Category Archives: About Me

Anacostia’s Academy: Southeast Gets Smart

I love the twirl of the mouse after I hit “upload” on a Street Team story. It means, for just one second, I can relax and appreciate that I finished an assignment. Those seconds feel good!
Here is a quick update of what I have been working on the last few weeks.

Coming off of two blog posts on Public Housing and Gentrification in DC, I decided to take my camera down to Southeast. It was at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public charter school that serves a 99 percent African American students and 70 percent free or reduced lunch  – where I would ask what it is like to use your education to stay off the streets.

Hear what the students had to say in Anacostia’s Academy: Southeast Gets Smart.

Next, check out this blog post I wrote for Media Future Now, a group that meets monthly in DC to talk about evolving communication tools with 21st century techniques like mobile technology and constant connectivity.

I wrote about the Street Team Super Tuesday project where MTV had 23 of my colleagues report live from polling places, caucuses and rallies using mobile phones. “Mobile Tech Connects Young People to Politics.”

Finally, check out this awesome article about the Street Team put out by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. The front cover read, “Cameras, Action and Accountability: Politics and the New Media.” Every time I see the photo of me looking paralyzed with confusion – and a wee frustrated, I am reminded it is the Nieman Reports and console myself that content speaks louder than vanity.

Here is the article my Supervising Producer, Liz Nord, wrote about the program: “Young Reporters, New Tools, and Political Reporting.”

And my Kansas colleague, Alex Parker, talks about the many hats – and struggles – we face.

A Decade Without MTV

They aired of the first Safe Sex PSAs in ’85, covered the Persian Gulf War in ’91, registered 37,000 new voters in ‘96 and documented genocide in Sudan in ’04.

But now all the focus is on The Hills and Real World, which is why it is hard to believe MTV is still at the forefront of what is relevant to us. With full disclosure, I didn’t realize (until I got this gig and had to become familiar with MTV again), that significant political and social trails are still being blazed. Big ones. Right before your eyes. 

Let me back up to share with you how I came to this post by admitting how sheltered my childhood was – (I did grow up in Indiana).

The year was 1996. Sixth grade. I saw the orthodontists more than my homeroom and was at the primo-awkward stage in life. Yes, it was *awesome. Note that sarcasm.

I was home on a summer day flipping through the channels and my eye caught Fiona Apple’s Criminal music video. I couldn’t help it, I was mesmerized for too many reasons to mention. Fifteen seconds later, my Mom walked into the room. I flipped the channel. She turned it back on — and what followed was total awkwardness.  The next thing I knew, my Mom was on the phone with the cable company, and the channel was blocked. My life would forever be changed.

As I would learn a decade later, the video, Fiona said, was about “feeling bad for getting something so easily by using your sexuality.” Now that I think of it, it is ironic that this video was about guilt. Something my Catholic upbringing made me all too familiar with.

That was a tragic afternoon but one that has informed, perhaps in the most backwards way, my adolescence and now young adulthood.  The irony is that ten years later, MTV has come back into my life.  If my Mom were here to share this adventure with me, I’m sure she would be proud. And here’s why.


U.S. News & World Report Digs Chevy

U.S. News & World Report picked up my Green Apple Fest video, which is just rockin’ news. They called it “A Star, the Pope and Earth Day.” When I was interviewed for a MTV News story about my experience, I had to gush about the interview with Chevy Chase and how off the wall it was.

In other news, techPresident, a political blog at the forefront of technology and election news, put together a humbling article on The Street Team and a bit of my work. For the sake of chronicling all of this awesome stuff, here’s the link to that too. It’s called “MTV News Still on the Cutting Edge of Political News.”

God I need to start sleeping more. Can’t wait (well, maybe I can) until a long nap in November. On the other hand, I’m having so much fun. I’m banking on the adrenaline (and nutritious meals from my roommate 😉 to get me through this wild ride.

TechTini: Live Utterz Interview from 17th Street Cafe

Last night I went to the 17th Street Cafe to watch the Primary returns and met some hip (re: word of the night) politico bloggers from spots like DC Drinking Liberally, The DC Concierge and The Seminal.

I also picked up some new tips, like using the web site Utterz, which allows for real-time phone interviews to be streamed across the web. Jill Foster, avid Utterz enthusiast, showed me how it worked. Here is an interview with me and The DC Concierge creator, Shana Glickfield.

Daily Show Spoofs MTV's Street Team

During Street Team orientation in January, my colleagues and I had full reign of Viacom’s downtown Manhattan building. On our way to seminars and meals, I’m sure we shared elevators with writers, producers and execs who all thought the same thing. “Who are these kids?” and “WTF are they doing here?”

This week The Daily Show correspondent, Demetri Martin, aired a segment called Trendspotting. In it, he talked about the young vote. Around the 3:30 mark, he busts into a music video with Las Vegas lights flashing “Street Team ’08” and breaks into new territory, spoofing MTV’s Street Team with his cast of colleagues.

Here is a link to the Daily Show clip.  


One of my Street Team colleagues made an observation on a about the segment on our internal gchat group thread.”Dude, that writer probably rode with us in the elevator during our orientation.”Dude,” I thought, he’s totally right.

How Applying to MTV Street Team '08 Came Up

look.jpgHey friends. I want to share what I’ll be doing for the next eleven months.

I work at a communications firm, Spectrum Science Communications, in Washington, D.C. Part of my job is to follow health care policy and report it to our clients. We work across the field (but always in health care) for advocacy groups, non-profits, pharma and biotech companies. It has been a great first job and, fortunately, brought me to the District where I feel at home.

In my heart, I’m a student of journalism and passionate about civic engagement, especially with my peers. It took two years for my best friend in college to tell me she didn’t vote in the ’04 election — because she knew how distraught I would be. She was right, but how could I hold it against her? I knew she was like so many of our friends, and instead of being frustrated, I asked, “what can I do to convince her and others, that it is worth the time?”

So here I am, staring the ’08 election in the face, asking myself what I can do to get my generation of multi-taskers to ask questions and get to the polls. Here is where MTV comes in.

A fellow TriDelta sent me a link last August and said “Erica, you have to apply for this.” So I read about how MTV and the Knight Foundation were pairing up to create a team of 51 citizen journalists, hand-picked to cover the ’08 election from a local level. I knew in order to be considered I needed a web site, so I applied some of the techniques I learned at Spectrum and started Erica-America. I also submitted three essays, called up a few references and hit submit.

One reason I am so enthusiastic about MTV and their THINK campaign, is because I believe in it. I think we share common goals in the desire to harness the power of social networking and multimedia and direct it towards civic action. Can it be done? I’m optimistic and my answer is yes. But the road to get there will be long and not without challenge.

In the next month, I will update everyone on how to receive the Street Team reports. Until then, take care and keep asking questions.

MTV Announces Choose or Lose Street Team '08

MTV, along with the Knight Foundation and Associated Press will be sponsoring 51 citizen Journalists, one in each state and one in the District, to cover the ’08 Election. I’ll be holding down the fort in DC for MTV while submitting (hopefully) some kick ass stories.[youtube][/youtube]

For more information about the program, the sponsors and MTV’s ultimate goal, check out this press release. If you want to sign up for an account on (and you should…) follow this link. Or, just watch this short video I put together last night. I can’t help but grin. It’s a great moment to enjoy while realizing there’s a lot of work ahead.

Welcome to EricaAmerica

EricaAmerica: [er-i-kuh uh-mer-kuh], noun. Display case. Retro take on reporting with modern take of multimedia stories. Effort to inform peers without attention span. Blog number 7116895365. Simply, a place of potential.



Welcome to my website. I decided a month ago after a series of gentle nudges it was time to add a .COM to my life.

I’m fortunate to have people who dismissed my early dissent of blogs and helped me to make one of my own, either by verbal inspiration or technical guidance. I see this as an evolving portfolio. It will also be a central focus as I evolve my idea of reporting by using video and audio.

I’ve been in D.C. for 13 months and have learned to do a lot of listening, which encouraged me in many ways to pursue this. EricaAmerica, and more basically my desire to report, was initiated by a drive to moderate the political conversation between powerful governments and average citizens. I grew up in Indiana and took trips to India, where I was exposed early on to the dichotomy of the world and the unbalance of power and privilege. There were also teachers and bullies, blue ribbons and C+’s, which humbled me, helped me to grow, and added clarity to what I wanted to achieve.

I hope you’ll join me as I let this project bloom.

Erica Signature

For naming me EricaAmerica, thanks Scott Talan.

Jason Novak, thank you for inviting me to write for and for teaching me the fundamentals of Word Press.

Leigh Ann Cairns, for making me feel like I was getting a haircut when you asked what I wanted in a website design. Outstanding creativity.