Brian Stelter '07 turned his experience as a blogger into a job at the New York Times. Read how he got his start.
What made you decide to start a blog?
"In early 2003, as the War in Iraq commenced, I thought about creating a blog to track cable news coverage of the invasion. I kept toying with the idea during my first semester at Towson, and over winter break decided to register CableNewser.com. The site launched on Jan. 1, 2004, and covered the cable news networks."
How did it catch on?
"Almost immediately, CableNewser attracted an audience of television executives, anchors, producers and viewers. As a news junkie, I wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. The site started as a critique of the networks, but became more of a news feed of ratings, rumors and reviews. And readers loved it."
How does a college freshman start a major blog?
"I started the blog anonymously. I didn’t want readers to know I was a college student, because I didn’t think they’d take me seriously. As the site grew, maintaining my anonymity became a less realistic prospect. In May of 2004, I identified myself, and started corresponding with a reporter for the New York Times. The resulting news story revealed my day job as a college freshman."
What happened after the Times article?
"The story caught the eye of an editor at a media networking company based in New York. He brought me to New York for a series of meetings, and two months later, I joined mediabistro.com and renamed the blog TVNewser. I started writing about broadcast news networks like NBC, ABC and CBS in addition to cable news. When I started collecting a paycheck for blogging—something I was previously doing as a hobby—I knew the site had ballooned way beyond my expectations."
What makes your blog successful?
"Passion is the most important trait I bring to my blog. I was motivated to blog every single day, usually at least 10 times. And I soon discovered that readers reward consistency. When I didn’t update the blog for 24 hours, I started to get e-mails from readers who thought I had vanished!"
How do you get the “inside scoop?”
"I routinely receive “anonymous tips” about the hiring and firing of producers and correspondents at various news networks. Before posting these tips, I usually e-mail a spokesperson at the network to confirm the information. Based on their response, I may post the information as a fact; or I may post it as a question, asking my readership if the information is true. The audience is my most powerful asset. They know a lot more about TV news than I do, and they usually know the answer to any question I may pose."
How popular is your blog?
"TVNewser now attracts about 30,000 visits a day. Like other bloggers, I feel a powerful connection to that audience. My readers give me a reason to keep writing. They are more than willing to praise, support, admonish and condemn my writings, on an hourly basis."
What brought you to Towson University?
"For me, Towson was close (but not too close) to home and big (but not too big). I was impressed by the student newspaper and excited about contributing to it. Once I arrived on campus, I discovered many opportunities to excel and make my mark."
How do you juggle your studies, blogging and editing the Towerlight?
"I'm in front of a computer screen throughout the day, so I can write a blog post one minute and work on a homework assignment the next minute. All of my roles—student, editor, blogger—involve computers, so they go together very well. Also, my four e-mail accounts all redirect to the same inbox, which I can access from anywhere, even my cell phone. Staying on top of all my e-mail helps a lot."
What are your plans after graduation?
"I want to help inform people, in a variety of ways. I’d love a job that involves blogging, reporting and producing news."
See Brian Stelter in Page One, a documentary about the New York Times that opened in theaters around the country in summer 2011.