So why publish my never-before-seen essays that landed me a job with MTV News? Paired with these essays and an intensive interview process, I somehow stood out in a pool of hundreds of applicants and was made their Washington, DC election correspondent. I guess that’s cool, but here is the part I like: I got to spend 12 months as a social media, digital news incubator, I had an interpretative job description yet straightforward guidelines: Tell untold stories. Pick up MSM’s slack. And apply all of Journalism’s Code of Ethics, without excuse.
As I look forward to 2010, I can’t help but revisit where my head was when this all began. True to MTV’s judgement (thank you Liz, Kristin, Ian), I provided in no uncertain terms why I have the potential, and now experience, to help guide journalism towards an inevitable reconstruction. Without further delay, here are my never-before-published essays. 24 months later, I still agree with them…so much in fact, consider it my manifesto.
1. What are the top three issues you care about?
I care about our foreign policy in the Middle East, affordable healthcare, and an open and honest dialogue between our President and the press.
If we were more proactive in applying America’s intellect and imagination to find alternative energy solutions, the U.S. would not be in the current conflict in Iraq. Not addressing alternative energies has created complex problems. I want to push the next President to address the misleading rhetoric of this Administration, and work to fix internal shortcomings before waging war.
In terms of healthcare, it is simply not affordable. Pharmaceutical companies, weighed down by the cost of R&D, charge so much for drugs citizens are forced to choose between groceries and antibiotics. Generic drugs should be readily available, regulations on consumer ads should be strengthened, and children’s health insurance should be mandatory.
I also care about the issue of ethics and honesty, particularly in the Administrations interaction with the press and public. I want the President and the appointed administration not to degrade the media’s questions, or imply they are “unpatriotic” for questioning a war that has killed thousands of people and tarnished our international reputation.
But most importantly, I care about being lead by a person of character, humility, and selflessness. We need a candidate who can admit when they are wrong and will always have the best interest of the American people at heart.
2. What makes you uniquely qualified to cover your state (or District)?
First, the basic ways I am qualified to cover the election issues in D.C. I take every opportunity to attend events, from Gay Pride to the U.S.-India Mango Policy Celebration. I read local newspapers and at night watch CSPAN, Comedy Central, and news clips on YouTube.
Now, the reasons I am uniquely qualified to cover the 2008 election in D.C.
I am optimistic in an often-pessimistic town. I am an idealist in a small space of cynics. I have traveled to India three times, so I understand the extremity of poverty and government corruption. I studied in Prague, where I learned about true political struggle and the importance of living in a nation that encourages competition and individuality.
I have also dealt with a great deal of adversity, which built my character and sense of right versus wrong. In 2006, my Mother died after battling a chronic disease. The experience was hardening, and it taught me to be compassionate, sincere and forward.
Each of these qualities and life experiences shaped my outlook and helped me to meet interesting people. I went from interviewing John Mellencamp in Southern Indiana to befriending Helen Thomas and meeting with her every few weeks. I go prepared with lists of questions on topics such as Pearl Harbor to her legacy; and the chance a woman or black man will become President in 2008.
I also want to make this promise: I will dedicate myself to long hours, to represent my peers’ views, and to get the facts right. There is little more I am passionate about than doing my part to reinstate the values of hard-nosed investigative reporting, and I hope MTV’s Choose or Lose will give me a chance to prove it.
3. What does the future of news and journalism mean to you? How do you define it?
At Indiana University, I took a course called Visual Communications. I can’t think of a better term to describe the future of our industry. To me it means finding a compelling, efficient way to inform people who otherwise don’t have time or want to be informed. It is done by combining visuals, audio, and words to find the micro in the macro. Here’s how I’ve applied it:
First, I freelance for LifeintheDistrict.com and India Globe. I have a few unpublished pieces, my favorite being “I’m Sorry Mr. President, You’re Out of Turn” a first-hand account of my experience at a White House Press Conference. It earned a compliment and a friendship from Helen Thomas.
At work, I create content for websites and maintain them. I look for techniques to drive traffic, increase visitors, and report best practices. I use GoogleAnalytics to capture the websites popularity, and to form focused recommendations for improvement. I also record voiceovers and produce podcasts. I write scripts, record guests, and edit the piece. I then distribute the file through channels such as iTunes and Podnova.
Finally I have taught myself to use iMovie, Audacity, and WordPress. I just finished a 3-minute video combining my best photos from a recent trip to India. Soon I will post it on YouTube and my website, Erica-America.com. The website is new, and is a place not just to house my portfolio, but to challenge me to learn more about new media and the virtual community that so effectively influences ideas, policy, and voters.
Finally, my Application Video: