5 Favorite Things I Wrote in 2015


Credit: Wikipedia

Sorry for the wait, but, hey, here I am. Work-wise, 2015 was a year of transition for me. I left my job at Slate in February to start at New York Magazine — specifically Vulture. (That’s their site that reports on culture, fyi.) It’s nuts. In just two years, I’ve shot up the masthead at what feels to me like record pace. I’m now an associate editor, but this year I also turned 25, and so it feels like I might have that title for either awhile or not very long at all.

I say that for two reasons: 1. I enjoy my job. It drives me bonkers. It’d drive anyone who has to monitor Twitter more than they monitor their own pulse mad. Not to mention then having to turn said Twitter content into content. It’s a daily headache I’m genuinely excited to greet most mornings when my alarm jolts me awake and I sign onto Slack and get to writing. (That working from home life.) 2. I know I can’t do this forever. My mother’s from a generation who’ll work at a company for decades. I’ve worked at three different companies in three years, mostly by choice. Journalism, while still a great joy to lose myself in, no longer stimulates me creatively the way it did when I decided on it as my career in high school. (Stop making teens do that, ya’ll.)

I’ve been thinking about working at a record label. But who knows where the future will take me. I haven’t a clue. Until I do, why not reflect on the past year. (Here’s 2014’s reflection.) I did some challenging, honest, worthwhile work that I’d like to publicly declare my faves right here and now. But before I do, let me also add that I think I may retire this blog. I’ve outgrown it, both age-wise and professionally. I may transition it to Medium, or maybe tweak my Tumblr to be more than just music musings. Stay tuned.

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September 11, 2001: A Magazine Memory


I’ve been soul-searching all day to figure what would be the best thing to do to commemorate the 12th anniversary of September 11 on my blog. On MLK day, I spoke about his profound effect on my life as a journalist. This day, for me, is no different. I could write a lengthy personal essay about where and who I was when it happened, but I’ve told that story before too many times to count and now it feels uncomfortably worn out. And so, instead, I’ll give some context to an image I tweeted out this morning and put on Tumblr of a magazine cover that changed my life.

It came from the New Yorker dated September 24. I was only 11 at the time and not at all familiar with the publication. I’m still not, not really. Those were the days of Seventeen, J-14, YM, and all those made-for-preteen-girls magazines I could get my hands on (and beg my mother to fund the subscription.) But I saw this cover at the local drugstore in the town where I went to middle school, just a quick drive from midtown—a suburb with the perfect view to watch the city burn that day. It’s one of my earliest memories of falling in love with magazines. I’d seen so many newspaper front pages depicting images from that day and the days that followed, but they were all just snapshots of the moments to have on record for someone to someday update the U.S. history book I was currently reading for school as proof it happened. But the New Yorker was something else. It felt like the memory of a feeling preserved in print forever. It just meant so much more to me than anything I’d seen the NYT or what was then called the Bergen Record, my local paper, do.

Illustrated by Art Spiegelman and his wife Françoise Mouly, it’s an indelible cover that I know for many who became used to seeing the NYC skyline the way it was depicted exactly what we feel when we see it now: darkness. I remember picking up the cover in the drugstore, analyzing it, flipping it every which way to see if there was something I’d missed. Could a magazine really publish a black cover? My creative naivety exposed because I didn’t see the real image on first glance. For the New Yorker’s 10-year remembrance of September 11,  Françoise Mouly had this to say about the original cover:

“Ten years ago, my husband, the cartoonist Art Spiegelman, our daughter, and I stood four blocks away from the second tower as we watched it collapse in excruciatingly slow motion. Later, back in my office, I felt that images were suddenly powerless to help us understand what had happened. The only appropriate solution seemed to be to publish no cover image at all—an all-black cover. Then Art suggested adding the outlines of the two towers, black on black. So from no cover came a perfect image, which conveyed something about the unbearable loss of life, the sudden absence in our skyline, the abrupt tear in the fabric of reality.”


Download Vertical Floor Now!

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In my life updates, I promised to tell you more about my grad program’s capstone when it dropped. Well, as of midnight Vertical Floor’s September issue is officially available for download on the iTunes App store for the low, low price of $0.00. That’s right, it’s completely free (so no excuses)! But before I ask beg that you download, read, and tell every single person you know to do the same, it’s only right I give some background on what Vertical Floor’s all about and the story behind its creation.

Me and the rest of my MNO cohorts launched this magazine as a means to serve the parkour and freerunning communities. It all started with a tablet competition (my team’s mag proposal was a finalist!) to see which team in the entire Newhouse master’s program could come up with the best pitch for a tablet magazine to be made from scratch by my grad program. In their first round presentation, the group that presented what was formerly known as Tracer stressed the lack of media representation for a rapidly growing niche discipline known as parkour — so rapidly growing, in fact, the NYT recently covered it. Well, that point resonated with second round judges from Conde Nast, Tumblr, and the Atlantic and it went on to win the competition and became the subject that consumed our lives for six week.

The MNO program (minus a few students that chose the internship/30-page paper option) along with our advisors Professors Melissa Chessher, Aileen Gallagher, and Doug Stralher met in late May to sit down and really begin conceptualizing our magazine. What it would look like, the name, our audience, and most importantly, the stories we would tell. It isn’t easy to dive into a subject like parkour; not a single person in our class had actually ever practiced parkour or freerunning prior to capstone. I never even heard of parkour until the first round of the competition. It took hours upon hours, pretty much the whole six weeks, to really immerse ourselves in the world of parkour. So in case the NSA is wondering what’s up with the spike in parkour-related Google search queries mid-May to the end of June out of Syracuse, here’s your answer.

Now, for a more in-depth look at my role in making Vertical Floor.

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Life Updates!


I know what you’re thinking. Back in January when I relaunched my site, I resolved to embrace frequent blogging. Thing is, when I made that promise I severely underestimated my grad workload for the spring semester. I took three reporting/writing intensive courses which left little room for personal blogging outside my music Tumblr. My apologies. But despite my blogging hiatus, I never ceased paying attention to media industry news. Instead, I’ve adopted a better medium for sharing that information: Twitter. So if you’re looking to stay on top of what’s going on at the major magazines, newspapers, and digital media outlets, give me a follow.

Since my last blog back in March, I graduated grad school! In May, I received my master’s in magazine, newspaper, and online journalism from the greatest J-school on Earth: the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Now, I’m a fairly humble person who rarely brags about personal or even professional achievements. But I fought for years to get into this school and nearly gave up on my dream of being a journalist twice along the way. So, I can’t help but emit pride when I call myself an alumna of this prestigious school and a member of the powerful Newhouse Mafia. I was taught by the best, worked alongside the best, and became a better journalist because of it all.

Since graduating my life has kicked into overdrive. Here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been up to:

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MLK’s Influence On My Career

I just wanted to take a moment to honor Martin Luther King Jr. today and talk briefly about his influence on my life and, particularly, on my career as a journalist. For most, MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is the pinnacle of his influence on not just the United States of America, but also the world. It’s his mark on history, one of the most widely read and watched texts of all time.

As a child, I remember my small, predominately-Caucasian Catholic elementary school setting aside time both on MLK Day and during Black History Month to educate us on his life and memory. Foregoing the predictable, we sat down and read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in its entirety, taking turns each paragraph. As I read these words today, that same feeling I felt as a child revisits me. There’s a passage from that letter that has not only become one of my favorite quotes, but also my personal mantra as a journalist.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.”

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Relaunched, Revamped, Reloaded

For those who have ever visited my site and those who are doing so for the first time today, this is its official relaunch! I made a quiet promise to myself that in 2013 I would make more of an effort to self-promote online. Some of you may know I’m very active on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr, but not so much on my actual site. Not a very efficient marketing strategy, right? Well, I thought there’s no better way to reestablish my online presence than with a little makeover. So, I turned an insomnia-riddled night into one dedicated to the redesign of my site.

Thus, you are looking at the new and improved virtual me. It starts first and foremost with the blog component of my site. Up until now, I’ve shied away from actual blogging. You see, I casually blog on Tumblr — exposing my musings on music and film for the world to see — but I’ve never been one for more substantial, long form blogging (if that’s even a thing). As a writer I’m always wary of overkill. Where do I draw the line between my journalism, my creative writing, and my personal thoughts? I never want to drown my readers in too much ink. So, my site previously had little more than a brief introduction on my landing page. All that changes today.

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My Boot Camp Experience

This is a post originally published on the Newhouse Insider, a site the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications put together for prospective students. I was asked to describe the six weeks I spent over the summer in Syracuse as a part of the Newhouse grad program’s intro semester. It’s essentially a precursor to the regular academic year to jumpstart you on what will be expected of you for the remainder of the program. It’s fast-paced, intense, and truly tests your limits. Hence, the nickname “Boot Camp.” Hit the jump for my thoughts on Boot Camp.

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Hi, welcome to my official website! My name is Donata Lockett (also known as Dee) and I am a freelance journalist as well as a M.S. candidate in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. I’m currently studying Magazine, Newspaper & Online Journalism and will graduate May 2013. Here you will find a portfolio of my work, a sampling of my thoughts, and my up-to-date résumé. Explore, enjoy, and thank you for visiting!