Young Women Journos, Please Read Jill Abramson’s Cosmo Interview

Image via KLRU

Image via KLRU

[Update: Just to clarify, my thoughts shared below concerning any of my professional experiences do not pertain to any specific organization I’ve worked for—past or present. They only represent my collective experiences in media.]

I know I’ve neglected my blog recently and I’m hoping that, in the near future, that’ll change. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post explaining my absence.) Until then, though, I couldn’t not make the time to share this powerful interview Cosmopolitan published last night with the former New York Times editor, Jill Abramson. If, like me, you pay attention to the goings-on of the media world, you’ll remember Abramson was fired from her post at the Times in May. Since then, she hasn’t given an interview to any publication—though, to be clear, she hasn’t stayed silent.

But she’s now given her first interview since the firing and she gave it to Cosmopolitan, which will probably surprise some. But not me. Since Joanna Coles took over as EIC, the magazine has undergone some major changes—more political coverage, more longform, a decidedly stronger feminist perspective—and Abramson clearly noticed. It’s also not unsurprising that in the wake of everything that’s happened, she’d steer clear of the men in media who’ve scorned her and put trust in a publication that serves women, with a mostly female edit. staff. (For insight into Abramson’s mindset, see this tweet.)

Regardless of the reasoning behind her decision to sit down with Cosmo first, this is a poignant interview. For many reasons. But I’m specifically sharing her interview on my blog because, as a young woman in my first legitimate job in media, I found myself moved by some of her quotes. In the interview, she makes some shrewd observations about the truth of being a woman in a position of power in a man’s business. She also talks about rejection, pay disparity, and, of course, that infamous Politico story. But of all the things she said, nothing struck me more than this:

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What Kevin Spacey Can Teach Journalists About Interviewing

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Image via Pinterest

Before I begin, shout out to my former Newhouse classmate Meera Jagannathan for inspiring this piece (she shared the interview on Facebook). Appropriate that it comes from one of the most impressive interviewers I know. True story: I once covered the 2012 presidential election night at the Syracuse Democratic Committee party with Meera and a few other students, and I nearly flubbed my own interview because I got so distracted watching her interview prowess out of the corner of my eye.

Anyway, Kevin Spacey. You know him from films like American Beauty and Seven, and more recently as the affectionally maniacal Frank Underwood on House of Cards—his best work yet, if you ask me. But if you’re a journalist, as I’ve come to realize very recently, then you know him as a pain-in-the-ass interviewee. The thing about Kevin Spacey is he’s profoundly brilliant, obnoxiously so. He makes you feel wrong even when you’re not. He makes you feel stupid even when you’re not. He makes you feel inept at your profession even when you’re not. I only just found this out whilst reading his interview with Rachel Dodes for the Wall Street Journal. Rachel Dodes has been reporting for over a decade, she’s interviewed countless big names and, in her role as the WSJ film features writer, has spoken with dozens of actors. But none like Kevin Spacey.

I’ve also interviewed many, many people. And probably about 60 percent of those interviews taught me that even the most basic things can go ridiculously wrong. Your interviewee might forget to call/email to reschedule and leave you waiting awkwardly in a company’s lobby for over 15 minutes. Your recorder you swore had full battery when you checked 30 times before leaving your apartment dies a minute into the interview—and you don’t even realize ’till you go to transcribe. Then there’s my absolute favorite: your interviewee could be one of those men- or women-of-so-few-words type. Or the kind that spends two minutes in uncomfortable silence pondering the answer to a question only to give you a 10-word response. Interview fail. And, really, there’s nothing  J-school or anyone can teach you to prepare for any of it. Not even degrees from the London School of Economics or Cornell saved Dodes from her painful interview with Spacey. But Spacey himself; he could’ve. Here’s how.

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Why Young Journalists Need to Read Jessica Hopper’s Q&A with Jim DeRogatis On R. Kelly

Image via The Village Voice

Image via The Village Voice

I was born in 1990, so the first time I heard of R. Kelly, I was very young. It was his uplifting Space Jam anthem “I Believe I Can Fly.” I remember later discovering he had disgustingly married Aaliyah, one of my childhood idols, and I remember the vague allegations of pedophilia against him, and I, of course, remember the peeing incident.

What I don’t remember about R. Kelly are the specifics of absolutely anything related to his predatory behavior, his blatant and grotesque sexual abuse of young women in his hometown of Chicago. Until now. Recently, the excellent Chicago-based music journalist Jessica Hopper paired up with the equally excellent Chicago music critic and reporter Jim DeRogatis to discuss at-length the 15 years of work he spent exposing R. Kelly for his paper the Chicago Sun-Times. That Q&A was published yesterday in the Village Voice and it’s one of the most important pieces of music journalism of 2013.

But beyond being a piece that completely dismantles your understanding of R. Kelly’s “monster,” it’s a unique and free lesson for young journalists that teaches the fundamentals of our profession and how this profession let down dozens of young girls in failing to correctly report on R. Kelly and is continuing the tradition to this day. I want to point out a particular passage from the Q&A:

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Why Young Journalists Need to Read Rookie Mag’s Jane Pratt Interview

Olivia Hall/Rookie Mag

Olivia Hall/Rookie Mag

I had Rookie Mag’s recent interview with Jane Pratt sitting in my tabs for over a week before I decided to finally sit down and digest it last night. Because I’m an idiot who doesn’t recognize career-affirming advice when it’s staring me in the face from my laptop screen. For some context to my readers unfamiliar with the two subjects mentioned in the headline (glad that didn’t deter you from reading), Rookie Mag is an online mecca for teen girls founded by Tavi Gevinson who represents everything I wish I had the guts to be at her age (17). And Jane Pratt founded the groundbreaking women’s magazines Sassy and Jane before taking her talents to new media two years ago and starting xojane, which to me is one of the most important online resources to learn about, understand, and appreciate the female human experience ever created.

As a journalist in the, well, rookie years of my career, I’m constantly on the hunt for articles and interviews with journalists I’m impressed with or inspired by. I’ve read so many stories about Jane Pratt before but none have been as refreshing and enlightening as this one and, surprisingly, it’s only a Q&A. But Anaheed Alani, the editor who conducted this interview, is great as what she does and so her questions dig at the side of Jane Pratt we rarely get insight on: her life pre-Sassy as an up-and-coming editor with a passion for telling real-women stories in a world where those stories are often dismissed. Then again, most of the stories I read about women journalists like Jane are written by men, so I can’t be shocked when they focus more on her editing prowess rather than her rise to that notoriety.

You don’t have to like or even care about Jane Pratt but if you’re a young journalist, you need to read this interview and know how she got to where she is today. Or if you like to read success stories, then this one’s perfect for you too. I know from going to J-school and working in the field that getting an education in this industry goes far beyond a year or four’s worth of college credits. You need to do your research and figure out why you care about journalism. And that is why I urge young journalists, especially women, to read this interview.

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Roland Martin: Tells It Like It Is

One of the great things about attending Newhouse is the opportunity to hear industry game-changers, past and present, speak candidly about their careers. Last night, SU’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) hosted a conversation with Roland Martin. For non-political junkies, Martin is one the finest political analysts and social commentators in the business. He’s worked for CNN, TV One, and BET — among a host of other U.S. media outlets. He’s also one of the only African-American faces you’ll see on primetime news networks.

I’ve followed Martin’s work for many years and, as an aspiring political journalist, deeply admire his fearless effort to educate American minds at all costs. As he put it, “I go into every job under the premise that I’ll eventually get fired.” While I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be that audacious, his talk last night reaffirmed my belief that to be a great journalist you must take risks and dare to cause some disruption.

“I’m not an activist, but I can use my voice to act on certain issues and causes.”

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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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How Deadspin Changed The Game

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One of the biggest sports stories of 2012 surrounded the Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o, a linebacker at the University of Notre Dame. The story began on September 11, 2012, when Te’o’s grandmother passed away. A mere six hours after one tragedy another occurred: Te’o’s girlfriend Lennay Kekua lost her battle with leukemia. Te’o continued playing, leading his team to an undefeated season and a trip to the BCS title game. It was the stuff of fairytales, the kind of story that comes once in the career of most sports writers.

It attracted greats like Pete Thamel who wrote “The Full Manti,” a celebratory piece on Te’o’s achievements in the midst of such personal turmoil, for Sports Illustrated. It garnered attention from ESPN, CBS Sports, the Associated Press, and the list goes on and on. It was a love story, one that captivated a nation that so longs for a little romantic respite from the chaos of daily life.

But it was all a lie.

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The Age of Sponsored Journalism

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Yesterday, The Atlantic came under immense scrutiny for publishing a story on the Church of Scientology’s alleged growth spurt in 2012. At first glance, it’s a headline that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Look closer, and right above that unsuspicious headline is an eyesore in the form of a bright yellow box containing the words “Sponsored Content.” And therein lies the shock and dismay. How could a magazine as esteemed as The Atlantic publish an advertisement masquerading as journalism?

When I first caught wind of the controversy on Twitter, I was a bit taken aback. I won’t pretend like The Atlantic isn’t my favorite U.S. news magazine and a publication I aspire to see my byline in some day. I wear my bias on my sleeve. It felt like a personal slap in the face because as strong as The Atlantic’s Op-Eds are, its reporting outweighs the calculated thoughts of such legends as Ta-Nehisi Coates. The idea that The Atlantic would publish a story so poorly written on one of the most controversial religious organizations in the world stung. But, the fact that it was paid for by that same church left a bruise turning a darker shade of purple by the minute.

And, yet, I don’t fault the editorial staff for this blunder. Like that old saying about not mixing business and pleasure or church and state, that same rule applies for the editorial and ad staff of a magazine. Each staff’s decisions are its own and should have no influence in either direction. When the writers of The Atlantic saw this story, I have no doubt they felt the sting from that same slap because they know public perception means everything. And nothing is more important to the state of journalism than the perception that our work is fair.

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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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