Thursday, October 24, 2013

Robert Kolker spoke for Mass Communication Week about his journey into journalism

By Kristie Nakamura
Writing for Mass Media Student 

Photo by Christopher Bonanos
Contributing editor to New York magazine, Robert Kolker, spoke to students to ensure them that the career they seek is within reach.

Kolker, who spoke on Monday for Mass Communication Week, said he knew from the start that he wanted to write and be published, but the job opportunities were limited.   

He spent much of his time after graduating from Columbia University in 1991 working many different jobs.

“From 1991 to 1998 I bounced around to a lot of different jobs,” said Kolker, who worked for non-profit groups, a movie company and freelanced wherever he could.

Still, he knew he was not interested in writing hard news where he would be competing with other journalists to get a story out first.

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

After working at a community newspaper, Kolker realized he enjoyed writing about all sorts of things.  “What I found was there was a little bit of a thrill to be parachuted into an unfamiliar situation to call people and ask to talk them about it,” Kolker said. “Then put something together that was readable.”

Kolker moved on to Time Out New York, an entertainment magazine that was launching in New York City, where he got to be part of a magazine that was starting from the “ground up”.

“The exciting part of being on a launch is … to be a part of something brand new,” said Kolker, who encouraged students to find a job at a launch where “everything needs to be done from the ground up.”

Although Kolker did not start off working for a large company, he built his way up by taking the jobs where he could “learn something new everyday,” until he eventually landed the job in 1998 at New York magazine

Senior Chandler Voswinkel said he was intriguing especially how he empathized with the students in their post-graduate job hunt. 

“We’re all looking towards finding a job after graduation and to see that we’re going though what he went through and now he’s really successful,” said Voswinkel, an electronic media major.  “It’s kind of encouraging.”

Junior Brittany Lesoon said what she took most from his speech is “the process is far more important than the goal.”  Now, if given the option between two jobs, Lesoon said she “would rather choose the small town job writing” so she can get a hands on experience to prepare her.

Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times
Voswinkel agrees that she would choose the job where she can learn a lot since “the title of your job or where you work really doesn’t matter, but it’s more the work that you’re doing.”

In the process, Kolker continued to further his knowledge, and published his first book, “Lost Girls: An Unsolved AmericanMystery”, in the summer of 2013.  “Lost Girls” originally started as a story he rejected assuming it would be solved quickly, but it turned out that there was more to be told of these young women.

The book tells the story of five unlucky women who were prostitutes, each with a similar story, and disappeared on Long Island, N.Y. 

 For more information on the book Lost Girls, visit

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