Thursday, October 24, 2013

Magazine editor talks about journalistic career path

.By Preston Zaya
Writing for Mass Media Student
Photo produced by Christoper Bonanos

SAN MARCOS-Robert Kolker, a contributing editor for New York Magazine, spoke to students during Mass Communication Week about his extensive career and experiences in journalism.

Kolker attended Colombia University where he majored in history.  Kolker said at the time that he was more interested in writing movie and art reviews rather than hard news.

Rachel Starnes, 20, public relations major and business minor, said "I like both equally. Feature writing is happier, but hard news makes you more aware of the harshness of the real world."

“I was intimidated by the idea of being one member of a pack,” Kolker said.  “…that I’d be following a politician with a microphone, along with 20 other people trying to get the quote.”

Kolker jumped around after college working for a movie company, an established non-profit organization, and political fundraiser before realizing that he wanted to write for publication.

“Suddenly it didn't matter what it was.  Writing about movies or not about movies, I just wanted to be in print.  I dropped everything and started freelancing where I could,” Kolker said.

Kolker wrote freelance articles about a variety of topics before working for a small local newspaper on the West side of Manhattan.

“That was very much a journalism school experience for me,” Kolker said.  “I also started to really love writing for local news.  It was like writing a new installment of a soap opera every week.”

Kolker soon found that his specialty would be criminal justice journalism. He wrote articles ranging from ponzi schemes and other white collar crimes, to murder and corrupt cops. 

“A lot of the career building happens after school when you’re jumping around and learning as you go,” Kolker said.

He landed a job with New York Magazine in 1998 where he soon became the go-to reporter for investigative and feature articles.

Kolker also published his first book "Lost girls: An Unsolved American Mystery" during the spring of 2011, which spawned from a feature article about five unsolved female murders.

“If you can do the work and demonstrate that you can do it, then people will give you more work,” Kolker said.

Although Kolker works for a well-known magazine now, he emphasized to students that notoriety isn't everything.

“The prestige of the place and the name of the place aren't as important as the work that you’re doing,” Kolker said.  "The process is far more important than the goal."

Homer Gonzalez, junior, electronic media major and theatre minor, from Laredo, said “I totally agree with that.  It’s just about working to get where you want to be, it’s about the journey.”

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