It’s one thing to watch TV and enjoy it. It’s another to watch TV, enjoy it, AND write awesome articles about the shows. Samantha Rullo does just that. She spins television shows and celebrity topics into articles that are spot-on and too much fun to read. Yes, her job requires her to watch television shows and write about them. So, how does one become an entertainment journalist and acquire cool internships like this? Read on to find out!
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Samantha Rullo: I would define it as both taking advantage of youth in the sense of having fun and trying new things that you probably couldn’t experience later in life, but also taking steps to set yourself up so you can seize the rest of your life and have the foundation you need to be happy and successful.
CJ: What did you major in at New York University and how did you determine what to study?
SR: I’m double majoring in journalism and cinema studies. My freshman year I went to USC where I was a PR (Public Relations) major, and then I had some experience at a PR internship and I also had experience writing for USC’s online newspaper, and I really liked writing, so when I decided to transfer, NYU didn’t offer PR but they had journalism, I figured I would do journalism and I fell in love with it. I picked cinema because I want to do entertainment writing and I figured it was the best compliment.
CJ: Where have you interned and how did you go about securing those internships?
SR: I have had four internships. My first one was for a PR company based out of New York that I found through a USC alum who was my supervisor there. She had sent a posting to the USC journalism school’s career advisers and I was always looking for anything that was in New York and I applied and got it. I attained a lot of press research experience and skills that I still use.
By the time I applied for my next internships, I knew I wanted to do journalism and I started looking for a magazine internship because I like magazines and digital writing. I also really like weddings, so I interned at The Knot, which I believe that I found either through NYU or ed2010.com. That internship was half writing and half fashion so I did research and put together lists and did stuff for the website, as well as some fashion closet stuff which involved a lot of wedding dresses.
Once I knew I wanted to do entertainment, I applied to TV Without Pity, which is an NBC brand that does reviews, interviews and other news about TV and movies. I think I found that on ed2010.com, too. There I wrote a lot and did some social media. I also did some of their daily features and slideshows. I learned a lot and it was a really great experience.
For this summer, I found Bustle.com, which at the time didn’t even have a name, it was just listed as ‘journalism internship.’ I applied and said I wanted to do entertainment writing, and I sent them samples of my writing and an edit test. I had an interview with my now-supervisor, and I was able to start there in June and I stayed on in the fall because it’s been an amazing experience.
CJ: You are an Associate Entertainment Editor at Bustle.com. What is your writing process and how do you come up with story ideas?
SR: Since I’m in entertainment, a lot of it is pegged to entertainment news. For coming up with ideas, I go through Twitter, Tumblr, and I follow all of the media I read so I can see all of the headlines. If someone got engaged, I’ll do my own take on it, or if something in general is being talked about a lot, I will come up with my own story based on it. For example, when Breaking Bad was a trending topic, I came up with my own spin that no one else has covered. I wrote a piece called “How to Watch Both ‘Breaking Bad’ and the Emmys,” so I try to tie my stories with topics that are being talked about a lot.
Or, I come up with a story in my mind and hope something happens with a celebrity so I can write about it. My writing process has a pretty quick turnaround. I do at least three articles per shift, up to five sometimes. I find all of my media first, so if I’m including images, GIFS, or video, I’ll find those first and make sure those are pulled because that’s going to shape what I’m writing about. If I want to say something but I can’t find the GIF, I can’t write about it. I pull any media and sources confirming what I’m saying, and then I start with a lead and pull my unique angle together and then fill it in and edit and make sure it all works.
CJ: Where does your interest in entertainment journalism come from?
SR: I’ve wanted to work in the entertainment field for a while. I really like television and film, but I don’t necessarily want to make TV or film, and I realized journalism and writing was a good way to combine the two. I started doing TV reviews for my school’s newspaper and I got good feedback so I took it from there. When I got into my second major I got really into it, and it was a great way to combine my interests.
CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be entertainment writers? What can they do now to get a head start in journalism?
SR: Try to write as much as you can to start. It’s really important to have writing samples because if you don’t have samples for some internships, you can’t even apply. Published samples are really good, so get your writing out there – through your school newspaper or through your own blog or website, for example. For journalism, I would never let an opportunity pass because of school. I’ve had situations where I worried I couldn’t do as many internship hours while taking classes and homework, but I still ended up doing it and you figure it out along the way and your experiences with your internship are usually just as worthwhile as whatever class you were also taking, and you just might have to stay home some Saturdays to make up homework. At the end of the day, having internship experience on your resume is best.
CJ: How did you balance interning and being a college student?
SR: Like I said, stay home sometimes. It’s tough sometimes. I try not to take too many hard classes at once. I try to have a mix of classes I really enjoy and classes that require a lot of reading and papers. I take a class that is more hands-on so I’ll have more free time. I had to stop doing a club at school because I couldn’t attend the meetings. Just prioritizing is important.
CJ: What three traits have helped you succeed as an intern?
SR: I try to be really friendly always. I try to have a friendly relationship with co-workers and my supervisor, so that they get to know me and get to know what I’m most interested in. Just being driven and offering to do something that other people don’t want to do and taking advantage of every possible opportunity. I try to be honest about things. If I need help with something, I’d rather ask for help and have the project turn out well than not ask and have it turn out bad.
CJ: Where did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?
SR: I didn’t have time for studying abroad since I transferred. I would have liked to if I had the chance. I would have liked to go to Italy, but hopefully I can go on my own, eventually.
CJ: What was the college transfer process like for you?
SR: It was like applying to college again so it was annoying. But I’m from the East Coast, so I just had to get readjusted and figure out NYU.
CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
SR: I wasn’t super involved in high school. If I had known I wanted to go into journalism I might have done more activities related to journalism. We didn’t really have a big school newspaper. My senior year we had to do a service project, so my friends and I helped kids with special needs and it was really memorable because it was rewarding and I’d never had the chance to be as involved with charity work before. I hope I do again because it was very rewarding.
In college I have been very involved with Washington Square News. I went to a meeting my first week at NYU, started as a writer and now I’m a senior editor. I wouldn’t have gotten internships if I didn’t have the writing samples that came from working on the newspaper.
CJ: What was your experience like going to college in New York City?
SR: Expensive. But I like it, and I wouldn’t have had any of the experiences I’ve had if I weren’t in New York. I’m so lucky, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere, what can you do? There are a lot of opportunities here. It’s also really fun just to be around everything and I have a chance to go to events and report on them and interview cool people, just stuff I could never do anywhere else.
CJ: What do you wish you had known before attending college?
SR: I wish I had known less because I feel like I went in with super crazy expectations. People will give you their own opinions and advice, and I would be thinking, “Oh, am I supposed to do this because that’s what they did?” I eventually became open to it and just made my own experiences, but freshman year I struggled with what I’m supposed to be doing and how I was supposed to handle things, so I wish I didn’t have any preconceptions and that I just went into college not knowing what to expect.
CJ: Who is your role model?
SR: I’ve worked with a lot of women who have been great role models and I’ve always had someone I could talk to and whose career path I’ve really admired. They still love what they do and I hope I’m like that when I’m older. I also really like Tina Fey and Giuliana Rancic, especially the journalism side and she uses it to be a breast cancer advocate. I’m reading Lean In right now, so currently Sheryl Sandberg is a big role model.
CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
SR: I do wish I had known I was going to get into journalism. I do it more now, but I would tell myself to not be afraid to try new things, such as a broadcasting class. At 15, I was too afraid of what people thought to step out of my comfort zone, so I would say to not be afraid and try new things.