Karen Rouse Photo provided by Karen Rouse

Karen Rouse
Photo provided by Karen Rouse

By Matt Taylor

After 20 years working as a journalist, Karen Rouse, J/MS 1993, has found the story of her career.

A senior writer and traffic beat reporter for The Record (Bergen County), Rouse received attention and acclaim for researching and reporting on a cover-up involving at least 15 executives and managers from NJ Transit who were aware of the fact that many locomotives and passenger cars were left in low-lying rail yards during Hurricane Sandy, resulting in more than $120 million in damages.

The exposé was hailed by many as the one of the biggest New Jersey stories of the last two years (except for Bridgegate). However, the former Scarlet Knight saw things a bit differently.

Karen Rouse exposed a $120 million scandal at NJ Transit resulting from Superstorm Sandy. Credit: nj.com

Karen Rouse exposed a $120 million scandal at NJ Transit resulting from Superstorm Sandy. Credit: nj.com

“When you’re a reporter,” Rouse began, “you’re just doing the story of the day. You don’t necessarily think it will be huge.”

Rouse’s investigative work involved suing NJ Transit for the release of public documents, where she learned that the agency had a plan for relocating its equipment to higher ground but that the plan was ignored. Gov. Chris Christie had offered the explanation that a rogue, low-level employee moved the equipment to the low-lying areas on his own, but that explanation later proved unsatisfactory.

Rouse pressed agency officials who admitted NJ Transit moved trains into the rail yards because it never expected them to flood, and that data available showed the chances of flooding were small.

Because of her dogged pursuit of the story, legislative hearings are to begin shortly into the NJ Transit mess, and NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein resigned earlier this year.

While Rouse is proud of her work on the piece, it’s the smaller, more personal stories she’s done throughout her career that she cares for the most.

“It’s always important to write about people — that’s what’s important to me,” said Rouse, who specifically mentioned an article she wrote recently about a community of immigrants bonding over a game of cricket in North Jersey. It has become a favorite piece from her career.

Since graduating, Rouse remarked that the newsroom has become “a totally different world” than the one she originally entered. Yet the changes in the field have not slowed her career down in the slightest. She wrote for papers in Fort Worth and Denver before returning to New Jersey and getting a position at The Record six years ago. She has covered a variety of topics, including education, business and state government.

Rouse credits Rutgers, where she double majored in Journalism and Media Studies and Political Science, with giving her the necessary building blocks to be a successful reporter, saying that she “loved “ her four years on campus.

“Rutgers is beneficial because it’s a huge university,” she said, praising the diversity of the campus. “It really gets you ahead when you [graduate]. It’s a real plus for Rutgers students.”

Rouse still looks back fondly at her time in J/MS as well as at the faculty who taught her. She specifically mentioned Professor Ronald Miskoff as one of her biggest influences and as someone whom she has kept in touch with since graduating.

“At this point, he’s a friend,” said Rouse, who believes that Miskoff’s investigative journalism class was one of the most influential courses she took while attending Rutgers. “He’s done so much for me.”

Having a passion for jour­nalism is, in Rouse’s eyes, an important quality to have, and she encouraged all current J/MS students to “really pursue a career in journalism” if they believe it is their calling.

Professors Ron Miskoff and Liz Fuerst review the iBook. Photo by Fatimah Foster

Professors Ron Miskoff and Liz Fuerst review the iBook. Photo by Fatimah Foster

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By Fatima Foster

When the planes struck the Twin Towers in New York City on a beautiful sunny day in September 2001, many lives were lost, and many families’ futures became cloudy. Those who perished left behind children really too young to lose a parent.

Now, 12 years later, through a new book compiled by J/MS Professors Ronald Miskoff and Liz Fuerst, some of the children of New Jersey 9/11 victims and the parent of one victim share their stories of the day that changed their lives forever.

The electronic formatted book, entitled 9/11 Stories: The Children, is a work Miskoff calls a “follow-up story” to what may be the greatest and most heartbreaking story of the Millennium—9/11.

The book is an outgrowth of the 9/11 Project course that J/MS offered in spring 2011.

The class came about when Miskoff and Executive Director George White of the New Jersey Press Association had an idea to run a course where a group of journalism majors would interview the children of New Jersey 9/11 victims.

These interviews would then become the basis for press coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 offered to New Jersey daily and weekly newspapers during late August and early September 2011.

The NJPA and its charitable arm, the New Jersey Press Foundation, gave J/MS a grant of almost $60,000 to run the course. Miskoff designed the course to teach the tenets of narrative journalism and had the hand-picked majors read masters such as Tom Wolfe and Buzz Bissinger. There were guest lecturers who had written books about 9/11, including Gov. Tom Kean, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission.

Fuerst was brought in as a writing coach. She did a lot of the arranging for the project and quickly learned the difficulty of the task.

“Many people did not want to talk to us,” she recalled. “I reached out to every contact I had. I would bring in a family and have two or three phone conversations to arrange interviews and by the fourth one they would say ‘I don’t want to do it,’” said Fuerst.

However, once lining up children, the professors matched them with the students in the class, who not only interviewed them for print but shot video and took still photographs. As expected, instant connections were made between the two because of similar interests and closeness in age, Miskoff noted.

The original idea of the NJPA was to have a book-on-paper written at the end of the course. However, as Miskoff explained, the project turned out to be too costly.

With inspiration from Jennifer A. Borg, Esquire, vice president and general counsel of North Jersey Media Group and former president of the New Jersey Press Foundation, the professors began to explore the idea of an electronic book.

The book, available now on iTunes for $1.99 and soon to be available as an ebook, contains all the stories of the children, along with 20 two-minute videos and lots of photographs.

“This story had everything—it had horrific murder, it had bewildered children, it had terror from the skies, it had high drama, it had legions of widows, it had mystery, it had greed, it had religion, it had the battle of technology and traditionalism, globalization and fundamentalism, it was a whodunit, it had politics,” noted Miskoff.

Through the stories and video content, he added, readers’ hearts will ache for the children who had lost parental love so young.

Fuerst’s account about working on the book proves the despair in the stories.

“I edited all the stories, and I cried more than a few times,” she said. “I actually remember my tears falling onto someone’s paper,” she said.

Added Miskoff, “Readers will see how the emotion of growing up without a mom or dad, combined with the constant reminder in the media of that terrible day, has had a severe and marked effect on many of the children.”

All proceeds from the book go to a 9/11 educational foundation.

 

 

Patrizia Di Maria, right, with ex-intern (now director) Lauren Quinn, a 2001 grad, producing the Lady Gaga show. Photo provided by Patrizia Di Maria

Patrizia Di Maria, right, with ex-intern (now director) Lauren Quinn, a 2001 grad, producing the Lady Gaga show. Photo provided by Patrizia Di Maria

By Sylvia Meredith

When Lady Gaga took the stage at the South by Southwest music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, in March, producing her concert was Patrizia DiMaria, J/MS 1998, a nationally recognized producer for music-related events.

South by Southwest is one of the largest music industry events in the world, and it is fitting that Di Maria was behind one of its most exciting acts. Her new company, Lady Pants Productions, takes live music and awards shows from ideation to delivery. It is already getting known for its creativity and attention to detail.

After a long and impressive resume of working with multiple television productions, Di Maria said she has successfully accomplished her dream of her very own production company. Lady Pants Productions was launched in September 2013, and its first job was the impressive, multi-million dollar televised event “VH1 You Oughta Know in Concert.”

Di Maria also produced the Vitaminwater company’s much heralded concert in Boring, Oregon, that featured Damien Dante Wayans, the comedian; and musical acts, such as Santigold. The concert tied in with Vitaminwater’s “Make Boring Brilliant” marketing campaign. Boring is a little town about half an hour away from the bustle of Portland.

From a very early age, Di Maria knew she was interested in writing and the arts. During her years at Rutgers she remained focused by solely working and interning, while working hard on her academics.

She noted, “Steve Miller allowed me the experiences of internships, where I learned what area I wanted to pursue.”

Professor Miller recommended her to intern under a former Rutgers grad, Amy Turco, for the live events team at VH1 in the spring semester of 1998.

After an exciting internship at VH1, she formed a career goal: to become a producer. Di Maria was fortunate enough to get hired at VH1 after her graduation. After working her way up to executive producer of live events and original programming, she left in 2010 to join Viacom as vice president of production in Special Events.

In 2012, she was recruited by the Madison Square Garden/FuseNetwork and worked there for a few years, when she decided to create her own company.

Jumping from Los Angeles, where Lady Pants Production is located, to New York, Di Maria is always on the go, tackling new and exciting endeavors. Along her career path she has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, The Who, Beyonce and Green Day, just to name a few. She has produced countless events such as “VH1 Storyteller” and “Divas” for VH1, as well as live red carpets for the Grammys and Critics’ Choice Awards. She also produced internationally in 2007 for the Concert For Diana at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Austin, TX, Lady Gaga show she produced was a joint venture with Fuse and Doritos. Check it out on Twitter at #boldstage. Di Maria is also producing a show in Cannes, France, a week long media event called Cannes Liones. This is her third year producing this event on the behalf of Viacom.

Part of the event includes a dinner at a 15th-century chateau with a performance afterward. In 2013, the performer was Jen­n­­ifer Hudson. However, this year’s is confidential at the moment.

Although Lady Pants is still very new, Di Maria says she is “starting to create memories.”

She added, “Who knows where it will take me? What I do know is I will enjoy the journey.”

By Ashley Deckert

Some people say that it takes a wrong turn in order to get on the right path. For alumnus Walter O’Brien, J/MS 2005, his wrong turn consisted of not completing his degree while at Rutgers in the 1970s.

But this mistake just happened to lead him into his dream career of managing multiple rock star bands. And, it was a fabulous career by any definition. O’Brien managed some of the biggest rock bands in history, 17 in all, including Anthrax, Pantera, Ministry, Metal Church, and Jimmy Buffet.

Walter O'Brien  Photo supplied by Walter O'Brien

Walter O’Brien
Photo supplied by Walter O’Brien

Ultimately, though, this was not a satisfying path for O’Brien. After more than 30 years in the music field, degree-less and at age 53, O’Brien sought change.

“I wanted to focus on my personal life out in New Jersey and on my own creative energy, instead of someone else’s,” he recalled. “That, and the fact that the rock star lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

O’Brien returned to Rutgers to get his journalism degree and is now a breaking news reporter at NJ.com, covering Somerset County.

No longer focusing on channeling the unique energies of others, O’Brien is currently exercising his own at NJ.com. The only difference apart from the years of yesterday, he said, is the idea of no longer calling the shots. Most of his work revolves around the reporting of breaking news — fires, accidents, road closings and anything that applies to the general public.

When asked about preference on which news to cover, O’Brien stated, “I think the best stuff for me is anything that tells a story that reaches people, especially those in need or in a bad situation.”

Given the bumpy ride he took while traveling around the world in his music management days, O’Brien is beyond content to be stationed in the Somerset County and Morristown areas, which are closer to home now.

Sometimes when he’s reporting the breaking news of the day, the music business years seem so far away — especially the 18 years dedicated to running his own artist management company, Concrete Management & Marketing Inc.

Managing “the lifestyles of the rich and the famous” wasn’t always smooth, O’Brien acknowledged. “Near the end, I used to describe my job as waiting around in the backstage of a big cement concert venue, waiting for the band to be drunk enough that they wouldn’t notice me when I made my way back to the hotel to try and sleep,” O’Brien said.

While growing up, O’Brien said that the Beatles’ music was in rotation, and everyone his age wanted a glimpse of fame as a musician.

“Everybody wanted to play guitar and ‘be’ Paul, John or George, or play drums and ‘be’ Ringo,” he recalled. “I wanted to be Brian Epstein. And, on a much smaller scale, I made it happen.”

There were moments derived from his musical years that will never compare to his present days. But, looking back now, he is happy to be no longer living them. “With Pantera, they would be upset with me if I wouldn’t drink with them every night, all night long,” said O’Brien. “It was one long party to them. While I did what I could to keep up, I never could quite party as hard as they did.

“Here I am now, a journalist, and the first thing I had to do was take a drug test. It couldn’t be more opposite! But yes, I passed,” said O’Brien.

As far as finishing the long delayed degree, he claims it was at first just the desire to complete it, but now he’s appreciative more than ever for the knowledge it has bestowed upon him. “My degree from J/MS was a direct link to my second career,” said O’Brien. “I always did a lot of writing, but news writing is different in many ways ­— style and content wise.”

Networking while at J/MS eventually made way for O’Brien to score the reporting job he had hoped for. He worked for the Courier News and then went on to NJ.com.

“Second dream career accomplished,” O’Brien said.

 

Reuters’ office in Athens overlooking the Greek Parliament and Syntagma Square is Deepa Babington’s aerie. Photo provided by Deepa Babington

Reuters’ office in Athens overlooking the Greek Parliament and Syntagma Square is Deepa Babington’s aerie. Photos provided by Deepa Babington

By Andrea Pang

It was early morning on April 6, 2009, when international reporter Deepa Babington, J/MS 2001, was roused from her slumber in her home in Rome, Italy, by the precarious swaying of her bedroom lamp.

Moments later, Babington, who was then a foreign correspondent in Italy for the international news agency Reuters, was out of bed, scrambling in the pre-dawn gloom to get ready to head out and report on the source of those nighttime tremors—a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

“I was in this giant rush where all I did was basically throw on the first thing I got out of my closet,” she said. “I took my laptop and just ran — just hopped in a cab and got to work.”

Deepa Babington tries camel liver for a story in Sudan.

Deepa Babington tries camel liver for a story in Sudan.

Clad in an old Abercrombie t-shirt, she and a fellow photographer bolted to the city of L’Aquila and were greeted with an “intense sight” of collapsed buildings and screaming people.

Together they witnessed the firsthand destruction of the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake — a disaster that claimed the lives of over 300 people, making it the deadliest earthquake to hit Italy since 1980.

“One of the great privileges of being a journalist is to be able to see things that you otherwise couldn’t unless you were one,” she said. “You really do get a chance to be at the front lines of history.”

For 14 years, Babington’s vibrant career with Reuters has led her to the front lines again and again. Today she is Reuters’ chief correspondent for the Greece and Cyprus bureau.

Since joining the news agency in 2000 as an intern, the 34-year-old journalist has traveled to a host of different countries, including Afghanistan, Lib­ya,­ Italy and Greece. Her assignments have taken her to the war zones of Iraq and to the basement of a hotel in Rome, where she met with former Libyan energy minister Shokri Ghanem after he defected in 2011.

“I’ve always wanted to be a journalist,” she said. “I think I was one of the lucky people who knew what I wanted to do before I got into college.”

In the summer between her junior and senior years at J/MS, Babington landed at Reuters as an intern.

After finishing her internship, she worked part-time for the news agency throughout her senior year.

Once she graduated, she joined the New York newsroom full-time in 2001.

“I was quite lucky that way,” she said. “But I’ve always had my sights on moving abroad… I wanted to become a foreign correspondent.”

That dream became a reality in 2006. After applying for a position in Italy, Babington found herself in Rome as a new foreign correspondent of Reuters — with zero fluency in the Italian language.

“When I actually moved [to Rome], it was the first time I’d ever been to Italy,” she said. “I didn’t know very much about the country. It was all very new.”

But she did not let her inexperience deter her. Her first few months in Italy were spent familiarizing herself with the country’s politics, culture and, of course, its language.

“Every morning I would get the Italian newspaper and take it to the local coffee shop near my house,” she said. “I’d sit there and read every article and underline the words I didn’t know. I’d have an Italian dictionary with me, and I’d go over them, just back and forth.”

Additionally, by working in the smaller Rome bureau, Babington had the opportunity to cover a wide variety of subjects — ones she was unable to do as often while working in New York.

“You really do have much more of an opportunity to go out and pick up whatever story you want,” she said. “And Italy is, of course, a natural place to write about all sorts of things, from art and architecture to fashion and food.”

When she first began, Babington was mostly doing specialized business reporting. Now, from wars to fashion shows, art to politics, the journalist’s experience abroad reflects more than just what is on her passport.

“I’ve really enjoyed my reporting trips to conflict zones, places like Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. “They’ve always been intense experiences, and I’ve always found them to be very enriching and rewarding experiences.”

In late 2011, Babington was posted to Athens, Greece, and was tossed into the chaos of the country’s debt crisis.

“I basically only saw the inside of the newsroom and the inside of my apartment,” she said. “I would be in the office until 2 or 3 in the morning. It was a very intense first year.”

Although the crisis has somewhat abated since then, its effects can still be felt. As bureau chief, Babington focuses on reporting the social and economic impact it has left on the country.

“Now that we’re out of the eye of the storm that we were in in 2012, a lot of my job is to put together story ideas about how Greece has changed or not changed as a result of the crisis,” she said.

Instead of reporting, her duties today mostly consist of writing, editing and managing her team of eight reporters.

“I still love going out on reporting trips,” she said. “I love being able to go out and report on some part of the country that we haven’t written about before.”

 

Lisa Ferdinando is a petty officer 3rd class in the Coast Guard Reserve. Photo provided by Lisa Ferdinando

Lisa Ferdinando is a petty officer 3rd class in the Coast Guard Reserve.
Photo provided by Lisa Ferdinando

Before Alex Haley wrote Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he was Chief Journalist for the U.S. Coast Guard.

In fact, the Coast Guard’s highest writing honor carries his name.

The newest winner of the Alex Haley Award is a J/MS alumna, Lisa Ferdinando of Alexandria, Virginia, who graduated in 1996. A petty officer 3rd class in the Coast Guard Reserve, she was just named Public Affairs Specialist of the Year for producing high caliber journalism products that enhance the visibility of the Coast Guard.

What’s unusual is that Ferdinando has been in her position only about a year, and the Haley Award is customarily given to public affairs specialists with much more seniority.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Ferdinando, who writes features for Coast Guard publications and blogs and takes photographs. “This is the highest Coast Guard award in public affairs. It’s just an incredible honor.”

Photo of Coast Guard tallship Barque Eagle helped ’96 alum win the Haley Award. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

Photo of Coast Guard tallship Barque Eagle helped ’96 alum win the Haley Award. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

Her reserve work mostly takes place on the weekends, but Ferdinando’s fulltime job is also with the military. She is a civilian employee of the Army News Service, where she covers stories that are of interest to military people, their families, and retirees.

Some of the topics she writes about are difficult ones: suicide prevention, battle buddies recognizing warning signs of emotional distress, and preventing sexual assault.

Journalism training for this Mullica Hill native began at Rutgers, where she wrote for The Daily Targum. “I knew I wanted journalism as a career,” Ferdinando recalled. “I’ve always been a news junkie. I’ve always been curious as to what is going on in the world.”

After grad­uating she snagged her first job as a news assistant at the United Nations, then worked for ABC Radio in New York before getting a coveted position in the White House radio press office. She and her co-workers were re­sponsible for then President Bill Clin­ton’s weekly radio address.

When the ad­min­is­tration changed, she found a po­sition writing for Voice of America, the official external broadcast institution of the United States government. During the 12 years she spent there, Ferdinando wrote about events on Capitol Hill and traveled widely throughout the United States, covering politics and political conventions.

After that stint she jumped to the Army News Service and made the decision to enlist in the Coast Guard Reserve.

“I felt that there was more I could do in my life,” she said. “I wanted to expand the community service I had been doing. I wanted to make a commitment month to month and year to year.”

Although she was older than the average age at Coast Guard boot camp, she found that that didn’t matter. Ferdinando took to military training and culture right away. The Coast Guard also sent her to media school at Fort Meade in Maryland to take a refresher course in feature writing. She said she is not afraid of being deployed – if it comes to that.

Now she drills at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. She is rarely without her camera. On a recent Sunday the yard was foggy, and Ferdinando noticed the 1936-era Coast Guard tallship Barque Eagle looming out of the mist.

The dreamy pictures she shot that day were part of her portfolio for the Haley Award.

Majestic and ethereal, the photographs may have just clinched the award for her.

 

By Danielle Spadola

David Willis Photo provided by David Willis

David Willis
Photo provided by David Willis

Have you ever been charged $6,000 for a water bill — or for 1 million gallons of water that you didn’t use? If so, the Asbury Park Press’s David Willis, J/MS 1989, is the guy to call.

In his bi-weekly consumer column, Press On Your Side, Willis addresses consumer issues from sky-high water bills to mundane matters like not receiving insurance money back on a new pair of glasses.

“You would be amazed at what kinds of problems people have that seem small, but for them it becomes all consuming,” he said.

The point of his column is to help people in Monmouth and Ocean Counties resolve their issues with companies, businesses and municipalities. Through his writing, he brings these issues to the attention of executives, officials, and managers to settle whatever the complaint is. He can help readers correct a mistake on their bill or get a pothole filled on their street.

Press On Your Side also helps computer users navigate the murky waters of scamming. Recently, Willis wrote about scam artists sending out notices with the subject line “funeral notification.” The emails appear to be from legitimate funeral homes.

“But instead of loving thoughts,” wrote Willis in his column, links send users “to a foreign Internet domain where malware, which can be used to steal your personal information, is downloaded into your computer.”

The thornier the situation, the better Willis likes it — case in point was when United Water Toms River stuck a customer with a $6,000 water bill for 1 million gallons of water he didn’t use.

“No one else would help him, so I pressed the company about the bill,” Willis recalled. After his call the company investigated and credited the customer’s account.

Willis said he can receive up to 30 calls per week, and some problems are beyond his ability to fix.

Before he graduated in 1989, Willis wrote for the Daily Targum, where he was associate news editor. Willis thoroughly enjoyed his time at Rutgers. When asked if working at the Daily Targum prepared him for a career in journalism, he said absolutely.

“It made me write every day,” he recalled. “The whole key to being a writer, especially for news, is to do a lot of it. I figured out what questions to ask. The Targum helped showcase my writing.”

At J/MS, Willis was also able to land an internship at the Star-Ledger, which was influential in his development as a reporter. When looking back on his time spent at Rutgers, Willis has a lot of fond memories.

“I liked being in the mix of things when covering stuff,” he noted. “Talking to students about what the issues were, covering the university, I really enjoyed that. I loved the camaraderie of The Targum. We were a good group of people.”

After J/MS Willis went on to become a business reporter at the Asbury Park Press. For 15 years he covered technology, community, utilities, energy and real estate.

Two years ago the editor asked Willis to become the new author of the bi-weekly consumer column. In addition to the column, Willis continues to write breaking consumer stories and still covers the utilities beat.

Among readers, he’s one of the most popular writers at the newspaper.

 

By Tiffany Gonzalez —

The first book of alumnus Gregg Love’s new Kalamazoo Baseball Series for youngsters, The One Who Threw from Kalamazoo, has a sweet story behind the title.

“I wanted to be silly,” said Love, J/MS 2002. “I needed a city that rhymed with ‘threw,’ and I love Dr. Seuss. I wanted to feel like a Dr. Seuss.” That’s how the city Kalamazoo in Michigan came to be the setting for the Love Baseball series.

His book will be out early in 2014.

Combo1newA“I’ve always loved children, and I’ve always loved to write,” said Love, who conceived the idea and wrote the first of the series while teaching sixth grade for St. Joan of Arc School in Marlton. He’s been there four years.

The idea for the series came to him during one of his winter breaks. He needed a theme for the book that not only he could relate to but a theme that all Americans could relate to as well. That’s how the central point of the series became a boy and baseball.

Each book is written with a moral, the first one being “never forget your roots and where you came from.” Love’s first effort follows a young boy and a star pitcher as they grow a special bond that will change their lives forever. They each learn many great life lessons from each other.

Love, who lives in Philadelphia, started out in the graphic design industry working for various newspapers (including the Courier Post), publications and advertising agencies. His love for kids and dream of teaching made him reverse directions and return to Rutgers Camden to pursue a teaching career in 2009.

Love said he wanted this book to relate to his personal life and his career decisions. He added that he’s in “a great place in his life,” where he’s engaged and much happier as a teacher than as a graphic designer.

He offers some advice to J/MS alums: “Ask yourself if going after the dollar figure will make you more happy than going after what your passion is.”

Love is already conjuring up ideas for the second book of the series, where he wants to focus on role models. He believes that there are a lot of kids out there who look to people on TV who aren’t necessarily upholding the values of a good role model. He wishes to reach those people and teach kids the importance of a good role model.

Love followed his dreams without hesitation. Studying journalism was great preparation for his writing career, Love acknowledged, and he remembers learning so many skills while working for The Daily Targum. J/MS is where he became acquainted with design technology, and it saw him through his early career. Now Love is proud to say that he wrote The One Who Threw from Kalamazoo in pen.

By Ashley M. Gregory —

Young graduate Maxwell Barna, J/MS 2012, is carving out a real 21st century journalism career, handling social media and web content for The Independent Traveler, Inc., which is a subsidiary property of TripAdvisor, Inc.

Maxwell Barna handles the social media and web content for The Independent Traveler, Inc, which is a subsidiary property of TripAdvisor, Inc. His work for familyvacationcritic.com deals primarily with Facebook and other social media outlets to promote the company. Everything he does is online or involves social media.

Maxwell Barna handles the social media and web content for The Independent Traveler, Inc, which is a subsidiary property of TripAdvisor, Inc. His work for familyvacationcritic.com deals primarily with Facebook and other social media outlets to promote the company. Everything he does is online or involves social media.

TripAdvisor’s 18 popular brands attract nearly 50 million monthly visitors. Among the brands are tripadvisor.com, bookingbuddy.com, cruisecritic.com, and the website for which Barna works, familyvacationcritic.com, which is published by The Independent Traveler.

After having his morning tea in its Pennington offices, Barna will typically visit the company’s website and review its most recent deals. Then, he chooses his favorite deal and shares it on Facebook as the company’s “Deal A Day.” This is followed by two to three relevant and engaging Facebook statuses.

After that, the editorial assistant creates other types of content for web publication mixed in with editing articles submitted by the website’s team of writers.

Everything he does is online or involves social media. Due to the evolution of journalism, jobs have been created that could not exist without the Internet, more specifically social media, Barna noted.

“While these changes may be positively terrifying to some, other, more astute journalists will see them as a road to opportunity,” Barna said.

“Everything is changing, and the methods by which we obtain and report news are being completely re-written,” he added.

In a company whose mission is to create user-generated travel reviews along with unique content from and related to places around the world, Barna has hopes that it will soon be his turn to travel frequently for job-related purposes. He noted that TripAdvisor, Inc., provides each travel writer with benefits and an adequate amount of paid vacation time to do what’s in his or her job description — travel!

He’s particularly excited that his work calls in all the skills he learned both inside and outside of the classroom, from style elements and interviewing skills to the five W’s, which he uses frequently.

“The beautiful thing about trying to get involved in journalism is that you have to be willing to wear many different hats,” Barna said.

Barna pursues his hobby in Muir Woods in California as an amateur photographer. Both photos were provided by  Barna.

Barna pursues his hobby in Muir Woods in California as an amateur photographer. Both photos were provided by Barna.

And while at J/MS, Barna wore his fair share. By the end of his first year of college Barna was published in his first print magazine, an achievement every young writer dreams of. He wasn’t thrilled writing for The Daily Targum and encouraged student journalists to go elsewhere to gain experience. He believes writers should always be paid for their work.

“Take pride in what you do, because if you don’t, no one will,” he said.

Interning and freelancing for a variety of companies such as AOL Patch, Clear Channel Communications, and Your Music Magazine, he composed content for both print and digital publication. The New Jersey native understood hard work would bring him the success he aimed for. With some skills in photography, he knew that he had an advantage over most of his competition.

Seven months after graduation, “this job came along, and after I got there, I felt like I’d won some kind of lottery,” Barna said. He called TripAdvisor, Inc. “one of the best work experiences” he has ever had.

His advice to journalism majors: “Make a name for yourself now, and don’t rely on your degree – the same degree as everyone else in this field – to make your future for you. A J/MS degree is nothing more than a foot in the door these days. Hard work, determination, and talent – these are new media’s keys to success.”