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History of LGBTQ Representation in Film and TV, Told by Chris Witherspoon

By Allison Raymond

On Wednesday, March 22nd, students of Joy-Ann Reid’s Race and Gender in the Media class had the pleasure of learning about the history of LGBTQ representation in Hollywood from Chris Witherspoon. Witherspoon works as a correspondent for Fandango and shared an interesting perspective into the topic.

The ‘80s and Early ‘90s: The Discussion (and Stereotype) Begins

When actor Rock Hudson died of an AIDS-related complications in 1985, revealing his sexuality, “his death really opened up the conversation about being gay in America,” Witherspoon explained. “No one had any idea he was gay until his death–he was the Hollywood heartthrob of the 50’s and 60’s.” This shed light on the LGBTQ community for the first time in a major way in America. Then, in 1990, the film “Paris is Burning” was the first major award-winning documentary to explore gender, race, and sexuality. The general public was able to digest the material because it was put in the context of an issue they were familiar with: the AIDS epidemic. This lead to a slew of films, plays, and other works depicting gay characters as sick or ill, creating the first major stereotype of the LGBTQ community.

The Late ‘90’s and 2000s: Gay Role Models Emerge, Pushing Bounds of Stereotypes

 

As time progressed, the conversations surrounding the LGBTQ community did, too. “Will and Grace” helped move the conversation from HIV and AIDs to shedding light on how members of the community interact with other people in the world. “I think this had a huge impact–it helped to normalize the gay community,” Witherspoon said. As the discussion of the LGBTQ discussion evolved, more celebrity role models emerged. Ellen came out in 1998 on “Oprah,” followed by Neil Patrick Harris in 2006. As we all know, Neil continues to thrive in Hollywood, and Ellen even got her own talk show. These role models helped further the conversation and diversity perspectives of the LGBTQ community.

The 2010s: Expanding Gay Roles in Hollywood

 

In 2009, “Glee,” the TV show that we now call a huge success, almost didn’t air. Advertisers were hesitant to put their money into a show that was so progressive. However, once it aired, it turned out to be a huge hit–not just with the gay community, but also with straight and young viewers. Other TV shows such as “Modern Family” and Amazon’s “Transparent” have further expanded what “gay roles” could be, and have normalized the LGBTQ community.

Today and Onward: Nonchalantly Gay

Moving forward, “we don’t know what to expect,” Witherspoon said. Some shows such as “The 100” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (and even the newest Disney live-action movie “Beauty and the Beast”) have included gay characters with a lack of stereotypes, roles Witherspoon thinks of as “nonchalantly gay”. The old stereotypes of a sick gay character are no longer, and different representations of the LGBTQ community continue to be told, such as in the award-winning film “Moonlight.” Today’s generation isn’t bothered by gay roles like others in the past have been: it isn’t a taboo subject to talk about anymore, and we will be the ones to reshape and define these industries in years to come.

Thanks to Chris Witherspoon for coming into class to talk about this topic!

Managing the City: How to Navigate NYC as an Unpaid Intern

By Lauren Newfield

Hello everyone! My name is Lauren Newfield, and I am a junior studying advertising from Huntington Beach, California. For the past two months, I have been living, studying, and interning in New York City. Before the Newhouse in NYC program started, I was extremely nervous about moving to New York for two reasons: (1) I had no idea how to get around the city, and (2) my internship was unpaid.

I’ll begin by addressing my first fear. After two days of taking Ubers and taxis from 97th Street to the Lower East Side, I had a revelation: I was wasting so much money. Why was I spending $15 to sit in traffic when I could hop on a train for $2.75? I couldn’t think of an answer, so I bought a 30-day subway pass. I also downloaded the Citymapper app, which allows you to find the quickest and cheapest route in the city, although I am happy to say I have been using it less and less since my first week here. Although the subway usually smells bad and can be super-crowded during rush hour, it is really helpful and easy to navigate after the first time.

My unpaid internship was a harder obstacle to overcome. Although I absolutely love interning at Sunshine Sachs, New York City is expensive, and not having a source of income was unrealistic for me. I knew I wanted to work at Sunshine Sachs regardless of whether it was paid or not (the internship was *exactly* what I was looking for!), so I set out to find a second, part-time job. After a week in the city, a family contacted me about babysitting their two month old. When I met with the father, who wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy before I watched his child, he found out I was an advertising major and asked if I was interested in being his marketing assistant for his real estate business. I agreed, and was very excited to leave the meeting with a paid part-time job in the field I’m studying.

Working five days a week and taking five classes has been a lot to manage, and I wouldn’t suggest picking up a second job unless it’s absolutely necessary. I love having the extra spending money, but it’s difficult to prioritize my work, especially because the marketing assistant job often requires me to stay late, work at home, and come in on the weekends. However, my busy schedule during the week makes me appreciate the activities that I do on the weekend that much more—like sharing pizzas for a friend’s birthday at Rubirosa (the vodka sauce pizza is to die for) and trying the French toast at Pardon My French.

Overall, I have been loving my time in New York City. My internship is amazing and the classes I’m taking are super-interesting. Although I’m a little busier than I would like to be, I’m thankful for the extra experience and spending money.

Spring Break: Newhouse NYC Plays Tourist for a Week

By Daniel Denning

 

Last week was Syracuse University’s spring break, and Newhouse NYC students did all kinds of fun things. Some left New York City: ADV junior Allison Raymond went home to Seattle to interview for three internships, TRF junior Sara Zadrima visited friends in California and even went to Disneyland, and ADV junior Ronnie Saldarini went home to New Jersey where he shoveled his snow-covered driveway throughout the break. However, some of us stayed in the Big Apple for spring break–here’s what we did:

1. Museum Hopping
I haven’t been to very many museums this semester, so I wanted to correct that over spring break. Two of my friends came down from Syracuse and we went to
The Met, MoMA, and the American Museum of Natural History. This semester I learned that many museum prices are “suggested,” meaning you can pay anything you want or can afford. Therefore, I viewed countless pieces of art and a giant collection of dinosaur bones for only $3!

 

 

 

2. Visiting Pandora

Some students went to a lunch at Pandora’s NYC office, where they met about a dozen Syracuse University alumni who work at the beloved music app. The alumni each shared what they do at the company, and students learned about Pandora’s advertising revenues and their awesome internship program called Road Crew. The coolest thing they learned about working at Pandora? There’s a sound stage where artists often come to perform for employees in the office.

 


3. Exploring New Restaurants

When she wasn’t working at her internship at Quinn Public Relations over the break, PR junior Tanja Garic tried out a bunch of new restaurants with her sister, who visited her all the way from Chicago. They went to Irving Farm, which Tanja says is a great place for studying and has the best soy iced lattes in the city. Blake Lane is a great spot to get brunch for vegans, and Tanja says the pancakes and breakfast tacos are spectacular–but she recommends the poke bowl (pictured left, courtesy of @blakelanenyc) over everything else. Finally, she got dinner at the Infirmary, which she says has great cocktails and Cajun food!

 

 

4. Playing Tourist

ADV junior Ada Lam decided to be a complete New York City tourist over the break. She visited the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, explored the New York Public Library, walked down Wall Street and saw the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue, admired St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and went on a “mini food exposition” in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

 

5. Eating Edible Cookie Dough

New York City’s Cookie DŌ is one of the most hyped dessert places in Manhattan. It serves various flavors of cookie dough that are completely edible. The texture is a mixture of ice cream and actual cookie dough. I got the brownie batter and confetti flavors. It was by far the best dessert I’ve eaten since I’ve been in New York City.

 

 

 

6. Going to the Movies

Finally, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” came out last weekend, so, of course, ADV junior Saumya Vasuthevan and TRF junior Logan Piercy saw it as a perfect ending to their spring break.

 

Not having to worry about class was a great way to enjoy the week and do new things in New York City. Hopefully, when the weather gets warmer, all of us get to try even more new adventures!

Twitter Field Trip: 4 Lessons We Learned from Mindy Diamond ‘11

By Daniel Denning

On Tuesday, February 27th, students in the COM 400 social media class took a trip to the Twitter office in NYC! Mindy Diamond (PR ‘11), Twitter’s Operations Program Manager for Content Partnerships, greeted the class and gave an informative presentation about her journey from Syracuse University to Twitter. Before the trip ended, she gave us a personal tour of the office, letting students see exactly what it’s like to work in the office of one of the world’s biggest social media platforms. Here are some of the things we learned from Mindy:

 

1. Don’t be afraid to change careers.

Since Mindy graduated from Newhouse in 2011 with a public relations degree, she has had multiple jobs in various disciplines. She started working in social media and public relations for Sports Illustrated, something she considered a dream job at the time. She then went on to work at Bloomberg Sports and Google+ Sports Partnerships before moving on to Twitter. “I went from doing sports PR to business partnerships at Twitter in less than five years,” she said. The key takeaway is that there is no set career path for any major and you can always change your mind if you aren’t doing what you want to do. Mindy experimented a lot, and has happily been working at Twitter for nearly three years.

 

2. Twitter sees itself more as a news app than a social media app.

Mindy describes Twitter as a platform that contains “everything that is happening in the world.” Unlike other social platforms, Twitter isn’t about people’s friends, it’s about their interests. When national and global events are being held and people are looking to have a conversation, they go to Twitter. In fact, the app store now lists Twitter in the news app section, rather than the social app section. This is a great illustration of where the company is moving.

 

3. There are multiple ways for brands to advertise on Twitter.

Mindy’s job at Twitter is all about handling partnerships for brands. Twitter partners with content creators, and then brands come in to sponsor that content. It is a win-win-win situation for Twitter, the content creator, and the brand sponsoring it. This is one of the unique ways that Twitter does advertising. However, the company has been expanding its operations by introducing six-second pre-roll video, and it has begun to broadcast live TV. Twitter is definitely a lot more diverse than it used to be.

 

4. Twitter has an amazing company culture.

This was the first social media field trip where students were given a full tour of the office. Twitter is filled with all kinds of cool office features including open work spaces, a large dining area, and private phone booths. One of the coolest aspect of the company is that it offers free breakfast and lunch to all of its employees. Mindy even says that the food is really good! The company also offers showers in the office for people to post-workout. However, one of the coolest parts are the signs everywhere that say “#Love Where You Work.” It reminds employees how important culture is to the workplace. For Mindy, office culture is her number-one priority in a job, so the fact that she has been working there for a few years attests to how great the culture really is.

 

The trip ended with everyone wearing their free Twitter hats and raving about what they saw at the company. We are so grateful to Mindy for showing us around the office and for sharing with us how cool her job is. It was definitely one of the best trips we’ve gone on–and one of my favorite parts of my Newhouse NYC experience.

Finding Unicorns with Kristen Tully of Marina Maher Communications

Kristen Tully is the vice president of influencer marketing and partnerships at Marina Maher Communications. She describes her own job as “finding unicorns.” In this case, unicorns are influencers–people with large followings who have the ability to influence purchase decisions. Often, these influencers  are so perfectly specific to what a brand desires that they are nearly impossible to find.

On Tuesday, February 14th, we got to meet Kristen, along with a collection of Newhouse alumni, when we visited Marina Maher Communications (MMC), an agency that focuses on everything related to earned media–any coverage or promotion a brand receives that is not paid for or is not owned by the brand. Kristen told us all about her work in influencer marketing and how it has changed over the six years she’s worked at MMC.

When Kristen graduated, magazine and TV advertising ruled the ad world, and it took a lot to convince brands that reaching out to bloggers was just as, if not more, important, than placing ads in traditional media. In 2017, this hasn’t changed much: brands still often have a traditional mindset when it comes to advertising. Therefore, a major part of Kristen’s job is explaining why YouTubers and bloggers are critical components of marketing campaigns.

We, however, didn’t need to be convinced. As young students, we consume content on YouTube and blogs and look up to the people who create this content. Social media has expanded this even more because there are now influencers on every social platform. Each content creator has his or her own personality and point of view, and Kristen works with brands to identify the best influencers for their needs. The benefits are huge. Support from consumers’ favorite content creators can be a really important part of their choice to purchase a product or not. Therefore, Kristen is always looking for new influencers to match with brands.

One of the coolest parts of Kristen’s job is that a lot of the work is consuming content on social platforms. She is often checking the platforms when she isn’t in the office, but because she enjoys it so much, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Of course, the job isn’t just scrolling through social media. Talent management is vital to the role. For example, there are times when influencers don’t comply or get negative press coverage and backlash online because of things they do that might not even have to do with the brand. Since we made this visit, James Charles, a teenage spokesperson for CoverGirl, one of MMC’s clients, received internet backlash because of an insensitive tweet he made about Africa. Of course his comment has nothing to do with CoverGirl, but the brand is dragged into the conversation anyways. Kristen has to handle these crisis situations and make sure brand-influencer relations runs smoothly.

However, Kristen says the best feeling is when she finds the perfect influencer to match with a brand. It really feels like she just found a unicorn.

Time and Punishment: A Town Hall Discussion of The Kalief Browder Story

By Allison Raymond

 

On Wednesday, March 8th, Professor Joy Reid’s students from her Race Gender and the Media course had “class” at Viacom Studios in Times Square for an amazing last-minute field trip. Professor Reid had been asked to be on a town hall panel about Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein’s documentary series: “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story.” 

Once we made our way through the crowds in Times Square to get to the building that houses MTV, Nickelodeon, and VH1, we were directed through security to watch the first part of the documentary series. It was a humbling experience to watch this documentary with so many of my classmates instead of on TV at home; we were all really excited to be there. The documentary is hard to watch, but so important to talk about.

 

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Courtesy of Spike TV’s Facebook Live Stream

 

After the showing, we had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the live audience for the live town hall discussion on Spike TV with Jay Z, Harvey Weinstein, and others. We talked not only about Kalief’s unjustified imprisonment in Rikers, but also about the tragedy of his passing, and the legacy he left behind. It was so inspiring to see all of these people gathering around this cause and creating a discussion about it.

It was surreal to watch our professor casually talk to “Jay” between cuts and see her fans greet her after the shoot. When we were all gathered outside of the building and she was telling us to have a great break, there were people behind us trying to reach their phones over our heads to get a picture of her. It was a reminder of how lucky we are to have such an amazing professional as a teacher here in New York (although we already completely felt that way)!

As we walked through Times Square to take the subway back to our dorms, I felt emotionally drained from the heavy discussion of the town hall, but I also felt lucky to have experienced it. I’m so grateful to be a part of this program that gives us these once-in-a-lifetime experiences that teach us so much.

Women in the Newsroom: Catherine Rampell, Tara Dowdell, & Kai Ma

By Allison Raymond

 

On Thursday, February 15th, the students in Professor Joy Reid’s Race, Gender, and the Media class attended a panel to talk about women representation in the newsroom. Included in the panel were three women in the media industry: Catherine Rampell, oped columnist for the Washington Post; Tara Dowdell who runs her own PR firm; and Kai Ma, a writer and segment producer at MSNBC who works with Professor Reid. I was excited to hear what these women had to say about this topic because I have never really had an in-depth conversation about it.

First, we talked about how gender has personally impacted their career paths. There seemed to be a general agreement that there are certain stereotypes about women that lead their coworkers or bosses to have lower expectations about them or their work. Catherine Rampell talked about how those false perceptions can either be a bad thing, or you can turn it into a good thing by proving them wrong. She talked further about the importance of diversity in the newsroom, saying, “It is important to have a diverse team because otherwise the newsroom won’t always recognize a story when it is happening; having people from different backgrounds allows us to find more diverse stories.”

We then explored what it means to be a woman of color in a media profession. Both Kai Ma and Tara Dowdell have experience racial profiling in addition to gender profiling. Dowdell talked about her background growing up, and how her parents told her she had to be better than everyone else in order to be treated the same. She said there was this pressure to be “perfect,” and compared it to how Obama needed to be perfect in order to win his elections, while white men could have more scandals without it seriously impacting their campaign. Ma talked about the often-racist perceptions of Asian women in American culture. Even in Vogue magazine, women from an Asian background are exoticised and painted as hypersexual and meek. She talked about how that perception made an impact in her own life, as some people wouldn’t expect her to stand up for herself or contribute her opinions in the newsroom.

A student asked what the biggest difference has been since they started working in media, and Kai Ma cited the sense of community. When someone would make a racist comment about Asian people, she often would look around and no one would be surprised or see anything wrong, but her own Asian community would agree with her. Now, however, she sees more people standing up to racism and sexism when they are not immediately involved. “Twitter, I think, has made a real difference in this,” she said. “It enables the public to have a voice and gives them the ability to stand up for other groups that they may not be a part of.”

We closed the conversation by talking about what we all can do to help end the stereotypes around being a woman, or a woman of color, in the media. Dowdell talked about the importance of separating our own thoughts and opinions from what we hear. “”First, we have to make sure that we are not internalizing negative perceptions about ourselves or negative stereotypes about others. We have to listen to the voice in our own head to ensure that we are not part of the problem,” she said. “It starts with us.”

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Thank you to these women for taking the time to talk to us about such an important topic as we enter the workforce in media professions!