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Archive for April, 2008

Dear Blogosphere,

I know I have to start writing daily–these weekly recaps are not nearly as effective as my day to day struggles. Once things calm down a bit over here, I promise I will post more often than weekly.

Monday, 4/21: Went to gynecologist. Nothing exciting, though I did wonder how many “unpleasant experiences” my doctor has had in his twenty something years of practice. I chalked this up to my journalistic sense of wanting to ask questions and learn more about everything..

Tuesday, 4/22: Dinner with my friend Jessica, also a journalist. She interns at The Daily News and used to be the EIC of her student newspaper. Over clams in a green sauce and garlic bread at a Spanish tapas bar/dive she told me how she landed her first gig at USA Today. Jess is really excited about it and I am too–she’s moving to Virginia for it and I’m proud. It was also good to be able to discuss work with someone who really cares about it. I know this is ridiculous, but I hate talking about work with people who are just “eh” about it. It takes away from my passion and just makes me plain annoyed.

Wednesday, 4/23: My first job interview! Interview with Jake Greene, author and informational meeting with Meredith Halpern, Executive Director, Marketing & Communications at Hunter. I really enjoyed the job interview–it was great conversation and I got to put some ideas out there. I would love to work there. I think it went well, did the edit test and will keep you posted.

Interview with Jake went great, I think his book, Whoa, My Boss is Naked! is such a good read, well written and perfect for my age group. It was also really cool just to be talking to an author.

Meeting with Meredith also went well. I really like her. I think she is such a great asset for Hunter and she never talks down to me, always treats me as an equal, and I really appreciate and respect that.

Thursday, 4/24: I get my first press badge. Press passOhhh and it felt so good. Time Out New York printed it up for me for the Tribeca Film Festival. It has my name and photo and says “Writer, TONY” which is totally cool. I tried to play it off like “no biggie” but I was celebrating. My parents were so excited, haha. (Never mind them, I was so excited I photographed it.)

Friday, 4/25-Sunday 4/27: is a blur. The Rangers lost the first two games against Pittsburgh. I was devestated. I did see Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay on Friday night though–I love bad college movies. It tried to be all satirical but I think it tried a little too hard. Sunday I felt so burnt out that I watched like 4 hours of Gossip Girl. In the morning, me and my male counterpart Michael did the extremely city thing of going to Sunday brunch. We went to ONE and dropped, well a bunch of city cash. I did have a bloody mary though, which made me feel super cool.

Monday, 4/27: I interview someone I really look up to, Sloane Crosley. Sloane works in publicity at an imprint at Random House and just recently published a book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which is a bunch of essays detailing her very New York experiences. I did it for our summer reading piece for The Envoy but talking to her was great. I tried not to let her know how cool I really thought she was but in my thank you email I said “Thanks for speaking with me today! I love the book and totally corny, but I am hoping my career will be as successful as yours has been.” Ok so that is not exactly keeping it cool but I can’t help it, I do aspire to do what she had done.

Also on Monday: I downloaded The Kills “Sour Cherry.” It is the song that plays during the OMFG Gossip Girl commercials. I know, I’m addicted. But it is an awesome song and the show is addictive, New York-ish and my guilty pleasure. In other GG news, 4/28’s episode featured Yin Chang, student at Hunter and new co-star to Blake Lively. Read about this local girl hitting the CW 11 here. Hunter was actually on the show tonight–the incredibly attractive twentysomethings-playing-high schoolers took the SATs there.

This Week:

Press screening at Tribeca Film Festival
Informational meetings with various editors at different publications. I went crazy and sent out emails to not just try to hook myself up, but to learn. I hope it works.

Rangers play tomorrow night, 4/29 and with work and all I probably won’t post again until Friday. Check back 🙂 .

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When you are in your twenties and you live in NYC life is good. Though you really don’t have or make much money you manage to visit some wild art galleries, catch Broadway shows and a few concerts at MSG, eat at amazing restaurants with your friends and see free movie screenings.

Sometimes in between happy hours (at a place with outside seating that makes you feel like sitting on a nasty sidewalk off 3rd Ave is doing an outdoor activity) and Pinkberry, you find yourself eating a peanut butter sandwich for dinner on a paper plate, with chocolate soy milk and a banana. This is usually because you live alone.

While savoring your kind-of-nutritious-yet-not- a-real-meal dinner you are usually in the midst of another activity, despite the fact that it is almost 10:30pm. If you are still in college/grad school this can range from research papers to the Pope visiting the synagogue next to your school tomorrow and you don’t have anyone covering the event to finding semi-cheap restaurants in the Hamptons for a story you are freelancing. In my case, I was freaking out because the Pope was in town, The Envoy wasn’t on it and I hadn’t even gone through all my emails yet.

OK let’s rewind–I wasn’t just freaking out because of the Pope issue. I was in one of those mind-whirlwinds, where you get caught up in your own world that you deem to be too chaotic and too pressure-filled so you have a mini panic attack just thinking about all the stuff you didn’t finish (and didn’t blog about).

Recap of important events/happenings/semi-epiphanies:

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I spent Wednesday afternoon singing CSNY’s “Our House” with my pal Janine, along with many random other songs, but the tune bests suits this blog’s title.

The Envoy office is my home, even though the couches are dirty and there was a dead rat in it a few months ago. Its the staff’s Central Perk or Monk’s. At any point you can head into 211 Thomas Hunter and someone from the staff will be there, studying, checking their email, taking a nap or already in there with another staff member eating lunch.

I sat in the computer room of the office, on our brand new Macs, responding to an email from one of the recruiters I met at last weekend’s Public Relations forum and I started singing out of nowhere, very gently…”Our house,” and Janine looked up and responded just as softly, “is a very very very fine house. With two cats in the yard,” and in a Broadway show or musical fashion, we broke into song. Our pal from the Media Board next door came in during our sing-a-long performance to the youtube video above and instead of telling us to lower it he said, “Oh man I love this song! Make it louder!” and started singing with us. Especially for a commuter school, this is such a beautiful thing. Spending “out of school” time with your friends, being silly and enjoying college. When I tell people how being a part of a student newspaper is great, this is what I try to drive home.

If you noticed I said I was responding to an email from a recruiter from the forum last week.

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I went to bed at 2:30am on Friday night and when I got up at 8 go to the Public Relations Society of America New York Chapter‘s PR forum on Saturday, I looked like someone punched me in the face. I brushed my teeth with my eyes closed, got dressed, put in my contacts which made my eyes burn, grabbed a banana and took the M23 cross-town bus to 7th avenue.

I got there twenty minutes early and some attendees were already there. I signed in and stared at the array of breakfast food they had because I was starving. It is never polite to eat like a normal amount of food at these things, so I just had tea but I regretted that decision about an hour later. So I’m drinking my tea in the back corner because people are always paired up at these events and it is hard to break into a group’s conversation, and I see there were a few people doing the same thing, standing there looking like a nobody and reading the packet they gave out at registration. I approach this female nobody and say “So I look a bit foolish not talking to anyone and so do you, so let’s make each other look better.” She took well to this and I started asking her who she was, what she did, where she was from, etc.

Turns out she woke up at 4am and drove in from SUNY Albany (and I was complaining about getting up at 8), had done some PR internships and was very concerned about getting a job. Then the convo took an awkward turn when she didn’t ask me anything and I was pretty much running out of material because I didn’t have much to work with. I gestured that we should go over and sit where the keynote speech was going to be, we go sit down and go back to reading the packets with info about the exhibitors again.

The event was packed out, they even had to add more chairs. Luckily another girl sat down next to me and although the conversation was dry, at least we were talking. I make the observation that the event-goers are predominantly women and all of sudden Ms. I’m not going to ask any questions about you and we’ll just sit here in silence almost yells out and says, “Public Relations is for chicks, anything creative is for chicks. Anything creative men can’t and shouldn’t handle.”

Ok I will give it to the girl that the event was 80% women but I wanted to flip out on her. I guess Edward Bernays wasn’t creative enough for her and the countless other male figures of creativity, whether it be the classics like composers and beyond famous artists/thinkers like Michelangelo, or writers like Kurt Vonnegut and the famed Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown or current musicians like Wynton Marsalis and producer Timbaland. We just hit the 50th anniversary of Alvin Ailey dance theater and we could sit here all day and name creative men in varying fields. Why do women continue to think this way? Women can be creative, they could also be good at math and science and they could also be great politicians. Is it really still believed that women are emotional and that emotion drives their creativity and men are logical and rational and therefore not creative? If so then shove me into a girdle, throw me into a drawing room and send me back to 19th century England. At least I would be around the likes of Dickens and the Brontës instead of Ms. Public Relations is for chicks.

I know I just went on a crazy feminist-sounding rant (at least I put this blog in both the tale and rant category), but it did have to do with media somewhere. The keynote speaker was Shonali Burke, Vice President of Media & Communications for the ASPCA. Originally from India, Shonali wanted to be an actress but moved to the USA when her American husband had to. She became involved in PR via her theater background and was originally working with organizations that dealt with Broadway events, Cirque de Soleil, etc. in San Francisco.

What struck me most about the entire event (other than that girl who prompted me to write basically an entire blog about how upset I was with her comment) was not the exhibitors I spoke to or the people around me, but what Shonali said at the beginning of her speech. “When came here, I didn’t know one other person, except my husband, because I had never been to the States.” She met all her connections through her own efforts, eventually meeting people in DC even when she was still in San Fran. Shonali began her career only twelve years ago and has come so far since, working on cases like the recent Michael Vick situation, all on her own merit and efforts. No college career development services office helping her out, no career books that she read, just her. That is truly inspirational and should give hope to everyone that making it is possible, we just can’t be afraid to work, hard.

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Knock Knock

I live in a 10 by 12 dorm room on the east side of the planet, i.e. by the FDR. It is decorated well though, so in real estate language, it would be “cozy.” In any event, I spend a lot of time in my almost literal hole-in-the-wall. (The photo below even shows my take-out bag next to my desk.) Last semester, one of the girls who lived on my floor was writing for the Envoy and instead of just emailing me or calling me, she would always knock on my door for every single question she had.

Look, you can even see my Japanese take-out next to my desk.I

“Hey Charlotte, when is this article due in by,” or “Who should I send this to, you or the news editor?” and my favorite, “When is the next issue going to come out?” (Really? It comes out the same day every week kids.) There were more than that because she used to come by at least once a week. She eventually got too swamped with school to continue writing for the paper (and I might have also let her know I was irritated with the 1am visits on Monday night).

As a result, the only people that knock on my door now are friends (or the same girl as above asking me to lower my music at 3pm in the afternoon. Oh the irony). But this afternoon there was an unexpected knock at my door, and it was one of my writers.

I had called her earlier to see if she wanted to attend a conference Monday night with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She told me she wanted to but couldn’t attend. Then she said, “could I get your advice on something?” She has to write a how-to article for her magazine writing class and needed some help coming up with where to get info for a how-to and some fresh ideas. We brainstormed a bit together and came up with “How to Get a Job During a Recession,” a bit of a spin on the classic how-to get a job service piece. The focus would be on networking.

We went over how to get validating quotes, she thanked me a lot and then left. Even though I was putting my resume and clip packets together for tomorrow’s Public Relations Forum at FIT, I enjoyed the interruption. I told her to let me know how it goes.

It might sound silly (or cocky), but the fact that people knock on my door to ask me advice on story ideas and how to go about putting together information once it is gathered makes me feel friggen’ great. Not only did she feel comfortable enough with me to just come a-knockin’, she trusted in what I was going to say.

I often speak to classes (basic reporting, advanced reporting, feature writing, magazine writing, etc) about how to get internships in journalism. I talk about what websites to look at, how to get bylines and who at Hunter can help them out. I got my first success story this week!

From:
To: Charlotte Cusumano
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 9:33 PM
Subject: RE: Clothesline article

Hey Charlotte,

You’re most welcome! And please do keep me posted. By the way, were you the gal who came to Prof. Morris’s class and discussed the Envoy and internships and stuff? Because if so, I owe you a thank you. Your talk was great and I went to ed2010.com (like you said) and got myself an internship at a magazine, even this late in the semester! So thanks again!

Best,
Jamie
She is interning at Fitness Magazine! That is such a great place to have on your resume and she is still early on in her college career. Man this really is awesome.

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My journey into the real world began 22 years ago on a hot Friday in late September, but it really took off this fall. I didn’t think this particular online job search was any different from my normal daily searches, but on the Hunter College Career Development Services site I found something that caught my eye. An editorial internship for the Spring 2008 semester. It was at a well-known weekly and it was paid. I pumped out a cover letter and sent my application over.

I was called in for an interview within two days of applying and I was so excited. The interview went perfect–except for the last few minutes. They wanted someone to start right away and I already had a fall internship so that wasn’t doable at all. But their positive words allowed me to leave still feeling confident. They said they would contact me that week to let me know if I was hired for spring.

A week passes from that time and I send a follow up email, checking on the status of my application. That was in early October. Two weeks pass–still nothing.

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I went to Paula Wicklow in CDS and explained what had happened. She informed me of the news I already knew: that Spring internship was not mine and they didn’t even email me to let me know.

Now I wasn’t devastated but I was discouraged. I started to feel uneasy–that no matter what my GPA or my credentials, other things were at play in this job game. Timing, contacts and a little bit of luck are just as important as the work I’ve done.

I didn’t feel too great after I realized this. I “knew” it was true and had been told, but it made my heart sink a little when I actually understood it.

It is April now and my view of this “real world” has changed. Instead of trying to beat it, I just joined it. I am embracing luck and connections and I’m getting out there. And I better be because I will be really out there come May when I have my B.A. and the “real world” slaps me again.

As I venture out into the wild wild web, I want to inspire and inform while I document my trip through the land of higher-ups that wear jeans instead of suits. Let’s watch my journey together.

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