This is the full text of an interview with School of Communication student Sydney Gore, conducted by Jordan-Marie Smith on behalf of SOC. An excerpt was published as part of SOC's Student Media Leader series, in which American University student media leaders share their experiences and lessons learned working at various AU media outlets, and discuss how SOC has contributed to their success.
SOC: You're not doing a traditional internship this semester. What are you doing outside of your classes?
SG: While I think that internships are an important
part of gaining experience before entering the "real world" of whatever
your career is, there's this overwhelming sense of pressure that is
placed upon students to constantly intern while also attending school.
After this summer, I felt completely burnt out-- I have interned every
semester since the summer before my sophomore year. I decided that this
semester I should focus more on my academics and my writing since this
is my last year of college. A few of my mentors recommended trusting my
instincts and taking a breather, and I'm so glad that I listened to
I've always been really into blogging since high school-- that's
actually what I wrote my college essay about for all of my applications. I have one
Wordpress account and four different Tumblr accounts because I have all
of these ideas for projects that I start working on, don't usually
finish, but come back to when the creative juices are flowing.
SG: For Pigeons & Planes, I primarily freelance
music feature pieces which can be anything from interviews with artists
to news posts, think-pieces and listicles. I usually write album reviews
for The 405 and single reviews for All Things Go. When I pitch ideas to
The Toast, they typically revolve around trends that I notice in pop
culture and society.
SOC: How did you get involved?
SG: This summer, I interned at Pigeons & Planes
(P&P). It kind of happened by chance-- I was already interning at
Seventeen, and then P&P posted on Facebook about how they were
looking for interns. They're my favorite music blog so I didn't hesitate
to apply. I was upfront about already having an internship in my email,
but I basically gushed about how much I loved P&P and how it would
be an honor to work for them in any capacity. I didn't hear back from (P&P writer)
Confusion for a few weeks and got worried, so I sent a subtle follow-up
email and then he got back to me within the same day and asked if I
could come in for an interview. I went the next day. It was super chill,
and the next morning, I had an offer sitting in my inbox. After the
internship ended, I got promoted!
I became a contributing writer for All Things Go after interning there last year, a pretty simple process.
The 405 happened randomly-- one of the editors followed me on Twitter, I
clicked on the site because I had never heard of it since it was based
in the UK, liked what I saw, and then I applied as a contributing writer
before I went abroad to London.
As for The Toast - this is a funny story. My friend was talking about
Mallory Ortberg one day while we were in the Billboard office. I went on
Ortberg’s Twitter account and saw that she was talking about High
School Musical and the secret underlying love relationship between Lucas
Grabeel and Corbin Bleu's characters. Having thought the same thing for
years, I tweeted to her about it. We engaged in a passionate
conversation for about an hour, and then she followed me back. Before
the end of the day, she sent me an email about my writing and how
talented she thought I was and how she wanted me to write for her site,
The Toast. Nearly a year later, I finally pitched her something and it
Twitter is my greatest resource, basically.
SOC: Have any SOC classes helped you with your internship/job? What specific skills/classes?
SG: Digital Skills
with Lynne Perri changed my life. Learning how to code and use HTML has
given me a huge advantage over so many other interns that I have worked
with. During my internship at Billboard in 2013, I worked with the
online editorial team and knowing HTML was crucial for my internship. I
wrote posts every day and if I hadn't understood how to format them, the
editors would have probably hated giving me assignments because they
would have to take the time to teach me how to do everything.
SOC: Describe another time SOC has helped you in your professional life.
SG: My internship at Pigeons & Planes also required
me to be familiar with using the Wordpress template and HTML codes for
posts. On a different note, when I was at Seventeen this summer, I was
the only journalism major in the Features department! Sometimes, I had
to teach the other interns the basics of journalism. Because of my
background, the editors trusted me with a lot of the more important
tasks because I understood how to work on deadline, where to find solid
research, and how to format documents in the Seventeen style.
SOC: Have any student media organizations helped you? How?
SG: On campus, I am the Publicity/Social Media Coordinator for the Student Union Board, a senior staff writer on The Eagle, a DJ for WVAU, and Vice President of Print for the AU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
My first week of freshman year, I became friends with Madeline Beard after she profiled me for her fashion column in The Eagle. She suggested attending The Scene's pitch meeting because I liked music-- once I found out that you could get free tickets to concerts and music, I never stopped coming! During the second semester of my freshman year, I interviewed Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Ice Cube in person. Eventually, I worked my way up from contributing writer to Scene Assistant to Music Editor. I had the best editors while I was an underclassman and they helped me grow as a writer so much-- Maeve McDermott, Yohana Desta, Hoai-Tran Bui and Kendall Breitman.
Writing for The Eagle gave me the foundation I needed as an young, aspiring journalist in the early stages of my career. I probably wouldn't have been offered most of the internships that I had without having that experience. I still think that it doesn't make sense to not write for your school newspaper/magazine or some sort of blog/website if you want to be a journalist. As beneficial as the classes are that we pay tuition to enroll in, that's not enough. The real experience in this field is outside of the classroom.
Furthermore, explore your other interests. I love music so joining WVAU and SUB appealed to me. WVAU educated me more about music in general, but I also worked on the Promotions/Events staff for WVAU, which allowed me to utilize my skills as a Marketing minor.
SUB showed me the business side of the music industry so I learned about the process of planning, booking and putting on events. For SUB, I control the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to promote our events. I specifically became a part of this organization after too many years of being disappointed and frustrated with the selections for live events. I had one of those "be the change you want to see" in the world moments and decided to apply for a position going into my junior year. Hands down, that was one of the best decisions I made during my soon-to-be four years at AU.
I would like to think that my involvement in this organization has made a difference for campus morale, as we have improved all of our events so much since I was a freshman in 2011. My goal has always been to put on a performance that I am tremendously proud of before I graduate, and I think I will have accomplished that by May 10, 2015.
SOC: What do you like to listen to when you work?
SG: This is a difficult question because I listen to a variety of things! It really depends on my mood in that moment, but when I'm trying to get in a hardcore study zone, I put on Youth Lagoon's first album, The Year of Hibernation. When I'm writing essays, I always blast Hilary Duff's entire discography because she is my muse. I am 100 percent serious about this. Otherwise, I play a lot of Drake, FKA Twigs and Jacques Greene because they know how to set the tone. This week, I'm all about Tinashe's new album Aquarius. She's a star.
SOC: Best Food?
SG: Wagshal's is the only place I can rely on within walking distance. Otherwise, I'd pick Whole Foods or Tara Thai.
SOC: Best place to study in McKinley?
SG: The only place that I can study on campus is the third floor of McKinley. Now that I've shared this secret, I better not lose my spot! WONKS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
SOC: Best SOC Professor?
SG: The best professors that I've ever had at AU are Christine Lawrence and Lynne Perri. Dean (Rose Ann) Robertson has also been a mentor to me since before I was accepted to AU, and I wouldn't have had the same college experience without her guidance.