SAN MARCOS - New York magazine contributing editor Robert Kolker spoke during Texas State’s Mass Communication week on Monday about the many different routes his career took him before he found his fit in magazine writing.
After graduating from Columbia University as a history major, Kolker worked as an event planner, a secretary for a non-profit organization, an assistant at a movie company and an organizer for political fundraisers.
“I thought I would be an arts journalist of some sort, or maybe a film scholar,” Kolker said. “I did not want to be an investigative reporter or a White House reporter... but I really enjoyed being published.”
While experiencing different jobs, Kolker realized he wanted to work in print journalism because of the enjoyment he found in being published.
“At some point I sort of stood up, almost two years out of college, and realized what I really wanted to do was write for publication,” Kolker said. “It didn’t matter what it was…I just wanted to be in print.”
Kolker started by writing profiles about different residency programs for medical students, and about important negotiation points in entertainment law deals for lawyers. Kolker expressed that he wasn’t an expert in these areas, and had to call different people for their input.
“I found there was a little bit of a thrill in being parachuted into unfamiliar situations,” Kolker said. “That was my sort of way that I started to connect with journalism.”
Kolker enjoyed getting to know people on a more personal level, which lead to his interest in magazine writing. A writer at Seventeen magazine informed Kolker that writing for a newspaper was appealing to magazine companies, since newspapers teach writers to abide by strict deadlines and guidelines.
“If you have newspaper experience, what you’re demonstrating to any editor is that you know how to turn something around and make it happen,” Kolker said. “And you know how to do it accurately.”
After Kolker gained credentials from writing for a small newspaper on the west side of Manhattan, he was hired at a newly launched company called Timeout New York magazine.
“The exciting part about being on a launch is something that I hope each of you can experience…which is to be a part of something brand new,” Kolker said. “…like it’s freshman year of college with a whole bunch of people who are starting at the same time as you, where absolutely everything needs to be down from the ground up.”
Kolker wasn’t sure what direction his career would take him after Timeout Magazine, since many other writers went on to work for larger, more well-known magazines.
“I didn’t know what my next step would be because I was writing community news,” Kolker said. “I wasn’t quite qualified to be a news reporter for the New York Times or for the New York Daily News or the New York Post; they weren’t necessarily going to hire me, and I didn’t know what my next step would be.”
However, Kolker seemed to find his perfect fit at New York magazine--a magazine he thought he didn’t have a chance with.
“Suddenly I heard through a friend that they were looking for a junior writer that would write about what’s going on in the city,” Kolker said. “I was a natural fit for them, and I was hired fifteen years ago.”
Kolker describes New York magazine as his ideal job because of the comfortable relationship the writers have with their supervisors, and the opportunities that came out of his experience.
“It was the kind of place where you could walk into the boss’s office and pitch a bigger feature, and if he said ‘yes’ then suddenly you were a feature writer,” Kolker said. “In six months…I had my first feature story.”
Junior public relations major Sarah Sutton enjoyed hearing about Kolker’s journey to find the career that best suited him.
“I think his advice was relatable and motivating to land that dream job,” Sutton said. “He accounted personal experiences that some of us may end up facing in the near future, but gave us hope for what’s to come with hard work and dedication.”
Junior electronic media major Veronika Kendratieva felt Kolker’s advice was relatable and motivating to students who are soon to be looking for careers in the journalism field.
“He wasn’t hiding the struggles and that he was on the bottom once,” Kendratieva said. “It motivates me because if he can do it, I can do it too.”
For more information on Robert Kokler, or about his book “Lost Girls,” visit RobertKolker.com.
Source: Author photo by Christopher Bonanos
1. Sarah Sutton- firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Veronika Kondratieva- email@example.com