I really did not know what to expect upon shadowing Stephanie Hayes from the Tampa Bay Times: her handshake was firm, her dress looked pulled from a runway, and her eyes were perfectly winged with black liquid eyeliner. Her completely made up face sans laugh lines and entire ensemble made her pop against the dreary, grey cubicles packed around the office.
“It’s empty like this a lot because part of being a reporter is stepping out of the office. If you are in your cubicle more than the streets, you’re not doing your job right,” she began as she started with a tour of the office. She showed us the archive room where old newspapers seemed to be stacked amongst containers and other household items like a closet. She pointed out the break room in case we wanted water. I decided I would get caught if I raided their refrigerator, so I moved on. Lastly, she showed us the photography room where a portrait photo shoot would most likely take place. “Not only do we do portraits in here but sometimes a dramatic sports team shoot,” she commented. After walking in a complete circle and numerous introductions, I took a sit within her cubicle along with Madison and Michelle.
She turned to her computer that contained her whole journalism career. “I find generational gaps and pop culture very interesting. I sometimes talk about UT, but my main focus is usually USF. Why not? It’s right in our backyard,” she said while touring the website. “I also contribute to a beauty and fashion blog once a week with four other members.” She scrolled through all of her online pieces. It was an endless scroll through of dull photos peppered with pictures of bright pink purses and runway models. It was neat to realize that writers of a newspaper were not restricted to one subject. Then, she showed us unpublished pieces saved to her computer. With a click of a button, it automatically turned into layout view for her to get a better sense on what it would look like on a magazine. I learned that a widow is the last single word of a paragraph alone on an entire line due to justified paragraph formatting. Her solution is usually to alter the main body paragraph until it is short enough to remove the widow. Other times, she finds it useful in avoiding word clutter you do not have enough white space. Lastly, we toured her e-mail box filled with about 20 unread e-mails from the last hour. “A lot of it is PR people trying to tell me of a new book their client is releasing and stuff. Sometimes they try to trick me in the subject line into opening it. It can be really difficult dealing with them because they can breathe down your neck every step of the way,” she explained. She went on to say that reporters are not always looking for the bad in everything to try to make a more appealing story but rather the unbiased truth. It was amusing to watch her delete e-mail after e-mail of spam.
In the end, I realized that I did not want to have her job. The stories she read off, admitting that a lot were not that interesting, only made me feel confined as if the cubicle had grown a fourth wall. I looked around at the other journalist women all with bland, cropped hair and neutral outfits. All I wanted to do was ask her where she purchased her turquoise bow ring and advice for doing the perfect eyeliner wings. I left with the only desire to keep up with her fashion and beauty blog. Do not get me wrong, I had fun and learned a lot, but my passion for magazine journalism showed through.