Her career changes – reporter, lawyer, PR – keep life interesting
By: Lynn Yen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
“I thought I was jumping off a cliff, when in fact I really sort of took a side step and I was on the same level.”
That’s how Mary Flood describes the evolution of her unusual career.
Flood started as a courtroom reporter, became a Harvard-educated lawyer, switched back to reporting on investigative and legal journalism before moving to her current job in public relations at Androvett Legal Media and Marketing in Houston.
“I don’t regret any of the changes,” Flood said. “I actually revel in the changes.”
Flood has always loved writing and had wanted to be a journalist since she worked on her high school newspaper. Her decision was solidified by the investigative journalism of the Watergate scandal.
“Those reporters and that newspaper felled a corrupt administration. So those guys were heroes to me,” she said.
After interning at the Lansing State Journal in Lansing, Mich., Flood became hooked on journalism. When her internship turned into a job offer, Flood jumped at the opportunity leaving her studies at Michigan State University to realize her dream as journalist.
Later, The Houston Post hired Flood.
“When I got the job in 1979 at The Houston Post without a degree it was a different world,” Flood said. “You wouldn’t likely get a job at a city this size without a degree now.”
At The Houston Post, Flood’s work as a legal reporter covering criminal courts started with a bang. The original legal reporter was shot by his girlfriend so Flood stepped in.
Working at The Houston Post has been Flood’s favorite job so far. Now defunct, The Houston Post provided the freedom to pursue social justice through journalism. Flood honed her investigative reporting, leading to changes in state laws, reforms at corrupt charities and imprisonment of wrongdoers.
Flood helped unveil the corruption of the Hermann Hospital Estate Board of Trustees in Houston. Ten people were subsequently indicted.
Flood is driven to effect change, which is what led her to law school.
“Everything I was doing as an investigative reporter was handed over to lawyers,” Flood said. “Well I want to be that lawyer.” .
On the path to becoming a lawyer, Flood enrolled in night school at the University of Houston-Downtown to finish her bachelor’s degree. Her hard work at balancing school and a job paid off with a perfect LSAT score and an acceptance into Harvard Law School.
“I moved into a dorm at 37 and it was spectacular,” Flood said. “It was really fun, really, really fun.”
After earning her law degree, Flood practiced law for three and a half years. However, Flood did not believe she was achieving the goals that drew her to becoming a lawyer in the first place. So she returned to journalism.
Flood worked for three years at The Wall Street Journal in Houston. In that job, Flood covered the Texas Supreme Court and explained how its rulings would affect the business sector. Flood made sure of accuracy and speed by having great sources. At one point she had half of the justices’ cellphone numbers and they would pick up the phone for her.
Next, Flood moved to the Houston Chronicle for 10 years. She worked on big stories such as the Enron scandal. Flood’s law degree made her the prime reporter for the job. Many of the lawyers working on the Enron case were fellow Harvard Law graduates and were willing to talk to Flood.
Since then, Flood changed her career again to public relations for legal firms. Her current boss is a fellow lawyer-journalist. He pursued Flood for three years because of her unique skill set gained from her varied career.
Flood sometimes calls her job lawyer daycare. She works as the liaison between law firms and the media. If someone wants a case to receive media coverage, he or she calls Flood. Flood then calls reporters who would likely pick up the story and provides facts and sources all while making sure her client is seen in a positive light. A local TV station did a spotlight on Flood, projecting her as Houston’s fixer like Olivia Pope, the fictional star of the TV show “Scandal.”
When asked about advice for aspiring journalists, Flood warned to lower expectations. The evolution of the media is affecting the middle-sized media.
“It will be a low paying profession for a while,” Flood said. “Marry well.”