Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dan Gross: "You Should All Be Communicating Now."

When 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?


Sarah Lehman said...

Similar to what has already been written, I was really effected by Dan's quote, "Jobs aren't really happening anymore". This is true and a little frightening. Employers, most of the time, are not going to come out seeking employees. We are the ones that need to make ourselves marketable and attractive.

Dan's emphasis on the idea that we have to do it ourselves had a large impact on me. I think this is because he was easy to relate to. Knowing that he did what he was trying to tell us to do made the goal seem like it is in reach. Although it might be incredibly difficult, he made it seem attainable.

Casey Kallen said...

Coming from Lower Merion, it was interesting to see Dan's perspective and how he got started in journalism. He was a really personable guy, but he was also a take-no-crap kind of dude, and very encouraging. He did his job even though people criticized him and his skills for it. That's commendable, especially in a competitive field like journalism.

Amelia Tognoli said...

Dan came off as a really approachable person. He seemed very laid back and genuine. I love the fact that he didn't beat around the bush. When it came down to it, he explained that jobs are scarce and you have to really work for it if you want to see results. His personality (along with being relaxed) made him seem like a go getter. Dan wasn't afraid of making enemies. To him, a story was a story regardless of who it would hurt. He did his job and remained loyal to the citizens. On top of it he's a decent public speaker. I enjoyed him alot.

Carly Van Houten said...

I though Dan was very honest and blunt which made him entertaining and real. The reality is jobs are not just competative anymore there just isnt that much left out there. Which as everyone else is blogging about is scary and stressful for most early year college students. Being a Sophmore and still iffy about what I want to do is nerve wracking most people say you have time but in reality you really dont! But I loved Dans stories and his humour was great!!

Nicole Daigle said...

Dan Gross was real and blunt. This is probably why he had such a long career as a gossip writer. Dan seems to abide by a code of ethics that is a necessity in the world of journalism. Good for him! I think it was great that Dan really laid it on the table about what the reality of the job market is right now. Students starting out at Temple have this idea that they will land their perfect dream job as soon as the graduate. Most likely that won't happen, but I think knowing what it is, should push students even harder.

Kandes said...

Dan was a great speaker, very entertaining and honest. He seemed laid-back which made him more relatable. Something that particularly stood out to me was his candid answers about his profession. I like that he had a response to the validity of what he does compared to "hard news." I also like that he shared some of his moral obligations when writing a gossip blog.

Additionally, he shared great advice about getting a job in the future (which we have been over in class previously). In the Internet age, it is important (and easier) to make a name for yourself. I like that he is encouraging us to open our own doors.

Benjamin Curran said...

I liked Dan. He seemed genuine and his discussion was engaging. When it came to talking about his career, he was very open and honest, and when it came to a question about what jobs are out there, he didn't sugarcoat it.

ELiza said...

Dan was a great speaker! He was very informative and entertaining, especially when it came to telling or revealing his top "secrets" or stories he was most proud of.
His point of view when it comes to moral compass was very smart and honest. He is a great example for journalism majors in how he balances his career success and the principles of journalism that we have been discussing.

Overall, i found his work enticing, maybe even considered starting a gossip column for Temple.

Geo said...

You should totally start a TU gossip column.

You should publish the hook-ups, out the cheating students, bitch about the university, make fun of teachers/security/food truck operators, and build an audience by writing about that audience.

Do it. Now.

- Geo

(the teacher who would totally leak info to you anonymously)

Rose Daraz said...

Dan was a really great speaker, and actually encouraged me greatly to start my own work--since zines are what got him all started in the first place.

Brittany Boston said...

Dan was everything! I never knew that one could actually be a gossip columnist and receive a nice paycheck from it. Gross is really "salf-made" which is very inspiring. His encouraging words and advice were truly appreciated. I will definitely begin to make a name for myself. The time is now!

Jessica Smith said...

I really enjoyed Dan's lecture. He seems like a genuinely good person - a characteristic you don't usually associate with gossip columnists. Though he did worry me about the job crisis happening today, I liked how honest and real he was about it instead of just giving us a rah-rah speech about journalism. And I really wish I asked him what Nathan Lane said to him!

John Lolley said...

Dan had some good points that he discussed. What I took away from hearing Dan was always think outside of the box when you are marketing yourself. As young journalist, we all should be taking advantage of all the opportunities to craft your skills and to get your name out.

Erin Martin said...

I'm so sad I missed him, but after reading your post, I love how honest Dan's advice was. Yes, it's great when you have a speaker that pumps you up with the "Be all you can be, reach for the stars..." type, BUT at our age we have to be realistic. I've been looking into how to begin freelancing and Dan's advice is definitely going to help. Thanks Geo!

Chantell Hernandez said...

Dan does what every young person obsessed with popular culture wishes they could do. After hearing him speak to the class about his humble beginnings, I realized that finding a job in gossip column writing was more realistic than I initially thought.

The advice that stood out to me the most was to create a career path for myself, self promote, and get my name out there myself because no one else is going to do it for me.

Marnice Davis said...

After hearing Dan's Bio as a gossip columnist, I expected him to have a harsh and inconsiderate demeanor. By a few minutes into his talk with our class I saw that he is concerned with the well being of others , yet knows how to distinguish work from feelings to produce excellent and factual results.

Anonymous said...

Leslie Smith said....

My favorite part was the new anchors. Its crazy to see the type of sources a journalist can have.

I always thought negative about gossip columnists but Dan was actually really funny, and he had limits on what he reports about.

Lora Strum said...

As a young journalist trying to figure out how to make money and still pursue a passion, it's nice to read something about someone who did something society thinks isn't "real journalism"--whatever that is nowadays--and isn't ashamed of it. The worst thing, I believe, that we can do as journalists is condemn each other for the sake of negativity. Dan had great advice about self-promotion and integrity--he doesn't have to work on CNN or Fox or MSNBC to know these things.
I read gossip columns, I even aspire to be in one one day! There's a time and place for all kinds of journalism today.
Wish I could have heard him speak!

Jordan Mayo said...

The main thing that stood out to me was that Dan was doing things differently, and therefore ruffling some people's feathers. Although, he was getting a better, truer story than the normal everyday journalists. I commend him for this. The truth is the most important objective in all of journalism.