Kelly Glass realized early on that breaking into journalism would require her to hustle. As a single parent, she couldn’t afford to take on unpaid internships to gain experience — the route so many journalists in the field take.
Instead, Kelly worked long hours, first as a reporter and then as an editor, for her college newspaper at a state school in Illinois, where she majored in journalism. She loved the work but after graduation had a difficult time breaking into the field. She pivoted to editorial marketing and accepted a role at Groupon. During her time there, she began freelance writing and continued trying to land a full-time journalism and digital media role.
Over time, Kelly built up her freelance portfolio and, a couple of full-time jobs after Groupon, eventually quit to freelance full time. “I successfully carved my own lane as a freelance health and parenting journalist focused on centering Black people and our stories and never looked back,” she says.
Today, as the editorial director of Kindred by Parents, Kelly has that full-time role she wanted after college — but she recognizes her path was not as linear and secure as many other people experience.
“The problem is that there’s so little space for a Black woman who didn’t go to an expensive top journalism school, who has no financial safety net and no generational wealth, no other income-earning adult to lean on and zero connections through a friend of a friend to break into journalism,” Kelly says.
From Full Time to Freelance and Back Again
When Kelly quit her full-time job leading university communications to exclusively freelance, people questioned her decision. “I didn’t waste time explaining to them that I had a vision and the work was already in motion to make the vision a reality,” she recalls. “Trying to convince people to see your vision is a burden that’s not worth it when you trust yourself. Just make the plan, and let folks watch it play out.”
What then motivated Kelly to do a U-turn and leave the freedom of freelancing for another full-time role?
“Only something I’m passionate about, like my current position, could take me out of the comfy little world I’d built as a freelancer,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to combine my editorial marketing background with my love for journalism and, most importantly, my mission to tell the stories that matter to Black families. And let’s keep it real — paying taxes and buying health insurance as a freelancer is not fun.” (Note from the author: can confirm!)
As part of her work, Kelly gets to meet a lot of famous folks, so of course I wanted to know who she’s enjoyed the most.
“I can’t say I’ve ever interviewed a celebrity who didn’t make my day in one way or another!” Kelly says. However, she cites Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union for their transparency and unapologetic Blackness. “There’s just nothing like talking Black woman to Black woman. Guards come down, and there’s a safety and comfortability in being able to truly bring yourself.”
As a longtime fan, Kelly also loved interviewing Judge Greg Mathis and his family. She also highlights her interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin for an entirely different reason.
“As a Black interviewer, sometimes it’s important to break that fourth wall, so to speak, and personally relate to your interviewee,” she explains. “Craig was so raw and real about his estrangement from his father and the effects of his father’s addiction on his childhood that it didn’t feel right not to mention that I shared the same experience. He actually encouraged me to sit down with my father and have the same conversations he had with his own father that fueled their reconciliation and healing. That was powerful.”
“I Will Not Allow Myself to Disconnect My Humanity From My Work”
Though meeting celebrities is one part of the job, Kelly’s work can also be emotionally heavy to manage. How does she create boundaries or structures to protect herself and staff?
“The first expectation I place is on myself,” Kelly says. “I will not allow myself to go on autopilot or disconnect my humanity from my work. I make sure that trickles down to my team and that they know I don’t expect that from them, either.”
When the news cycle includes yet another act of racist violence or requires giving context to racial health disparities —or any other emotionally taxing task — Kelly puts the people before the work.
“Often, when these things happen specifically in Black communities, it can seem like for everyone else it’s business as usual,” she says. “I cannot control that, but I will ask for respect in those moments. That could mean making it clear that you should not expect an immediate response from me that day. That might also look like taking the day off and explicitly and openly calling it a mental health day.
“For me, it also looks like saying ‘no’ to ill-timed meetings or any request that feels like my Blackness is being rented,” Kelly adds. “Any content creator from a marginalized group whose content centers said group will burn out quickly if they take on the additional burden of being the consultant for all things related to that particular group.”
Staying Organized as a Neurodivergent Person
Kelly keeps herself on track at work by putting everything in writing and setting up lots of notifications. As a neurodivergent person, she recognizes workplace culture is not designed for her, so she constantly assesses her environment and priorities. She also communicates where and when something doesn’t work for her, as well as what her needs are.
At the start of each week, Kelly dedicates time for “categorizing which tasks are first priority and what might need to shift.” On a daily basis, she blocks out time to get into a state of deeper work.
“I’m a firm believer that what works best for neurodivergent people at work ultimately benefits everyone,” she says. “I’m more productive, by my own standards, when I have clear communications and dedicated time to just do.”
Note: If you’re also a parenting journalist and looking for community, check out Parenting Journalists Society, of which Kelly is a founding co-chair. The group was started by three BIPOC women with intersectionality as the core of their mission.