On Background: Meet Jodie Valade, our planning and enterprise editor

Jodie Valade (Khadejeh Nikouyeh/Knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com)

This mini Q&A vignette is a part of an going series called “On Background” to reacquaint readers with the team of journalists working in our newsroom. Responses edited for clarity.

Jodie Valade joined The Charlotte Observer in January as the planning and enterprise editor. She works with longer stories and manages the twice-weekly Reimagined Print initiative. Previously, Jodie spent two years with WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR affiliate, as a digital news and engagement editor.

Before shifting to news, Jodie spent two decades as a sportswriter, writing about the people and issues in sports, with a heavy leaning toward NBA coverage. Career stops included The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, as a sports features and enterprise reporter, where she covered LeBron James’ first stint with the Cavaliers; The Dallas Morning News where she covered the Dallas Mavericks and Mark Cuban’s first full season of ownership of the team; and The Kansas City Star, where there was no NBA team but she assisted with Kansas City Royals coverage.

Her work also has appeared in The Athletic, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Garden & Gun, among others.

She is a graduate of Northwestern University, and originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.

How did you get into journalism?

I grew up in the Detroit area, with parents who were huge news consumers and an older brother whom I idolized and wanted to compete with. That meant we were always reading the newspaper (or watching TV news) as a family and trading sections of our Detroit Free Press. When my brother said he really liked a sports columnist named Mitch Albom in the Free Press, I started reading him religiously, too.

By age 12, I decided I wanted to be just like Mitch Albom.

I have yet to write a bestselling book like “Tuesdays with Morrie,” but I did pursue a career as a sportswriter so I could focus on telling stories about people and issues in sports like Mitch Albom did. I love stories that move people in some way — either to emotion or action or introspective thought.

Oh, and I met my idol when I interned at the Detroit Free Press, and had the chance to tell him how influential he was on my career (and life!).

What excites you about this field?

I love that we have an opportunity to affect people’s lives every single day. Whether it’s from news that people need, or from stories that can change someone’s perspective or outlook on a topic, we provide vital information. It amazes me what people will tell you when you say that you’re a reporter, and I feel the weight and privilege of telling their stories.

What is the most interesting aspect of your beat/job?

I’m able to shape our coverage of big stories and projects at the Observer. I also meet and work with lots of cool people.

Words of wisdom you’ve received?

My mom always said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.” This was particularly helpful advice when there were few female role models in the sports writing profession. (It was less helpful for her when I would use this phrase in response to her concerns about me competing in triathlons or hiking mountains.)

Proud life moments? Something you’d like to improve?

I was the first woman in the history of the Dallas Mavericks to cover the team as a daily beat writer. I covered Dirk Nowitzki’s first All-Star season. I covered Mark Cuban’s first full year of ownership of the team. I also covered a player named Hubert Davis, who moved to North Carolina a few years before I did and got a big promotion a few years ago. But I’m probably proudest of the stories I’ve told that have given a voice to the voiceless, amplified an issue or touched people in some way. And I’m proud of this story, about two of the beings I’ve loved most in my life.

Fun fact about you?

I once had a body double who was a runner-up for Miss Texas. There’s a whole story, but it has to do with this commercial.