OFF TO NEW YORK
NYC Media, Winter Term ’14
January 11: First day in the Big Apple for NYC Media, a new course for Miami’s new winter term. Doug Newberry (aka, “assistant to the director”) and I met up with the lovely Mary Collins for dinner. Mary, the long-time companion of Doug’s recently deceased uncle, Art Newberry, treated us to dinner at Stella 34, the in-house restaurant at the midtown Macy’s. Swank. And so great to catch up with a great woman and friend of the Newberry clan.
DAY TWO: A reunion and a tribute
January 12: First up, coffee with high school classmate, Michael Pettinger, Pius X High School (Lincoln, Neb.), class of 1979. For 30-plus years, I’ve remembered him only as my clarinet nemesis in band. (I got the first chair, but he was the better musician.) After 90 minutes at a midtown Starbucks, I got to know the smart, funny, loveable Michael I never knew back then. All that — and a prof at the prestigious New School. Another Facebook-inspired, happy-ending reunion!
Second up on our second day: An essential visit to the 9/11 Memorial. During my last trip to New York, circa 2008, 9/11 was a construction zone with two giant holes in the ground. Now those holes are waterfall-like monuments, offering a somber, respectful tribute to the nearly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day. Doug and I took a sidetrip to St. Mary’s Chapel, the nearby church where first-responders rested during the early search-and-rescue mission. It now houses some of the relics of that time, including a table where visitors can leave messages for lost loved ones. Neither of us knew a 9/11 victim, so I left a brief card in honor of my parents: RIP, Thomas P. Gallagher, 1930-2010, and Mary T. Gallagher, 1936-2013. We ended the day by welcoming our 17 NYC Media foot soldiers (who are creating their own NYC Media Web sites) for a dinner meeting, then prepped for the week ahead while catching the Golden Globes.
DAY THREE: Big names at Big Media
January 13: It’s go time! We spent the morning at NBC, starting with network veterans Barbara Duffy (program manager for the “Nightly News”), ML Flynn (senior producer of editorial planning) and Stacy Brady (senior vice president, field and production operations). Flynn reminded students that no one is smarter than they are — and that great writing and solid story-telling win the day in TV news. Brady said TV journalists must be nimble and ready for a field assignment at any minute. At NBC, staffers needed to keep a packed bag and updated passport on site at all times, she said. All three women talked about the personal sacrifices of working for such a prominent media outfit. “If you love what you do, it all works out,” said Brady, who worked her way up from secretary. Then came a very cool walk through “The Today Show” control booth with MU grad Candace Kuo, a show producer. (Alas, Matt Lauer, who took the redeye home from the Golden Globes to take his seat around the anchor desk, was nowhere to be seen. Probably home — asleep!) NBC page Annie Vaughan took over from there, with a walk through the sets/studios for “The Today Show” and the “Nightly News” with Brian Williams, with a through-the-glass peek at the “Saturday Night Live” studio. Small spaces for such BIG productions!
After NBC, we hit the Wall Street Journal. Miami grad Lisa Bannon, deputy editor, Arts & Culture, told us that stories that make it into Arena, the weekly A&E section she heads, all have financial (and often exclusive) angles. “We like to follow the money,” she said. Fellow grad David Marino-Nachison, a web strategist for the Journal, reminded students “there are so many paths to where you want to go.” (He also said unconventional decisions — like his eight-month “ski break” from the journalism world — aren’t necessary career-killers. Caution to students: Good idea if you are mid-career and already “launched.” Less good if you are 22 and trying to establish yourself.) The upside of being owned by News Corp., according to the WSJ guests: A quicker metabolism in the newsroom. But still, big owners aren’t as nimble as new start-ups: “Ideas take a whiile to bubble to the top,” Marino-Nachison said. Half of the group capped off the day with a spot in the studio audience of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” (He’s already dogging new NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio, for eating pizza with a fork and knife.) The other half got into Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” for an equally fun night. We swapped the next night. (A big shoutout to Cincinnati Enquirer media reporter John Kiesewetter for helping set up those visits!)
DAY FOUR: How fast can you go?
January 14: Seven bookings for one day. OK, six, if you remember that we split the class between Stewart and Colbert again. But still. Miss the right train and you might have missed the visit. Great morning at Fox News, with two Miami superstars — Gerri Willis and Bill Hemmer.
Willis, host of her own personal finance show, “The Willis Report,” told students she worked her way up to CNN, then Fox, from a career in newspapers and completion of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship for business reporting at Columbia University. While “The Willis Report” features mostly per-fi packages and interviews, she still thrives on breaking news. When she working a live story on the show, “it’s like being on drugs,” she said.
Hemmer, who like Willis is from the Cincinnati area, invited us in near the end of his morning show “America’s Newsroom,” then chatted with us for a good 20 or so minutes. Fun fact: During breaks, he’s on his laptop picking up new news and rewriting what will appear on the teleprompter seconds later. Today’s anchor: Not just a pretty face. (Although, at 49, he’s still got that.)
We raced over to ABC after that for a meet-up with Andrew Springer, the senior editor of social media (at the age of 26!), and MU grad Cassie Carothers, East Coast editor at Yahoo News. Key takeaway: Get busy on social media — but stay away from “click bait” Tweets that only disappoint and turn away readers/viewers. Both emphasized a common theme: Be fast — but be right — on social media. “Social media is just another tool,” Springer said. “It must still be credible.”
We also got a couple of star turns in the ABC lobby: Diane Sawyer, anchor of ABC’s primetime “World News,” was going up the escalator; Robin Roberts, “Good Morning America” co-anchor, was going down. Both were kind enough to stop and give students a couple minutes of their time and a couple pieces of career advice. Roberts followed with a Tweet! From ABC, we hit MediaBistro, where Editorial Director Chris Ariens oversees 17 media-centric sites. What started as a media job board (bookmark the site, NYC Media wannabes!) began branching out by buying TVNewser from Brian Stelter, who went on to great fame as a media watcher for the New York Times and, as of December, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources. A seasoned media pro, Ariens displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of who’s who in the NYC media world and offered some good questions for the next guests on our itinerary. Then, it was back to Comedy Central. Whew! Did we even eat? Not sure there was time.
DAY FIVE: Serious journalists, seriously good journalism
January 15: Jim Impoco, the editor of Newsweek since last September, promised us 20 minutes. He gave us closer to 30. What’s new at the venerable newsweekly, purchased by an upstart digital media group called IBT Media last August? It’s hiring new writers, seeking a faster metabolism (a recurring theme, wherever we traveled), aiming for a higher-end audience, and sticking with “deeper dive” stories. And, oh, it’s going back into print as of March 7. “There is life after the Internet,” Impoco said. “We were written off as dead. And now were doing pretty OK.” Miami grad Andrew Martin, ex-NYTimes staffer and now an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News, welcomed us to the all-glass, no-door, no-wall HQ of Bloomberg for our next stop. His advice: Find an employer with deep resources (a la, Bloomberg) and consider a career in business news. His boss, Andy Lack, chair of the news division, popped in for a visit, reporting that Bloomberg is experimenting with anything and everything to grow its audience. “We’re fighting for people,” he said.
Asked if the ex-mayor was back in-house, Lack pointed to an adjacent (and also all-glass) building to where Michael Bloomberg was in the midst of a meeting. We waved. He waved back. Some fun! (BTW, Bloomberg News is booming! Check out its job listings for proof.)
After Bloomberg, we arrived at what I consider the most important visit of the trip: A half-day at The New York Times. How’d that happen?
An e-mail to Bill Keller. For the record, Keller is the most responsive e-mailer I’ve ever encountered. He replies when your fingers have barely left the send button. I invited him to Miami just after he announced he would end his eight-year run as executive editor in mid-2011 and he came in the fall of 2012. In July, I wrote and asked if we could invade the Times in January 2014, and he immediately said yes. By fall, he turned me over to the ever-helpful Ellen Kavier, assistant to Managing Editor Dean Baquet, and she put together a dream-team line-up: Op-ed columnist Gail Collins (a Cincinnati girl) , followed by Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, then Baquet, media columnist David Carr, book writer Julie Bosman and, finally, Keller himself. Students asked great questions. Guests provided prescient, profound answers. Carr, a star everywhere he goes, tamed his profanities and delivered delightful soundbites. (Complimenting his colleagues, he said: “This place will pick you up and throw you over the goal line” on deadline. Eschewing “commodity journalism” for the NYT’s brand of “quality work for quality readers,” he noted: “We’re almost never going to be first. But we’re almost always going to be best.” ) All that — and lunch in the uber-hip NYT cafeteria, too. We ended the day with “Newsies,” the Broadway production that depicts newsboys of the Pulitzer/Hearst era. Great dancing, strong voices. Story? Well, Disney-ish.
DAY SIX: Magazines that matter
January 16: On our final day in the Big City, we hit some big-name magazines, all with Miami alum on site. Highlights:
At Ladies Home Journal, senior digital director/senior editor Amanda Wolfe said “we’re changing the perception of the brand one click at a time.” The 130-year-old LHJ is using social media to connect with readers and bring more of their real-life stories, in their words, to their print and online pages.
At Family Circle, assistant food editor Melissa Knific paid her dues at small papers and trade mags before enrolling in culinary school to follow her dreams. She found them at FC, where she (literally) cooks up recipes — then puts together slick pages to feature them in print and online. (Her secret to keeping the pounds off: She tests recipes with a few bites, not full servings.)
At Departures, Jessica Flint has parlayed a deep resume in the mag world into her newest title as travel editor for the super-sleek travel mag for Amex card holders. With Time Inc. recently picking up Departures, can’t help but wonder what’s next for a student whose first job out of Oxford was at Vanity Fair. (VF true story: Flint was one of three people to know the identity of Deep Throat before the magazine broke the story in June 2005.) At Conde Nast, Mel Matzker is a freelance web writer for both Allure and Glamour — with a desk in “freelancer row” in the CN building. She got us a great walk-around, then rounded up half of the masthead of Allure to talk about its strategy vs. other beauty/fashion titles. Plus: A peek inside the Allure “fashion closet” with products not yet on the market. Shhhh!
Speaking of mastheads, here’s a tip from our grads about breaking into magazines: Email editors and writers, and ask for informational interviews. Get the names from this great masthead site — then poke around to find their email addresses.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Great trip! NYC Media 2015?
Sixteen-plus years into an academic career, I still marvel that I get to read about, talk about and think about journalism all day — and get paid for it! NYC Media has been another of those Miami moments. Many people deserve thanks for helping make this inaugural trip a success: Dr. Richard Campbell, the chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film, for greenlighting it; Erin Miller Brandyberry, in the Global Initiatives office, for answering my endless questions about assembling a traveling class; Susan Coffin, the Journalism Program’s all-purpose go-to-gal on questions big and small; and colleagues (Dr. Howard Kleiman of MJF and Evan Lichtenstein of the Development Office in particular) for helping connect me with potential guests. Thanks, too, to Mike Scott of the Development Office, for representing Miami so professionally in our visits. And, of course, a giant thanks to the exceptional guests and the exceptional students, who were the real stars of NYC Media.
Last, but hardly least, a special and very personal thanks to “assistant to the director,” my spouse, my partner and my support in all endeavors, Doug Newberry. We, literally, would have been lost without him. And we wouldn’t have many pictures either.
P.S. Summer 2014: We liked the City That Never Sleeps so much we returned in August 2014 for a five-day Urban Adventure with our own young adults. Check out our Facebook album for highlights.