Self Support

By Brent Frederisy

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One of the toughest obstacles in Karen Robes Meeks’ journalistic career was not a difficult assignment, uncooperative sources, nor any conflicts of interest –it was her own family.

Karen Robes Meeks, trade and transportation reporter for Long Beach Press-Telegram, caused a schism in her family by choosing journalism instead of the career path her mother wanted for her. They feared she would become “a starving writer,” said Meeks.

“For a long time she and I didn’t see eye to eye,” said Meeks. “It was really hard.”

Meeks’ mother and grandmother were both nurses, and they wanted Meeks to become the same.

“I realized immediately I would make a lousy nurse,” said Meeks. “I really wanted to write. I didn’t know how I would make money doing that, but I really wanted to do it.”

When she decided to pursue journalism in college, her parents stopped paying for her tuition, said Meeks. So Meeks had to find ways to support herself.

“It was difficult because I really love and respect my Mom… There were months were she and I wouldn’t talk,” said Meeks.

Despite this, she continued her education in journalism by working two jobs to pay for college.

“I found people who were like me,” said Meeks. “No matter how poor we were, we would find a way to share books, to catch a ride.”

It was not only her career choice that caused tensions within Meeks’ family. Meeks met her husband in her college newspaper. According to her, her Filipino family was wary that he was African American and eight years older than her.

“Those two decisions were the best two decisions of my life, sticking with him and sticking with journalism,” said Meeks.

Her family over time learned to accept both her job and husband.

“By the end of her life, [Meeks’ grandmother’s] was watching football with him, learning about the Tennessee Titans,” said Meeks. “Family does come around.”

Meeks, meanwhile, has been a successful journalist. After graduating from Cal State Fullerton she worked at the OC Regester, and in 2002 started work at the Long Beach Press-Telegraph. Her husband, Robert Meeks, reports for the LA Times.

“I am happy to report that I am not a ‘starving writer,’” said Meeks.

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