Author’s Note: This story was featured in Mosaic Magazine. The published article can be found here.
Photographer’s Note: An image I captured during our tour was featured on Hearst’s Instagram account. Don’t worry, they gave me photo creds.
The energy sends wavelengths bouncing between the stark walls. The room buzzes with the anticipation of potential snowfall and the blue glow of a neon sign. Its message commands the reader: “FEED YOUR MIND.” I want to chew on these words and allow them to marinate in my brain.
It would be easy to become over-stimulated in a place like this. The city breathes life into the brick and steel of century-old structures that graze the Manhattan skyline. Every block displays thousands of messages demanding to be digested. They coat any available surface in the form of digital signage, dog-eared posters and striking graffiti. Dozens of floors above the sidewalks below sit industry-enablers like the young professional presenting before us. His name is Matt Ford, and we all want to be him.
One student raises his hand to ask if Ford could impart any sort of wisdom for undergraduates drooling over the idea of calling one of these offices their own. Ford’s face scrunches for a moment. The silence vibrates.
“Be fearless,” Ford said.
During Spring Break, current and former Honors College members of university magazines Mosaic and Alice traveled to New York City to attend the College Media Association’s NYC17 Conference. The conference offered specialized sessions and industry-immersion tours to give college students from across the nation an inside glimpse into the professional world of communication. We were given the opportunity to lead sessions of our own in which we presented the processes of running successful college publications and media platforms.
Between treks against the biting wind, our group networked with The University of Alabama alumni like Ford, a 2014 journalism graduate who now works in digital production operations at Buzzfeed, during an annual event hosted by Pat Hall in her apartment that peers over Columbus Circle. Hall, an alumna, runs Event Marketing & Relationship Management in New York.
Other points of contact included recent graduates like Allison Ingram, a former editor-in-chief of Mosaic and Alice magazines, who now works as a licensing coordinator at Condé Nast Licensing and Abbey Crain, a news assistant at The Wall Street Journal and former culture editor at The Crimson White. Local and national media personalities were also present, including Katy Tur, the NBC reporter who covered the Trump campaign.
At Buzzfeed, Ford led our group through the open lofts of office space, each room given a name based on a popular internet acronym. Cutouts of celebrities greeted us from corner windows overlooking the city. In the “Tasty Kitchen,” a woman sifted through ingredients in preparation for a video that would soon inspire Facebook users across the globe to try their hand at the latest recipes.
On the day of Winter Storm Stella, we braved the snow to visit the iconic Hearst Tower, home to magazines like Food Network, Marie Claire, Esquire, Seventeen and Good Housekeeping. Our group was lead by Eliot Kaplan and Wendy Israel, former editors at Hearst. Kaplan’s remarks were those of one who had experienced the evolution of the company first-hand. The eyes behind his round-rimmed glasses had seen the construction of the angular steel tower and the digitalization of its historic publications.
Perched in a sleek conference room lined with framed prints of previous fashion issues, Kaplan and Israel spoke of the importance of hard work with the authority of those who knew the industry well. Ford’s challenge replayed in my mind.
It was in these pockets of conversation, fueled by brunch and sightseeing when I felt it. When I reflect on walks through Central Park as it filled like a snow globe and the undeniable spark of those Alabama graduates who had found their niche in the business of communication, it rekindles. It is the flicker that comes with the anticipation of becoming a part of something bigger than myself. It ignites my enthusiasm to seize every opportunity to groom my writing.
New York City is a communicator’s dream. My fingers long to make contact with a keyboard. My head swirls with words and visions of cityscapes from the 86th floor. There is a place in this world for storytellers. Perhaps I will be one of them.