A few days ago I had the chance to catch up with my most influential mentor in journalism, one of the most well-known and well-loved TV news anchors in the state of Arizona for over 30 years: Lin Sue Cooney.
Lin Sue and I first met when I began my career as an ASU journalism intern at 12 News, KPNX-TV Channel 12 back in 1989. I was a sophomore in college. I remember Lin Sue called me into her office one day and I was absolutely terrified; I thought I had done something wrong, perhaps messed something up in one of her scripts the night before, and she as going to let me have it. But she quickly put me at ease and told me I wasn’t in trouble at all; she actually noticed that I had some talent and wanted me to help her put stories together a few times a week so she could spend just a little more time at home with her kids before she came in to anchor the evening newscasts. Needless to say, I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.
Looking back over the course of my life and career I can see what a turning point that was for me and what a profound influence she had on me, on everything from my writing to how I present myself in the community. Anyone who knows Lin Sue knows she is the epitome of class and graciousness in everything she does and I am so grateful for her favor and influence. She even allowed me to interview Susan Goldwater Levine, former wife of the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
Although Lin Sue retired from news in August of 2015, she now shares her skills and talents with Hospice of the Valley (HOV) as their Director of Community Engagement, overseeing their marketing, business development, fund development, volunteers and creative services. Since this is the 40th anniversary of HOV, I took the opportunity to catch up with her and see how life has changed for her after so many years in news. Our Q & A is below:
Nancy: So what’s new with you, Lin Sue? How are things going in your life right now?
Lin Sue: Life is awesome! I love my new role with Hospice of the Valley. There’s something quite beautiful about working for a not-for-profit where mission and service are at the heart of everything they do. I’m learning new things, building new friendships and discovering a whole new passion in life. Feeling very blessed these days. And I absolutely love being at home in the evenings with my family!
Nancy: It’s the 40th Anniversary of Hospice of the Valley, which is a great opportunity to recognize all the great work they do and how far they’ve come from their beginning. HOV was such a huge help in my own family when my father passed. How is working for HOV different from working in news? Do you miss it sometimes?
Lin Sue: Every time someone asks if I miss the news biz… I check my heart for a twinge and it just isn’t there. Guess that means I was ready for a new challenge. I do miss my news family—they are such extraordinary people—smart, funny, driven—but there’s no longing for the day to day grind of feeding headlines to the 24/7 broadcast beast that is news. And truly, how could I have regrets when I love Hospice of the Valley so much? I don’t think people realize how much we do besides end-of-life care. We help families struggling to care with a loved one who has dementia. We support expectant couples who are told their baby won’t survive birth. We offer no-cost grief support to the whole community. Or how about a free mindfulness meditation class open to the public every Thursday at noon at Phoenix Art Museum? I could go on and on… but you’ve probably already picked up on my passion for the place! It’s a pretty simple promise we make: comfort and dignity to all. In 40 years, Hospice of the Valley has never turned anyone away for hospice care for lack of insurance or financial means. Not many companies have that kind of heart… and I love being part of the mission.
Nancy: When I was just starting out at KPNX, you and I worked together on a story about Hospice of the Valley. You might not remember it, but you allowed me to do an interview with Susan Goldwater to help share the story of what HOV does. Isn’t it funny how life comes full circle, and you wound up working with this amazing woman? Did Susan have an influence on where you chose to work in your encore career?
Lin Sue: Life is full of ironies, isn’t it? Susan is a born leader, brilliant and wise, but also genuine and kind. I’ve admired her from afar forever—and was humbled and thrilled when she hired me. Our agency is exceptional because for 23 years, she set the bar so high – aiming for perfect patient care. And like all great leaders, she led by example. She retired last June, but is actually going to come back and be a volunteer for us!
Nancy: Were there other factors that made you choose HOV?
Lin Sue: Hospice of the Valley cared for my father-in-law Pep Cooney in 2003, and they treated our family with such tenderness and compassion. There’s life coming full circle again… now I’m privileged to help other families get the same wonderful care we received.
Nancy: You had such a long and successful career as a news anchor here in Phoenix; I will forever be thankful for your mentorship and the opportunities you gave me and I know you mentored many other aspiring journalists besides me. It’s a very hostile and confusing environment for members of the media right now. What advice do you have for aspiring journalists entering into the field right now?
Lin Sue: Well, I loved working with you. It was clear how much you loved writing stories even back then! How wonderful that after all these years, you still find joy in it! It’s true that journalism has changed dramatically in the last 5 years especially. Social media has muddied the line between fact and fantasy. The 24 hour news cycle is hard to fill, so content is created. News people give their opinions… and newsrooms show their biases. It’s a whole new world and you’re right, it is confusing for viewers trying to figure out who has integrity, who is not embellishing, who is telling the truth. I hope it’s a pendulum that will swing back the other way… and that aspiring journalists entering the field help the profession regain credibility. Trust in the media, is at an all time low. I hope they prize fairness, respect diverse viewpoints and make this world a better place… instead of feeding the forces that tear us apart.
Nancy: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Lin Sue: I am absolutely serious about this. If people ever need help for themselves or a family member… they can reach out to me anytime. I’m used to getting Facebook messages at all times of day or night from folks wanting information about hospice care. And of course, they can always call Hospice of the Valley (602) 530-6900. We have nurses taking calls 24-7.