the truth of that now because for me it was something spiritual [that led to the choices she made].”