Dan Gross was at Lower Merion High School, he was into punk music. He went to shows and spoke to musicians. He eventually started his own zine that, somehow, he distributed around the country.
It was the music that drove him, not journalism.
"I didn't grow up with a desire to do this," said Dan, who recently left the Philadelphia Daily News after 14 years there. "It just happened."
After high school, he continued making zines while he was an English major at Temple. He took a copy-editing class taught by an adjunct professor who was a copy editor at the Daily News. The prof told Dan about an editorial assistant gig at the paper and Dan applied. His career was launched while he was in school (though it started with him answering phones and greeting guests).
He began writing stories for the paper and eventually, in 2004, ascended to the position of local gossip columnist. He documented the lives of local athletes, TV reporters and anyone else in the public eye in the region.
"I know some people look down on this kind of reporting," he admitted, "but a lot of the time, it's where the truth comes out."
For example, he reported a "blind item" that said a Philly university president was about to be fired by the board of directors about one month before Temple announced that then-president David Adamany was retiring.
"Who's telling you the realer story?" Dan asked.
After nine years of breaking stories about quibbling news anchors and the post-game partying of professional athletes, Dan took a voluntary buyout this winter.
He's now planning his next career step - likely something to do with strategic communications/crisis management but likely connected to journalism in some fashion.
Here are a few things that stood out to me:
• Dan did not get along very well with the other main gossip columnist in town, another Temple grad.
• People are more polite when cameras are rolling.
• Former Philly news anchor Alycia Lane called Dan on Christmas day to tell him that she was engaged.
• Never reveal your sources if you promise them anonymity.
• Be careful what you email people as when you email stuff, it can become very public, very quickly.
• The angry sorority girl? "I love that girl," Dan said. "I want to be her best friend."
• He never outed people who were not already out, and he never published rumors of affairs until relationships had crumbled.
And here's his advice for aspiring journalists/communicators:
• Create a path for yourself. "Jobs aren't really happening anymore," he said.
• "ESPN is not going to hire someone because they know a lot about football," he said. Rather, you need to prove that you can do the job by having your own blog/website, by interning and freelancing.
• You have to self-promote. "There's no excuse if you are not on twitter talking about what's in the news or even breaking stories about something," he said.
• "You should all be communicating now," he concluded.
What stood out for you?
8 months ago