by Ahmad A. Malik
The latest outing of Stony Brook School of Journalism’s monthly Professional Friday trips was to BuzzFeed and NY1. The group, led by Professors Jonathan Sanders and Ilana Ozernoy, got a glimpse of the inner-workings of each newsroom and the realities of working in journalism, from the field’s uniquely hectic lifestyle to its equally enduring payoffs.
Upon arriving at BuzzFeed’s downtown office, which had the playful and immersive work environment of a tech start-up, the group got a guided tour. The open floor plan houses BuzzFeed’s rapidly expanding team of both editorial and list writers, the largest of their four offices worldwide.
Anita Badejo, an editorial assistant who led the tour, sat down with students in “Winston Bananas,” one of the many conference rooms named after the original viral cat memes that helped make BuzzFeed one of the most visited websites in the world. Mark Shoofs, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, and Adrian Carrasquillo, a writer and alumni of Stony Brook University, joined in to shed light on their own experiences and offered advice to the group.
“It’s just as valuable to know what you don’t want to do,” said Carrasquillo, who already had his mind set on covering national news while a student at Stony Brook. He told the group that at BuzzFeed, he primarily covers stories affecting the Hispanic community and issues of immigration.
Carrasquillo went on to highlight the importance of social media in the current age of journalism. “Social media is a broadcasting tool and a listening tool,” said Carrasquillo, an avid Twitter user. “You can define the interests of the public and engage with people you like.”
Although the website is famous for its “listicles” and quizzes, BuzzFeed has been rapidly expanding their hard news reporting and investigative team, stationing correspondents in Ukraine and Syria. Moreover, Shoofs recently recruited a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner, Chris Hamby, to Buzzfeed’s investigative reporting team.
“Dollars or bodies,” Shoofs said, referring to the two major elements of a compelling investigative story. “Who stole the dollars or who harmed the bodies? That’s what you have to find out.”
Following the trip to BuzzFeed, the group walked to the West side to visit the NY1 Studios, located above Chelsea Market. Students were given a tour of the newsroom, the control room, and the television studio where the news and commentary programs are taped. Melissa Maguire, an executive producer, and Courtney Gross, a political reporter, both shed light on the necessary qualities to pursue a career in journalism.
“The hours are awful,” said Maguire, who often works late into the night on a Wednesday-to-Sunday schedule. “But I absolutely love it. You have to live and breathe what you do, and I absolutely do. So it’s definitely worth it.”
Gross, who studied print journalism while in college, is now an onscreen reporter. She told the students that around-the-clock reporting often poses a battle between accuracy and timeliness.
“In the battle to get it right or first,” said Gross, “always, always, always, get it right.”