“I really got a good foundation and a good start,” Charles said of her experience at UNC.
“I still believe in journalism despite what you hear, despite what you read.”
The panel discussion included the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Susan King, senior Anisah Jabar and junior Elise McGlothian. The panel and students asked Charles various questions about her experience in journalism, her views on tragedy and how she keeps a clear perspective.
King said she chose Charles for the series because she offered a different perspective of the field.
“We hadn’t had a frontline reporter yet, we hadn’t had a foreign correspondent yet and it’s always great when we can have an alum,” King said.
Charles said a thick skin is necessary to be able to cover difficult and tragic events.
“You go into these situations and sometimes you don’t know what you are getting into,” she said.
“You are there because you have a natural curiosity.”
Charles was born in Turks and Caicos and was raised by her Haitian mother and Cuban stepfather. Charles said being bicultural helped her see different persepectives that made her stand out from the pack.
“I’m putting myself in that situation,” she said.
While at UNC, Charles co-founded the Carolina Association of Black Journalists and was editor of Black Ink Magazine, a publication of the Black Student Movement.
Charles extensively covered the 2010 earthquake in Haiti for The Miami Herald and said her experiences there will stay with her throughout her life.
“When I landed (in Haiti), it looked like someone had dropped an atomic bomb,” she said.
More than 230,000 people died and 1.5 million people were displaced in the earthquake and its aftermath, according to CNN.
Charles said that being able to come back to UNC and talk to future journalism students fulfills a dream she has had since a journalist came to speak to a class she was in while at UNC.
“I remember thinking in that moment, like, ‘Wow, I want to be invited back one day,’” she said.
Senior Alexis Simmons said hearing Charles talk about all her experiences gave her more courage.
“When she said that, for journalists, this is our job to do this and that we can all be fearless... It’s like, ‘Can we really do this?’ And her saying that you can because it’s your job is reassuring to know,” Simmons said.
Charles said her goal in journalism is to continue to tell stories to keep people informed.
“If you don’t tell the world, how do they know how bad it is? How do they know what has happened?”