Frances Stead Sellers, Class of 1978
1. When you were at Brighton & Hove High School, and what is your fondest memory of school?
1968 – 1978
My fondest memory is of the friends I made — and have reconnected with recently over social media.
2. Who was your favourite teacher and why?
Pat Nichols, who taught us German — and so much more. Mrs Nichols had an unwavering and deeply humane sense of what really mattered, which was both reassuring and inspiring for teenage me.
3. What were the benefits of being in an all-girls school?
I think there was a certain self-confidence that came from a single-sex education as well as freedom to focus on our individual paths. But I’m not sure an all-girls atmosphere makes sense for everyone.
4. What did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I wish I had had the wisdom of the mole in Charles Mackesy’s wonderful book.
The boy asks the mole what he wants to be when he grows up.
“Kind,” the mole replies.
I knew what I didn’t want to be—a doctor like my older brothers.
But I’m still not sure what I want to be, or if I’ll ever grow up. One of the wonderful things about my career has been that even within the Washington Post I have been able to keep learning new skills and changing what I do–in politics, in the arts, in the sciences, as an editor, as a reporter and now often as an on-air moderator and commentator.
5. What do you do now, and what are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
I’m a Washington-based journalist. I write articles and I also host regular shows on our Washington Post Live platform. These days, I sometimes shoot my own photos, appear on our podcast and do live Post TV coverage of current events (like the Queen’s funeral).
The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I feel I have made some small difference in other people’s lives. One of my favourite articles, shortly before the pandemic, involved visiting people in on the Navajo reservation who don’t have running water in their houses. Some now do.
Early in the pandemic, a colleague and I wrote about people who were failing to go to hospital despite having worrying symptoms because they were scared of catching covid. One woman wrote and told us she had had severe abdominal pain but didn’t go to the ER until she read our piece. She turned out to have appendicitis and credited us with saving her life.
The most challenging aspect of my work is being fair and respectful in a politically toxic environment.
6. What are you most proud of so far?
Oh, my family undoubtedly!
7. What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at Brighton?
I don’t know if anyone ever said this directly to me, but I think I the school taught me the importance of teamwork. Any success I have had is thanks to people who went before me, people who believed in me, people who now help me.
8. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Never take a job that you already know how to do. Life is all about learning.
9. What book, film or piece of music would you recommend to your younger self and to your fellow alumnae?
Hmm, maybe the movie “The Post,” which stars Meryl Streep as our former publisher Katharine Graham.
Graham came from a background of great privilege but still wrestled with self-confidence in a world dominated by manly swagger.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
I hope to have made other people’s lives just a bit better.