Rising Star Lilly Chapa is an award-winning reporter, editor and website manager for Security Management, an association publication that serves security professionals. She majored in journalism and wanted to write wherever she could. “Trade associations run the gamut. There’s a door and window association—I’m quite lucky that I have the opportunity to write about security.”
Going into the field, she admits the learning curve was pretty steep. “There’s a lot of vocabulary, history and industry background you need to know,” she says. This did not intimidate her when, fresh out of college, she was interviewing industry leaders. “I was really young. I didn’t realize how steep [the learning curve] was. I went in confidently.”
She advises others starting in the field to do the same. “Keep your options open, as far as what type of publication you work at. I saw myself working at a newspaper or prestigious publication, but I’ve had so many opportunities at this publication.”
During her five years at Security Management she has won 11 regional and national awards for writing, including a national award for a feature story comparing security practices in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico that she wrote onsite. She has also been named an American Society of Business Publication Editors Young Leaders Scholar.
Her career goal is to continue writing stories where she can see a visible impact—whether in public policy or in a community. She credits her editor at the magazine for allowing her to follow stories, even if they’re not directly assigned.
“They trust us to get our work done, however we want to do it. We can chase these stories that don’t fit into the box they wanted, but turn them into bigger and better stories,” she says.
One of her proudest achievements was her work on drug diversions in hospitals, focusing on how healthcare workers take highly sought-after drugs for personal use. “Drug diversion is very rampant,” she explains. “If someone gets caught, they can just quit. Their licenses don’t get taken away, there is no police involvement.”
Her story explored how you find these workers, how you track them and how you prevent it. It won a national award. Lilly describes it as an incredible story.
Working on a magazine provides some challenges to staying timely. “Terrorist attacks are obviously in my wheelhouse, but we’re primarily a magazine. If a terrorist attack happens August 1, we wouldn’t be able to write about it until November,” she says. “It’s a unique opportunity to let the dust settle, reach out to experts about what happened, who did it and what could have been done beforehand.”
She says it’s easy for your mood to get down when you write about things like terror attacks that don’t invoke change. “No matter how hard I work on an article, there will be another terrorist attack,” she says. “I make peace with it, knowing I won’t fix it by writing about it, but I’ll provide a broader understanding.”
When she’s not writing about security, Lilly volunteers as an editor for a monthly publication, Families Anonymous, which serves families and friends of individuals struggling with addiction. The newsletter explains how to navigate life when someone you love is an addict. “It’s nice to give back to the community,” she says.
Kirsten is the Social Media and Blog Editor at the News Media Alliance.