Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Esack: "Any Assignment I Do, I Do to The Best of My Ability."


The Northeast Philly native went to the Community College of Philadelphia before transferring to Temple (c/o '96). He took a reporting job at a weekly newspaper in the 'burbs before landing a gig at the Philadelphia Daily News.

As a desk clerk.

He answered phones and delivered mail.

But he wanted to be a writer. When he approached the executive editor of the newspaper, the editor told Steve, "You won't get anywhere because you went to CCP and Temple. You're not an Ivy Leaguer."

That just pissed him off.

He did a two-year stint at the Inquirer as a suburban correspondent and then went to the Allentown Morning Call, where he is now the education reporter.

In 2010, Steve won the Ernie Pyle Award for a 5-part feature series about a high school football team and their new coach.

Here are a few things that stood out for me from his visit to class:

• If you have any fears about approaching people and asking them questions, get over that now. If you want to be a journalist, you have to be able to socialize and make connections with people.
• "This business has always been about people," he said. "And it will always be about people."
• His father was a police office and his mother ran a corner grocery store.
• He tries to distance himself from stories but he's not a robot. "Sometimes it's impossible for me not to get angry, pissed, upset, sad, whatever," he said. "If you can feel and see the emotion in a story, put that in the story. You know your readers will feel it too."

• When he was a general assignment reporter, his editors would throw stories at him. And he always followed up on the leads. He's never turned down an assignment.
• He suggests that you pitch stories rather than wait for editors to hit you with assignments. You'd much rather do the stories you're interested in, rather than the random stuff your editors may come up with.

• Steve shoots images and video with his iPhone for the stories he writes.
• He says you should learn how to edit video.
• If you have multiple skills, you will be employable in journalism. And Steve said that you won't likely have to do the old bounce around from small media outlet to slightly larger, to slightly larger outlet, before reaching your dream outlet.

• Winning awards is great (The Ernie Pyle came with a bundle of cash) but awards are subjective. It's just the judgment of a group of folks. Being honored does not signify to him that he has reached a pinnacle of his career. But it did feel good to win.
• He still hustles on every story. "Any assignment I do," he said, "I do to the best of my ability."

He forgot to mention in class but the Allentown Morning Call offers a bunch of internships - paid and unpaid. Check them out here.

What stood out for you?


Jennifer Hudes said...

What stood out for me during the lecture was his story about the Allentown Football Team. I was impressed by the photography and the narrative. What also stood out for me was when he told us that one of the executive editors told him that his education background would not be as good as an applicant with an Ivy League Education. I strongly disagree with that statement. A person should not be solely judged by whether they went to Brown, Harvard, Oxford, or Yale. What matters is the personal and academic growth that takes place during those four or five years in college.

Dana Andrews said...

I really enjoyed the talk! I was most excited because we both went to CCP for our college start. It was a joy to know with some hardwork and drive anything can be achieved.

Anonymous said...

I was most interested in his advice on investigative journalism. also, we have very similar backgrounds (from the same neighborhood, cop dads, went to CCP) and it was encouraging. The idea that in Ivy League journalists can "make it" is still prevalent. \


Scott Samuel David Weiss said...

"Steve Esack's Morning Call"(Scott S.D. Weiss)
PHILADELPHIA- Yesterday (Tuesday 11 October 2011), Steve Esack, 1996 Temple University graduate and currently of the ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL, spoke in Journalism 111 in Anderson 17 about his duties with the Morning Call and how you should participate as a journalist. Esack was told to overachieve by being an Ivy leaguer from Zach Stalberg. "Like George said..." was frequently repeated by Esack. At 9:49 AM during the lecture, Esack blurted, "you f***er" and later blurted at 10:16 AM, "They star BULLS*** at [Gioncarlos]." If you were closely listening, Esack said "um" 137 times as well as often touching his face.
On the lesons learned from this experience, never turn down an assignment as Esack did not for the Morning Call. The Morning Call formerly covered the entire Lehigh Valley (now Allentown). "You should always go to your public meetings," Esack admitted at 9:59 AM during the lecture. Recently, the Morning Call began a pay way (10/10/2011).
Furthermore, you could feel for Esack as his cousin got his head beat by a baseball bat and lost his life at Temple in 1995. Also, Esack state about a guy from the Easton Times in 2003 being "mental" ( do not be bias).
-Scott Samuel David Weiss
Temple Class of 2015
10/12/2011, 3:15PM

Alexis Wilkinson said...

What stood out to me the most was when he said “now is the time to get over your fears.” He said that if we do not get over our fears now we never will. I really liked this quote from him because in order to be a reporter you are going to be in situations that you might feel uncomfortable in or scared to ask a particular question but you need to get over it and just dive in.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this speaker because I could relate to him. When I first came to Temple, I wanted to be an English teacher, just as Steve Esack had wanted to be.But lo and behold, I switched to a Journalism major, just as he had. I also thought that he gave great advice about getting over your fears, and not remaining totally seperate from the emotions of the story, but put your emotions IN the story, because the readers will feel what you feel. He inspired me to do my best in whatever assignment I'm given because it can lead to other greater opportunities

Jane Quick said...

I'm from the Allentown area so it was great hearing him talk about places and schools I already knew all about. I really enjoyed listening to his stories and he had some really great advice to give to us.

eXistenZ has hamlet in it said...

nothing about what he said was really that earth-shattering other than the implied notion of....
good Writers write all of the time, but great Writers read.

Amanda Kim said...

Hearing him the other day was interesting because Steve seemed like he was lost for a period of his life after hgih school, and it is amazing how he just found out what he wanted to do. I also believe that it is true about the story of the football player who didnt have his parents to walk him down the isle. In order for a journalist to reach the audience is through emotions and with words you really have to connect to the public and once they feel the emotions through writing, thats when you know that the story was a hit.

Jennifer Arcia said...

What really stood out for the most about Steve was his humble upbringing. I really liked that he went to CCP and transferred to Temple because I also went to CCP and now I attend Temple. Not only do we relate in that but I also live in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. I thought that was pretty cool and exciting to know another person that I can relate to. One of the biggest points that Steve made that really stood out for me was when he said that we should really get over that fear of approaching people and asking questions. I am glad he mentioned that because getting in the business of journalism myself I need to gain that confidence and let go of that fear to approach people. Now every time I'm in class or out reporting on an event it can be in the back of mind. He said a lot great stuff and gave a lot good advice. I am really glad he was able to come to our class.

ZACK said...

Steve Esack proved to me that if I want to be a journalist, I can also be a humanitarian. By writing the feature on the football team, it said that a journalist's stories can, in itself, be humanistic, and not just concerned with getting the truth out there. The truth will always be the purpose of a journalist's quest, but I always have a hard time worrying about how to tell the truth. There are ways to tell the truth and report the truth that can also be helpful or beneficial to those in the story. By telling someone's story, you can do more for them than a pile of cash can (although, sometimes cash is nice). I think Steve Esack exemplified this positive journalism that I would like to try to pursue in my career and in my life.

Karina Cheung said...

I loved his entire presentation! He was so honest about the job and being down on his luck, but my favorite part is him holding his grudge and showing this awful man up!

Chiara Matriccino said...

Loved the talk! I was getting discouraged with the whole journalism thing, but his talk about fear really inspired me.

Mary Kate Radomski said...

He was great. He was really an inspiration. I know that the journalism world can sometimes seem uncertain, and a lot of people say that journalism isn't a reliable major, but Steve totally inspired me to keep trying no matter what. Everything in life isn't just handed to you... a good journalist is also a hard worker and a good communicator.

Cindy Stansbury said...

What stood out the most to me was the fact that never once did he ever sound defeated. When he was told that since he went to temple he'd never make it there was no period of self doubt for him, immeadiently he knew the man was wrong. Steve's confidence is admirable to say the least and that is a quality that i wish to have as a journalist; determination, and confidence in my abilities.

Shannon McLaughlin said...

I really enjoyed Steve Esack's talk. I think we all were glad to hear about a down-to-earth, working class guy who was able to make a name for himself in journalism. He gave us real advice and seemed like he was so passionate about his work.

Charles Watson said...

What stood out for me? His persistence and determination to be a journalist. He worked his way up from the mail room after being told he "won't get anywhere." The fact that he worked in an environment that he loved but wasn't able to do what he wanted to. He stayed determined and worked his way up and earned a job as a journalist. This is a story I love to hear because it teaches you nothing easy but you can get it, if you really want it.

Charles Watson