Archive for the ‘Journalist Spotlight’ Category

In a letter to readers in today’s issue, Pitt News editor-in-chief Michael Macagnone writes, “The horizontal tango, making love, doing the deed: There’s no doubt our society has many means of talking about– and around– intercourse.  And for most of the year, that is what society focuses on: the act itself, leaving the vast majority of its effects and implications unstated.  Today though, with the naked intent of Valentine’s Day in promoting Hallmark sales, last-minute flower purchases and romantic gestures all around, we’re going to talk about sex.”

Macagnone’s missive is a call-to-arms trumpeting the arrival of the latest Pitt News sex edition.  Now in its fourth year, it has emerged as one of collegemediatopia’s most insightful and creatively-designed themed issues tackling all-things sexy and lovable.

The current edition dives with gusto into body issues, birth control, porn, celibacy, first dates, and, as one staffer excitedly proclaimed, “lady boobs!”  The overall perspective, embodied by a line in a featured column by Tracey Hickey: “Human sexuality is as diverse as human beings.

In an exclusive podcast chat, Macagnone breaks down the edition’s sexual diversity and crazy cool design scheme (mad props to the creative team led by Randi Alu) and provides advice for student eds. aiming to produce a related issue of their own.

Interview: Michael Macagnone, Pitt News EIC

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The College Media Hall of Fame is a digital enshrinement of individuals, news outlets, and organizations who have made a recent lasting impact on collegemediatopia.  Inductees include standout student journalists, innovative student media entrepreneurs, and impassioned advocates of campus press 2.0.  With a hat tip to the annual Time 100, many of the posts announcing each honoree include a few words of adoration penned by a close friend or colleague.  Next up…

David Teeghman

Founder and Publisher, J-School Buzz

J-School Buzz, an independent student blog focused with unblinking intensity on the University of Missouri School of Journalism, awes me.  At the moment, it is the only hyperlocal student blog within collegemediatopia of any significance.

It continues to break interesting stories and trigger debates of consequence in Columbia, Mo., and beyond.  And it is staffed by students within the Mizzou J-School who are unafraid to doggedly and at times critically report on their own program, for its own good.

As its editor-in-chief Ali Colwell writes with gusto, “It is not our job to make the journalism school look good.  We are bloggers, always digging for the truth. . . . We want to be a student voice for the Missouri School of Journalism, and we welcome conversation as well as debate.  We want to engage readers and create a site that fosters the dialogue for our amazing school that brings in the best students around.”

As part of Teach for America, Teeghman is leading middle school reading classes.

The man behind the Buzz deserves applause, respect, and a hyperlocal blog focused just on his hair.  David Teeghman launched the site in January 2011.  Roughly 13 months later, he can pat himself on the back for an accomplishment most j-students never muster: an actual start-up success story, one that has outlived his time in school.

Teeghman, now a Mizzou grad, is currently taking part in Teach for America in Indianapolis, while J-School Buzz continues to be a player in the student media arena nationwide.  Just yesterday, its post about the Mizzou J-School Facebook account not actually being officially aligned with the school prompted a response from the school’s planning and communications director on Romenesko.

For his courageousness, spirit of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and hyperlocal A-game, Teeghman rightfully earns a spot in the College Media Hall of Fame.  Frankly, it’s long overdue. :)

“A Rising Journalist with a Vision”

By Claudia Tran

Most of my interaction with Teeg was not during regular daylight hours or even face-to-face.  Most of the time, it was between 2 and 4 in the morning and we were communicating via Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, sometimes all of the above. In all honesty, it was usually the moments when I was right about to silence my phone or shut off the computer that the text or the chat with a new piece of advice or demand came from him, greeted with a half-groan and an eye-roll from myself [during her time as J-School Buzz editor-in-chief].

But it was during these times I had the privilege of getting to know a rising journalist with a vision.  Certainly not liked by all– and that has been the topic of many of our conversations– it is difficult even for his most passionate, fake-Twitter-account-creating critics to deny that Teeg is not only a talented journalist, but also innovative and dedicated.

Sure, he calls me Tranny (not only that, he encourages the world to) and enjoys likening me to a “cat continuously scared by its shadow,” but I always knew Teeg had my back and only wanted me to learn as much from the experience as he has.  He’s like a journalism equivalent of a big brother.  From him and his website I gained trade secrets far more valuable than anything a textbook or class lecture could have taught me.  He put 110 percent into J-School Buzz and never looked back.  He’s rolled with the punches, had successes as well as failures, and continues to push the boundaries in the name of our education.

Best of luck in the future Teeg.  May you continue to be controversial– we know you will be, and remember that JSB will always stand behind you.

Tran is a former J-School Buzz editor-in-chief.

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DFTBA.  The five-letter acronym is also a call-to-arms.  Simply put: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.

The saying is a core component of nerdfighting, a cult movement increasingly gaining traction on campuses nationwide.  Nerdfighters are a loose collection of geeky do-gooders who attempt to enact positive change in the real world and online.  “[A] nerdfighter just tries to fight against world suck,” Butler Collegian arts & entertainment editor Caitlin O’Rourke explained earlier this semester.  “Worldsuck: In essence, all the bad and/or stupid things in the world.”

For example, at California’s Chapman University, a campus nerdfighting club carries out “positive pranking.”  As The Panther, Chapman’s student newspaper confirms, “Instead of playing ding-dong-ditch, they would leave a hostess cupcake with an inspiring note on a doorstep, and instead of toilet-papering a house, they would hang Tootsie Pops on trees.”

In a recent column published in The Observer at the University of Notre Dame, Elisa DeCastro suggests taking up similarly positive, productive activities.  “Increase awesome,” she implores readers.  “Write a book, discover a new species, build a time machine– or just put stuff on your head and do a funny dance.  (What? It’s fun!)  Big or small, find some way to share your nerdy passions with the world.”

In the Q&A below, devoted nerdfighter and ND student DeCastro explains the basics and background of the movement– and what compelled her to join.

For students who hear the name and think it’s just a chess club or a really dorky public affairs group, what the heck is this nerdfighting thing all about?

The official definition of a nerdfighter is someone who, instead of being made of bone and tissue, is made entirely of awesome.  It also refers to the members of the community that sprang up around the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which is run by John and Hank Green.

Nerdfighting is about nerds, which is a label we wear with pride.  After all, how can valuing intelligence and being “enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness,” as John puts it, be a bad thing?  It is about nerds coming together to have fun and make the world a better place.  Nerdfighters can come from anywhere in the world, and they can be any age, race or religion– it is a pretty diverse group.  There are plenty of people in the world who are nerdfighters and just don’t know it yet.

What’s the 30-second history of how this all came about?

On January 1, 2007, John and Hank Green embarked on a yearlong project called Brotherhood 2.0 in which they ceased all text-based communication and instead posted a video every weekday.  By the end of the project they had garnered a committed following, so they decided to continue making videos under the name Vlogbrothers, which has continued ever since.  Videos go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Another 30 seconds for the men behind the project: John Green is an award-winning, best-selling author of several young adult novels.  His work includes the Printz Award-winner “Looking for Alaska,” “An Abundance of Katherines,” “Paper Towns,” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” which will be coming out in January.  Hank Green runs the environmental technologies website EcoGeek.  Since starting Vlogbrothers, his job has expanded to include singer/songwriter and head of DFTBA Records, which signs talented musicians from YouTube.

In what ways has the movement appealed to you?

John and Hank are both extremely funny, talented, and intelligent people, and those qualities shine through in their videos.  They never underestimate the intelligence of their audience, and their videos offer so much more substance than the mindless entertainment you expect to find on the Internet.  At the same time, they never fall into the trap of taking themselves too seriously.  All in all, they’re the sort of adult I aspire to be.  Not only are the brothers great, but the community is extremely welcoming.  There are always discussions going on in the forums, and the dialogue is respectful and engaging, whether it’s about Harry Potter or the political situation in Nepal.

The best part, though, is how powerful the community is, and how committed it is to making a difference.  As a group, nerdfighters have been able to accomplish things that as individuals we never could have– like raising $150,000 for charity during the annual Project for Awesome and filling four airplanes with water and medical supplies to send to Haiti after the earthquake.  I feel privileged to be a part of a community that does so much.

What is something you are involved in related to being a nerdfighter?

Something that a lot of nerdfighters and I are excited about is  Kiva is a microfinancing organization that sponsors entrepreneurs in developing countries.  It’s really an ingenious system.  I loan money to someone so that they can start a business, and then they pay me back.  I can then reinvest that money in another entrepreneur, and the cycle continues.  It’s a great way to make a little money on my part go a long way.  And rather than create people who are dependent on charity, it helps them break out of the cycle of poverty and strengthens local economies.  The nerdfighter team on Kiva has loaned more than $100,000 to entrepreneurs around the world.

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Temple University student Brian Dzenis is a devoted member of what he calls “Team Bacon.”  Along with journalism, Dzenis has publicly declared his enjoyment of three things most in this world: “sports, bacon, and foods that include bacon.”

The editor-in-chief of The Temple News, the student newspaper at the Philadelphia school, recently tested his bacon adulation and general carnivorousness by agreeing to not eat meat for a full month.

The challenge was part of “Vices,” a creative series published over the past year within the News “that challenges what we think we need.”  As the paper explains, “For each segment, a different writer will give up something he or she ‘can’t live without.’  We watch them land safely or crash and burn.”

Past News staff have temporarily sworn off personal obsessions such as coffee (“Coffee controls my life.”); smoking (“I let cigarettes control my life, my happiness, and my sanity.”); their smartphone (“My BlackBerry is my life.”); and World of Warcraft (“To say I like to game is a vast understatement.”).

Dzenis officially joined the Vices crew this semester.  A spicy beef jerky in late September was his last taste of normal for four weeks.  After removing meat from his diet, he found himself searching for protein from food such as black beans, Greek yogurt, veggie burgers, and peanut butter, to varying success.

The latter proved the tastiest.  “Jif and I are BFF’s,” he wrote in a reflection piece earlier this month.  “He made the headaches and hunger go away.  He makes fine peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goes on crackers and goes great with bread and sliced bananas.”

In the Q&A below, Dzenis fleshes out his meat-free experience– including the side-effects and cravings– and recounts what it was like to rejoin Team Bacon after a month away.

You seem to love bacon a lot.  How did that start?

My attraction to bacon and other meat goes back to my childhood.  My mother would cook bacon on Sundays and the smell would wake me up in the morning.  She would also make homemade burgers and steaks as well, so meat has always been more or less a featured part of my diet.  At home, I’ve had days where meat has been part of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For example, there would be scrambled eggs with bacon, followed by a burger for lunch, and then chicken and a baked potato for dinner.  I guess when meat has always been regularly available, it makes it hard to give it up.

What physical, mental or emotional side-effects emerged during your recent meat exile?

Physically, the only time I really felt bad was during the first week when I started getting headaches from what my staff and I figured (and we’re certainly not doctors or nutritionists) was from the lack of protein.  Once I started eating a lot of food with beans or nuts, I was fine.  I didn’t weigh myself during the process, but I doubt I lost much, if any, weight.  I just noticed I could stay up a lot later at night during my meatless month.

On the mental or emotional side, I was told I was a little irritable at times from my staff.  As far as what I was thinking, avoiding meat never came naturally and was always a very deliberate decision. Anytime I went anywhere, I always had to do this exercise of crossing off all the things I couldn’t have. It’s not fun having to tell yourself ‘no’ so many times.

How often did you find yourself longing for meat of some type?

Every day.  Every single day.  I would get cravings from anything like smelling my roommate cooking burgers for himself to my helpful and supportive staff bringing chicken wings into the office and eating them in front of me.  I usually don’t watch that much TV, but I really made a point to get away from TV.  Those commercials are a tough sit.

In your related Temple News column, you wrote, “There are no words to describe the experience of eating bacon after a month [of not having it].” A bit more time has passed.  Do any words now come to mind?

It’s certainly hard to describe it in coherent sentences.  I would use words like strong, relief, filling, and maybe even warmth?  Even eating meat now (this is my first full week back), it doesn’t compare to that first bite after going a month without it.  It just tasted a lot stronger than I remember it, if that makes any sense.

[In Temple News video, watch Dzenis bite into meat for the first time in four weeks.  His all-smiles reaction: “Sweet Jesus, that’s good.”]

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During the last academic year, Indiana University senior journalism student Sarah Hutchins dreaded what she called The Question, capital T, capital Q.

“The conversations always start the same,” Hutchins wrote a month before commencement for The Indiana Daily Student’s quarterly magazine Inside.  “‘So, what are you doing after graduation?‘  I’ve been asked by family, friends, old high school acquaintances I mistakenly friended on Facebook and never deleted.  Even my dentist broached the subject over winter break.  As she slowly reclined my chair, and I gazed into the light, I thought about how I would answer The Question.”

She said others’ expectations centered on her having a firm plan, preferably involving an impressive starter job or grad school pursuit.  And so she sensed disappointment when she repeatedly answered The Question with a mix of “heavy sighs and visible anxiety” and the three-word fallback, “I don’t know.”

Months later, now on the other side of a degree, Hutchins is more confident that the best plan of attack is figuring out what’s right for you regardless of peer pressure and to be open to a running start that begins off the beaten career path.  In her case, the path has been an extended post-grad internship and the realization that journalism jobs still exist en masse.

In the Q&A below, Hutchins offers advice for the current crop of j-students and pokes holes in what she calls “the unemployment myth” surrounding the journalism profession.

Sarah Hutchins graduated from Indiana University in the spring. She is currently completing an extended post-grad internship at The Virginian-Pilot.

Now that you’ve graduated, has The Question you get most often changed?

The actual question varies, but the intent is the same. “So, what are you doing after graduation?” has changed to “So, what are you doing after your internship?” Sometimes people ask me if I’ve started applying for jobs, which also gets at the heart of The Question– why are you still unemployed?  The good news is that my answers have changed a little.

After I graduated, I moved to Virginia for a 12-week reporting internship at The Virginian-Pilot.  I applied and interviewed for jobs while I was interning.  I even had a few job offers.  Then the Pilot extended my internship and I temporarily stopped looking for work.  I also have a timeline for starting the job application process again. While I still don’t have a clear answer to The Question, I do have a plan.  After going through the job search process a few months ago, I have a better idea of what I’m looking for in a first job.  I also picked up on some of the sacrifices I’ll have to make to get it.

What does life and the j-profession look like on the other side of the degree?  Is there anything you would do differently if given a second go-round at senior year?

I only looked at internships when I was getting ready to graduate.  It’s a decision that makes perfect sense to me, but I’ve actually been asked to justify it in job interviews.  I’m on my fourth internship now, and this seems to baffle some employers.  Here’s what I tell them: I didn’t want to waste any time not reporting. I’ve watched friends graduate from college without a job and spend entire summers sending out job applications.  If I took a post-grad internship, I could continue to develop my skills while I apply for full-time positions.  I have also been able to fill some of the holes in my experience, making me a better job candidate.  Post-grad internship shouldn’t be considered a backup plan.  With the job market as difficult as it is, internships are a good way to gain valuable experience and contacts.  Looking back, I’m still happy with the decision I made to take an internship after graduation.

What’s your advice for this year’s graduating j-class?

Challenge yourself to produce great work before you graduate.  Take risks and push yourself.  One of my best clips came out of a project I did in college, and it’s something I wouldn’t have had a chance to do at an internship.  On a similar note, make sure you graduate with a well-rounded portfolio.  Be able to write a web brief, a succinct news story, a killer profile, and a thoughtful in-depth article.  It’s OK to specialize in one area, but make sure employers see that you can tackle anything. As newsrooms continue to cut employees, companies are asking people to do more with less.  Prove to them that you will be a valuable part of the team.

What is the unemployment myth and how should students go about dismantling it?

There are so many myths.  I can’t count the number of people I met in journalism school who told me there were no jobs in journalism.  At internships, people I worked with told me to reconsider going into this industry.  When I said I was sticking with it, they told me to use my degree for PR.  I just refuse to give up. It’s true that the industry is changing.  People are getting laid off and, as a result, everyone is asked to do more (usually for less pay).  I understand why some people would find that discouraging.  However, it’s just not true that there aren’t jobs. Take a look at and you’ll see plenty of positions for beginning reporters at small papers.  We might not all be able to start at large metro papers, but that’s OK.  If you’re in journalism for the right reasons– helping people, serving as a check on the government, telling compelling stories– than it shouldn’t really matter where you start.

Here’s the reality I see: There are less jobs in journalism than there were before, but there are still places to get your foot in the door.  Media organizations today are asking more of employees than ever before.  However, recent j-school graduates have likely been trained to handle these competing demands.  Remember why you love this business and make sure that shines through in everything you do.  And, if people tell you to go into PR, feel free to use my standard response: You can go into PR and I’ll happily take your job.

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Three major musical buzzwords have emerged this summer among students: Moombahton, Tumblr, and Mac.  The first is a genre.  The second is a social network.  The third is an increasingly popular performer.

Max Hasan, NextGen Journal’s college music correspondent, regularly tracks the trends, people, and platforms impacting all-things music– especially within the underground and student scenes.  The Boston University freshman economics major also writes about what he calls “GOOD MUSIC” on his blog The Collab Projekt .

In a recent Q&A, Hasan discussed who and what is currently hot– and not– among the musical genres, groups, and tools most enjoyed by students.  He also offers advice to student journalists interested in covering the music scene.

Max Hasan, NextGen Journal's music guru, is a Boston University freshman.

What’s been an especially explosive musical trend so far this summer?

Moombahton is a genre that was unofficially invented by Dave Nada, a DJ based in Washington D.C.  It’s existed for roughly a year now but really has been skyrocketing in popularity.  It borrows several ideas from other genres, including bass, dutch house, fidget, and reggaeton.  The name is derived from a track by Dutch house star Afrojack called “Moombah”.

Mad Decent , a record label and blog run by Philadelphia-based Diplo, played a huge role in catapulting the genre within the electronic music spotlight.  “Blow Your Head” is a mix album that Mad Decent regularly releases in volumes, each featuring several artists from a single genre.  For example, “Blow Your Head Volume 1″ was dubstep themed, and was released last November– just around the time of dubstep’s peak in popularity in North America.  “Blow Your Head Volume 2,” featuring Moombahton artists, dropped in late May.  It has been invaluable in shedding light on the emerging genre.  Because of the sudden surge in popularity of the genre and subsequent feature in the “Blow Your Head” mix, Moombahton has sometimes been hailed as the “new dubstep.”

Additionally, SoundCloud has been a huge tool for electronic musicians of all kinds, especially Moombahton artists. The music social networking site has a genre-tagging element for its tracks, which Moombahton artists have been utilizing to spread their tracks and put their genre out there

Away from top-40 pop, what are the songs of the summer among students?

“Family First” by Pittsburgh-native Mac Miller , featuring veteran New York City rapper Talib Kweli, can definitely be found on many college kids’ playlists this summer.  The track was dropped after Miller hit 500,000 Twitter followers.  He has pledged to release a new track every time he gets 100,000 new followers.  Being a white, 19-year-old kid from Pittsburgh straight out of high school and showing a lot of love to his fans via Twitter, he has really gotten students to relate to him.  Undoubtedly, a big part of his recent success can be attributed to the fact that kids with snapbacks and graphic tees across the U.S. see a little of themselves in Miller.

Separately, “Novacane” by Odd Future member Frank Ocean has been climbing the charts like crazy.  The reason for its summer success can be attributed to two reasons: Odd Future’s surging popularity via social media and Ocean’s decision to host a unique and provocative music video via Vimeo.  Bon Iver’s “Calgary” has also been seen on many college students’ iPods.  Bon Iver, an indie-folk musician, recently pulled a Thoreau and secluded himself in the woods to write what many consider to be his masterpiece.  The self-titled album was released a few weeks ago and was given a 9.5 by Pitchfork (who are notorious for being very tough critics and hard raters).  The track– and technically the whole album– is very experimental, kind of throwing the conventional song structure out the window.  Bon Iver’s haunting voice is dominant throughout many of the tracks and anyone who listens to it really has a strange emotional connection with the album.  I know many people who claim that the song “Calgary” gives them goosebumps every time they listen to it.

The homepage of Hasan's music blog, The Collab Projekt.

What performers or groups are having a particularly poor summer or have fallen out of favor with the student set?

One artist I especially notice dropping out of favor is Kaskade.  Kaskade rode on DeadMau5’s tailcoats of fame as they released several collaborations in 2010. Last year, he was among the headliners at festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.  Nowadays, college kids wouldn’t even blink an eye if he was featured on an electronic music blog.

Kid Cudi is another artist who has been getting a lot less attention relative to his history.  He recently dropped a rock song with The Knux but otherwise hasn’t really been releasing that much material.  Yet, he does have his Wizard LP on queue to drop soon.  The LP is rumored to be a rock album, rather than his usual hip-hop. Additionally, his album “A Man Named Scott” is slated to drop sometime this summer as well.  So Cudi may be in a trough regarding his popularity among students as rappers like J. Cole, Odd Future, Mac Miller, and Theophilus London steal his flame, but once those two projects drop Cudi will be back and very much at the forefront of college music.

Beyond Spotify, which is still being rolled out in the U.S., what digital tool has been influencing music most this summer?

Twitter is great for the quick updates and blurbs, but Tumblr is a unique instrument. Tumblr, unlike Facebook or Twitter, has a very specific audience.  Tumblr users are there because they have some affinity with arts, photography, music, fashion, weed culture or tattoos.  Hence, Tumblr thrives with teenagers to early twentysomethings who are affiliated with contemporary youth subcultures.  Tumblr’s reblog button (which can be used for any post) and dashboard (which features these posts on followers’ homescreens via live updates) have been extremely valuable to artists trying to spread information. Because of this unique reblog-dashboard combination, post views/likes increase exponentially.  A group can post anything up and all their followers can see this post on their dashboard.  They can then choose to reblog this, which would show the respective post on all of their followers’ dashboards.  It is such an incredible tool for spreading information.

What’s your advice for students interested in following in your footsteps and writing about all-things music?


People listen to music for a myriad of reasons.  Music, like all art, is a subjective experience– what results is entirely up to the listener and the context.  Heavy Metal may be cacophonic noise to one person and angelic harmonies to another.  If you’re looking to start writing about music, make sure you know what your approach and purpose is.  All writing has a purpose and the topic of music is no exception.  Some write about music to share with others, others write about music as a critique, and still others write about music reflectively in a more personal way.

As someone with a radio show and music blog, my intent is to share music with others, and if you share this vision, I have great news for you!  You’re living in the age of digital media.  Thirty years ago, you would have to pour blood, sweat, and tears just to gather enough music for yourself, let alone to share with others. Whereas a casette tape held 12 songs, a hard drive of the same size today can store more than 20,000.  There are plenty of resources for the sharing, promotion, and writing about music available today and it’s never been easier or cheaper to start.

But these new media have their drawbacks as well.  Music blogging is not immune to the law of economics.  As supply goes up, demand will go down. There is beginning to be overcrowding in the music blogging realm.

What print and online outlets should students be following to stay abreast of the latest industry news and reviews?

Again, I can’t stress how much digital media has changed the music industry.  Never before have you been able to “follow” your favorite artists on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and SoundCloud.  Following artists directly on these sites is probably where I get 70 percent of my music and music news.  Tons of artists love tweeting or SoundClouding free samples of their music so it’s definitely a great tool to have.

There are also plenty of music discovery sites like RCRDLBL, We Are Hunted, and Hype-M, which are all great tools to use to stay updated.  Additionally, there are of course an absurd amount of music blogs in existence.  It can be difficult to choose which ones to follow and it’ll take a little looking around.  Some of the ones that I follow personally include Gorilla vs Bear, Mostly Junk Food, Earmilk, Pigeons and Planes, and PMA.

What are the advantages of being a student or just younger when writing and reporting on the music scene?

As a student and younger guy in general, I’ve definitely seen it to my advantage when approaching artists for interviews.  (this all depends on the music scene, obviously the electronic music scene will have younger artists.)  A few months back, Designer Drugs and Mustard Pimp held a show at the Middle East, a grungy venue in Cambridge, Mass.  I had a press pass since I was photographing the show.  I noticed I was probably the youngest kid there, or at least much closer to the age of the DJs than any of the other reporters and photographers.  Around the middle of the show, a kid from Mustard Pimp’s posse tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to come into the dressing room.  When I got inside, he gave me some insider info on the going-ons of the growing electro scene.  Also, since he was the groups’ hype-man, he offered me some pointers on concert photography.  When I asked him why he singled me out, he told me it was because I looked like a guy he could trust.

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Angel McCurdy is a young journalist.  Yet, she jokes on Twitter that her love of “dresses, floral patterns, DIY projects, and newspapers” means she might actually be 80 years old.

As a staff writer at a kick-a** Florida daily, McCurdy has been fully ensconced in all-things journalism for awhile.  In her words, “I’ve been at it for a few years now and have started to realize that this profession is unlike any other.  The trials and tribulations are different from all other jobs.  Somehow, I have chosen to be in the profession where everyone hates you, everyone expects you to know everything, and everyone is watching your every move.”

I recently stumbled across her blog, and fell in love.  The writing is frank, funny, snarky without the cynicism.  It delivers a true glimpse of a twentysomething journalist’s travails circa NOW.  Students, take note.

With McCurdy’s permission, here is a recent post from her blog, titled, “Reporters: A Sketchy Breed”:

In the few years I’ve been working as a journalist I’ve learned things they never could have taught me in school. One of those things is that journalists aren’t quite right.  We tell morbid jokes, we rejoice when we’re asked to leave property, and we never falter when it comes to the question of whether to cross the police tape or not.  Always cross, never look back.

I’m fairly absorbed in the culture of reporters and journalism so it always surprises me when I tell an outsider a story and the reaction is the complete opposite of my cohorts.

Example 1:

I like telling jokes. It’s how I was raised, never taking myself too seriously and laughing my way through life.  The problem with journalists’ jokes is that we are engulfed in sad news, terrible circumstances, and situations that in most circles wouldn’t be joking matters.

Joking, though, takes us out of the seriousness of it, the sadness of the reality of what we deal with and helps us in our day to day.  I wouldn’t have lasted a week in this field if I would have thought about every death I had to write about and every pervert sitting in jail.  Jokes get us through the tough stuff.  So outsiders of journalism, just excuse us when we seem unfeeling and crass– it’s just a defense mechanism.

Example 2:

I’ve never been taught to talk back, question authority or make a fuss if things don’t go my way.  My mother’s solution to most problems is to back off and let bygones be bygones.  In the newsroom, if you don’t fight for information, question authority or raise a stink when you’re not getting what you want you’re doing it wrong.

I love when you hear someone yelling on the other side of the phone, or when I’m the one having to put a firm foot down because when the phone is hung up everyone cheers, congratulates, and gives you a pat on the back.  Things are done differently in the news world.

Example 3:

Last week, there was a young girl killed in a wooded area in between some residential homes. It’s sad, yes, but that is not the story.  The press release was literally three sentences with zero detail.  Well, that wouldn’t do.  So off I went on a quest to find something, anything.  And find it I did.

After what felt like years, I finally stumbled onto the street, which turned out to be a small road that dead-ended with one home and led to the wooded trail where her body was found.  When I arrived, the Sheriff’s Office was collecting their police tape and heading out, leaving behind one, small yellow piece of tape.

Most people would walk up to the tape, look over it, and walk away.  In the world of reporting, that just doesn’t seem like you’ve tried hard enough.  An arrest had been made, most of the tape had been removed, and the Sheriff’s deputies were gone so I figured the small strip of tape was more of a suggestion, which I didn’t abide by.

I casually walked under the tape and found the trail where I assumed she had been killed. Of course, I was this far, might as well keep going. I found every entrance blocked off, found an apartment complex that had been questioned the night before, and got some excellent quotes.

Then, as I was making my way back to my car, I found myself hiding behind a bush as a group of people– I have no clue who they were– were making their way under the yellow tape.  There were two entrances, so I stealthily walked the opposite way of the folks headed to the trail until I had made it out of the path and to my car.  (Without being seen, I might add.)

Reporters, we’re not normal.

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