Welcome to Journalist Spotlight, a Q&A series with a journalist and ProfNet user. This installment belongs to Leslie Gray Streeter, an entertainment reporter, blogger, and columnist with the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla.
A native of Baltimore and a graduate of the University of Maryland, Leslie began her career at The Miami Times, a weekly serving the black community in that city. She then worked for eight years at the York Dispatch/Sunday News in York, Pennsylvania.
She has spent most of her career as a features writer, specializing in entertainment including movies, television, music, celebrity, and pop culture. Leslie is married to Scott Zervitz, a tech sales manager and fellow Baltimorean and Ravens fan.
She has worked at the Palm Beach Post since 2002. As it says in her staff bio, “if it’s about music, movies, nightlife, food, drinks, TV, books, weird celebrity hijinks, or something that’s fun, she’s probably got something to say about it.” You can read the latest from Leslie here.
Have you always wanted to be an entertainment journalist or did it happen by chance?
I have wanted to be an entertainment reporter since before there was really a name for it. There were movie critics, and rock critics, and art critics, and most newspapers had one of each of those and more, when there was money for separate ones of all those things.
My first story ever for my high school newspaper in Baltimore was a review of “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” which I was probably too kind to. But the experience was exhilarating, like “I saw a movie, wrote about it, and people want to see that?” I was intrigued.
And in college, even when told by professors that I was being silly and fluffy, I knew how important those experiences are to life – maybe not as much as fires and taxes, but important.
I’m thrilled that’s mostly what I’ve done for the last 21 years.
Your first job was at the Miami Times — did you cover entertainment there as well?
I wrote everything for the Times, from community news to man on the street interviews, to a column that started when I rode the bus to work every day and wrote about an outsider’s take on this very specific community, up close and personal. I did start doing entertainment as well – I knew that’s what I wanted to do eventually and took every opportunity. But being a jack of all trades was so instructive to the rest of my career, because I approach entertainment journalism like a reporter first.
What type of stories do you really enjoy covering?
I love fun, funny column fodder and interesting profiles the best, whether they’re on weird local people or long interviews with entertainers I admire.
I spent an hour on the phone with Art Garfunkel recently, and while I’m sure I didn’t get him talking about anything he hadn’t previously talked to a zillion reporters about, it was an achingly vulnerable conversation.
He talked about losing his voice and the uncertainty he had about his identity if he had not come back – “Would I still be Art if I couldn’t sing?” I learned something about Art Garfunkel, and I shared it with my readers. That meant something to me.
Do you make suggestions as to what stories you cover or are they assigned most of the time?
It varies. Some of my stories are calendar or anniversary-driven, so those come to me, and others are things I just really want to write about. I like to think I’ve earned the opportunity to drive that.
Of course, there’s the fact of there being less of us than there used to be, so sometimes we have to do things that we wouldn’t do with healthier staff numbers. Price of having a job, you know. It’s still 85 percent what I love to do. I’ll take the 15 percent randomness.
What is the best part about covering entertainment? Your least favorite?
My favorite thing is tapping into the passions of my readers, because entertainment is very personal. My least favorite is dealing with people who take it too personally, who yell at you for writing the next day about a show, even in vague terms, because they haven’t watched it yet.
Do you have a most memorable assignment?
Oh, gosh. That’s hard. Being an extra on “Law and Order” and sitting behind Sam Waterston’s shoulder? I had a viewing party and found I’d been left on the cutting room floor except for my red Afro, seen glowing behind his shoulder. Awesome.
Do you use social media as part of your job?
Social media has become a very big part of my job. We tweet nearly every day, I when covering festivals and concerts, for instance, much of my coverage is Twitter and Facebook.
What’s your advice for someone thinking of going into journalism and also for someone who’s just starting out in the business?
Be prepared for change. It’s a completely different business than when I started, in terms of scale, technology, and resources. But you have to remember what your job is – to tell the truth. That will sustain you.
What do you like to do when you’re not at the office? Since you cover entertainment, are you still able to enjoy a personal outing without relating it to work?
It used to be hard to watch a movie, in the days when I was a reviewer, without writing a lede in my head automatically. Same thing with concerts. I have to remember that enjoyment enhances my coverage, but it’s nice when I don’t have to take notes. I love watching crime documentaries, playing Scrabble online, and am attempting to get back to my marathon-running ways.
Evelyn Tipacti is a community relations specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic. Members of the media can register for PR Newswire for Journalists to begin using ProfNet and other free media tools.