In Journalism

Abigail Norton’s parents have always instilled in her the value of asking the right questions at the right time. This lesson has served her well through high school and BYU. Now at her second year at BYU, with an eye to the future as a national newscaster, she speaks with a confidence beyond her years.

“Knowing what’s going on in the world and helping others is something I want to do,” Norton shares. “I’ve loved watching and reading the news since I was little.”

Talking with Everyone

From an early age, Norton’s parents required their children to ask for things on their own. Her mother, Marion Norton, remembers a two-year-old Abigail asking her for another drink on a flight.

“I told her she’d have to go ask,” Marion says. “Abby walked off to the curtained area and a little while later came back with her drink. She has never been afraid to talk to people.”

As she grew up, Norton and her siblings attended social functions where they were expected to interact and converse with adults. Marion believes these early opportunities gave their children confidence and social skills essential to becoming successful adults.

Marion remembers when Norton, at age 12, spoke in front of the church congregation for the first time. After she concluded, a couple sitting in the pew in front of the Norton family turned around and told Marion her daughter should be on the news.

“We had just had a conversation about that possibility,” Marion says. “I realized she could combine her skill in writing with her great ability to speak. I thought being a newscaster would be a great option.”

The summer between Norton’s junior and senior years of high school, she participated in BYU’s Summer Scholars Broadcast Journalism Program. For a week, high school students worked with BYU communications professors to investigate and write news stories as well as produce a news broadcast using BYU’s state-of-the-art newsroom.

“I met a lot of incredible people, and BYU’s facility is impressive,” Norton shares. “The program cemented my determination to major in communications and attend BYU.”

Meeting Unexpected Mentors

In between academic and extracurricular activities, Norton spent time working in the Golden Spoon frozen yogurt shop her family owns in Draper. While working there, her friendly conversations with a repeat customer surprised her by growing into a mentoring relationship.

“One day he came in with an email he had printed off,” Norton remembers. “He had contacted Jane Clayson Johnson, a former national newscaster, to see if she would give me advice. I couldn’t believe it.”

That customer, Pimmie Lopez, attended BYU for his master’s in business administration and since then has actively mentored students. When he heard that Norton was pursuing a career in broadcast news, Lopez remembered meeting and speaking with Johnson at a conference. Johnson told Lopez to contact her if he ever needed any help.

“I never thought I’d take her up on it,” Lopez laughs. “If I can help make introductions or endorsements for students who are standouts and maybe catch the eye of accomplished professionals, then I feel like I can make a difference in a small way.”

Lopez approached Johnson, who agreed to have him pass along Norton’s information. Norton followed through and contacted Johnson, learning about the hard work and skill that brought Johnson to the national networks.

Although now retired, Johnson feels a continuing commitment, as Lopez does, to help upcoming professionals.

“As BYU alumni, it’s our responsibility to mentor the next generation and help them navigate an increasingly complex professional world,” Johnson says. “It’s very rewarding to help a young person understand that in addition to delivering high caliber work, they have an obligation to live with integrity and represent something bigger than themselves. The world is watching.”

In her conversations with Norton, Johnson was struck by how prepared Norton already was to pursue her desired career.

“I am so impressed with Abigail’s attitude and intelligence,” Johnson says. “She wants to improve upon her talents and abilities. She is teachable and clearly motivated to work hard and do well. She also has her priorities straight. That’s an important combination.”

Johnson introduced Norton to Dale Cressman, the associate director of the BYU School of Communications at the time and longtime friend. Cressman then invited Norton to experience his classroom. She took him up on the offer, driving to BYU after high school was finished for the day to visit his class several times.

That mentoring continued upon her entrance to BYU.

In addition to taking prerequisites for the communications program, Norton received special permission to take a 300-level reporting course usually reserved for those accepted into the news media program.

“Dr. Cressman has been such a great mentor for me,” Norton says. “He said to take this reporting class, so I did. I’m getting to do what I want, and I’m loving it.”

Before applying to the program, Norton already accepted a summer internship position at KUTV.

Abby Norton on the set of ElevenNEWS.

Abby Norton on the set of ElevenNEWS.

Living Her Dream

Norton’s unique upbringing, mentoring relationships and natural gifts have enabled her to get where she is today.

She applied and was accepted into the News Media Program in Winter 2015. She will be joining the New Zealand: Global Mass Communications study abroad program in Winter 2016 hoping to take the opportunity to use her skills on an international level. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in global security policy.

“I want Abby to use the skills she has, her genuine kindness, to embrace the people she meets,” Marion hopes. “I want her to broaden her horizons by interacting with many people. She has such strong values and such a good sense of self. I know she’ll be an influence for good wherever she goes and in whatever she does.”

With a team of mentors—from parents to teachers, from customers to professors—and an enviable bank of skills, Norton is poised to make a name for herself in the years to come by asking the right people the right questions.

Article by Sarah Ostler Hill. Feature photo by Mark A. Philbrick.
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