The Real Olivia Pope: Judy Smith Event 

On Monday November 18, 2013, NABJ-SU had the fortune of sharing the intellect, skill  and stories of crisis manager Judy Smith. The event was extremely well received with over 400 viewers both in attendance and online. The following is a detailed critique of this unforgettable Conversation.

NABJ National Association of Black Journalist


The television series Scandal grosses in an estimated 10.5 million viewers per episode. Shonda Rhimes’ brilliance in providing a platform where an African American lead protagonist has been able to garner such a wide spectrum of viewers has contributed to the overall image of African American women as well as has allowed a number of media networks to understand that there is not a prototype for what a lead character should embody. NABJ National Association of Black JournalistWhile, this is in itself, an accomplishment, it is important to note the inspiration that has provided Shonda Rhimes the platform to complete such endeavors and redefine what it means to be successful, in a high-powered, male-dominated industry. Enter Judy Smith-the inspiration behind the network television show that has captivated the interests of millions of American viewers and shaped to a great degree Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia Pope. NABJ- attempts to deconstruct The Real Olivia Pope and demystify the woman who has had a strong influence on our American viewership as well as her own experiences in her crisis management firm.

Judy Smith was able to provide a sense of camaraderie for SU students as she discussed her experiences managing different clients and how she tackled a number of issues successfully with a great deal of strategy. NABJ National Association of Black JournalistHer prior experiences representing a number of high-profile clients such as Monica Lewinsky, Wesley Snipes, Michael Vick among others truly attest to the extent that Judy Smith is an expert in her craft, as reflected in her most recent book Good Self, Bad Self. She discussed the skillsets and use of discretion needed in working with different clients and their cases and how that has ultimately shaped her success in representing and managing their cases. Students were able to understand what it means to truly make sound judgments and how that translates to one’s reliability within their field of expertise.

NABJ National Association of Black JournalistPerhaps the best aspects of her discussion were whether it was important or relevant to rely on a sense of personal ethics with regards to Public Relations and how she chooses her clients. “I take a look at if I can actually help and make a difference…there’s some I wouldn’t take.” Ultimately, it is important to keep ethics and integrity in all aspects of one’s work. She is very selective in how she decides to enter a case, boasting that she and her team use a “Murder Board” to weigh out the options and decide if they should take a case.

NABJ National Association of Black JournalistMore than anything, Judy Smith stressed the importance of using your gut and instinct in virtually all aspects of your life. All too often people are too quick to ignore that initial gut reaction, but sometimes that instinctual hunch is all that is needed in making the best decision. If there is one thing to take away from the Judy Smith discussion, it would be to hone in on those skill sets that set you apart from the next person and never undermine or second best your ability.

NABJ National Association of Black Journalist

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Sheena Barthelus
Rhetoric Major 
November, 2015