More than Just the Red Carpet

For several years, Tomika Anderson had a perfectly fine job as a celebrity journalist. She got to interview T.I., Usher, Beyonce, her idol Stevie Wonder and many other stars.

But something for her changed several years ago when her brother was sent to Afghanistan to fight.

“I liked the whole celebrity journalism thing, but after my brother went to war, I wanted to do something different, something more serious,” she told my Introduction to Media Studies class last Tuesday during a guest lecture in Shepard Hall. (See Tomika with our class, below.)

“I realized there weren’t enough of us, journalists of color, in the news.”

Now Tomika mixes the hard news with the soft. She produces stories for FoxNews Edge and also writes scripts for BET shows

like the “Black Carpet. ” She covers celebrities and what they’re wearing for MTV and Uptown Magazine and also writes about serious issues like HIV, the Duke University rape case and the state of black America.

And as you’ve figured out, she also mixes her media–she describes herself as a TV and content producer and a writer. (She’s got clips from Ebony,, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe and Time Magazine.) And she even does a little PR on the side.

“There were days when a writer was just a writer,” says Tomika, who lives in Brooklyn. “Now, though, networks like CNN want someone who can do a bit of everything, someone who’s self-contained. So now a writer writes, produces, edits and is sometimes even the camera person.

Tomika describes the media as ever-changing, and promises to roll with it. She says she prefers to remain strictly freelance and is careful not to burn bridges to the gigs keep coming. Down the road, she’d like to write a book.

She advised anyone who’s interested in a media-communications career to stay current.

“You’ve got to be on top of the news,” she says. “In our business you always need to know what’s going on.”


It Was the Best of Times….*

On September 7, writer Jacqueline Woodson visited my Introduction to Media Studies class. A children’s author, Jacqueline has written too many books to count (but, 30, if we’re counting) and won dozens of awards including the prestigious Newbery the “Oscar” of children’s book publishing. Her latest picture book, Pecan Pie Baby, comes out at the end of this month.

Jacqueline spoke to the class about the publishing industry which has undergone massive changes in the last decade, largely thanks to the internet. Jackie has managed to roll with publishing’s punches and branch out from print: Her novel Miracle’s Boys, published in 2000, appeared as a TV miniseries in 2005. It was filmed in Harlem and directed by Spike Lee and other well-known directors. She rewrote her 2003 novel Locomotion as a play, and it’s opening at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC later in the month.

Even in our 21st century media landscape, Jacqueline urged students to work on the basics: good writing. At the end of class, I assigned students to write the first 300 words of a novel or memoir that might like to some day publish. Here are excerpts from several of the best:

I am almost a silhouette, but the bright morning light form the large windows in the living room sinks all the way into our window-less bathroom. I can see one of those windows just over my shoulder. It is quite beautiful. –Jonathan Alvarado

When someone takes your name, who do you become? I am a companion piece, part of a set; I am a twin. — Sarah Grossman

Students in sixth and seventh grade are usually just entering puberty, a turning point in their teenage lives. Between getting braces, body changes, and new voices, young adults struggle to fit in in school. I was just that, an awkward skinny girl with braces. But I had another kind of brace: on my brace for my scoliosis.–Aveena Ramoutar

I don’t give a damn. I really don’t. In fact, everyone can go screw themselves for all I care. If it was up to me, I would let the world know what’s coming, right away. I can’t though, and I probably won’t do anything about it. In fact, I probably won’t do anything about anything. –Luis Ortega

I tried so hard to avoid it because I knew how I’d end up feeling. You’re a force, you’re a force, you’re a force. You knocked me down and all I wanted was to knock you, too. But I couldn’t even make a dent. I couldn’t break you down. I couldn’t let you i. I couldn’t give you anything to hold on to. –Amanda Rivera

*It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)