BABE #201: EMILY BLOCH, Multimedia Journalist
Our team has been collectively impressed by Emily since our initial correspondence. She’s the epitome of an excellent journalist, and we’re inspired by her ethics, determination and resilience throughout the various stages of her career. As a multimedia journalist and VP for the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter, Emily knows a thing or two about getting a good lead, running with it, and above all, telling the story with honesty and integrity. (She also knows about getting laid off and landing a front page story in the same week — talk about a BWH.)
Hometown: Hollywood, Florida
Current city: I still live in Hollywood but you can find me in Jacksonville many weekends. My boyfriend and his pup live in Springfield and they’re pretty hard to stay away from.
Alma mater: Florida Atlantic University
Degree: B.S., Communications, Multimedia Journalism
Very first job: Part-time at a CD and record store through high school and college.
Hustle(s): Multimedia Journalist; Vice President of Programming for the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter
Babe(s) you admire and why?
I have to shout out some Florida babes and wonderful friends: Lulu Ramadan at the Palm Beach Post. She’s one of my best friends. We’re reporters at “competing” newspapers who met in college. Lulu’s the reporter who went viral for having covered three mass shootings before her 24th birthday. I’m so proud of the work she’s doing. Tessa Duvall at the Jacksonville Times Union's work on social injustice is some of the best you’ll read. The fact that she manages to cover her beat so well while also leading a successful union charge and working with TEDxJacksonville is actually ridiculous.
How do you spend your free time?
I’m a big proponent of supporting the local music/DIY scene. When I’m not working, you’ll typically find me at a show—whether it’s a fancy festival or in someone’s living room. I’m also a bit of a gym rat. Two years ago, I got into a body building training regimen with my dad and I haven’t looked back.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
That’s easy: a lavender latte with oat milk. BREW Five Points and Social Grounds in Jax both have them. If I’m in Hollywood, I’ll have the staff at Kay Rico surprise me—they never disappoint. And for a morning jolt, I’ll never say no to a Cuban colada. (But I won’t share, no matter how many tiny cups you give me.)
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Mac and cheese forever. My boyfriend just made a killer vegan casserole version featuring Zen Butcher cheese and it changed things for our relationship. My family is Portuguese so I feel like my palate should be more cultured, but it’s just my fave.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Probably Carrie Fisher. Besides being an utter Star Wars nerd, I’d love to have just chatted with her about everything—her books, her strength, her dogs.
Tell us about your hustle.
On the daily I write for a mix of publications, hyper-local, regional and national. It’s a mix of alternative weeklies, luxury magazines, financial news, politics and entertainment. I don’t discriminate! Until recently I covered community news for the Sun Sentinel, a top-50 daily newspaper in the South Florida market. On any given day I’d cover anywhere between six and 30 cities. I worked there for a little shy of two years before we got hit with another round of layoffs ordered down from our parent company. It sucked in the moment, but it has also given me the chance to write for so many outlets I’d otherwise have non-competes with. I also serve as the VP of programming for the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter (SPJ). In that role, I handle organizing and running events throughout the state for both journalists and non-journalists. Some events are training-related, others are geared toward media literacy, some are pure networking events. But we try to do things with a bit of an edge. (There are enough formal panels and symposiums in the world, am I right?) Speaking of, on August 23, we’ll be hosting Fuck Words With Friends—a boozy speed scrabble tournament—at BREW Five Points. It’s free and the first drink’s on us for participating teams.
What does your typical workday look like?
It’s such a cliché, but every single day is different. While I was at the Sentinel, covering 30-plus cities had me filing stories from my car or a cafe. One day, it would mean covering a city commission meeting. Another, I’d be chasing down a monkey (not kidding). With freelance it’s similar. I’ll be breaking news for Teen Vogue in the morning and writing about restaurants in the afternoon. On the SPJ side of things, it’ll be dealing with different venues, a budget and our board of directors to figure out how to host our next event to our best ability.
How long has writing been a part of your life?
I got into writing during my junior year of high school. I’m a drummer, so I credit a lot of my interest in writing to studying band profiles in Rolling Stone and SPIN like they were written law. Eventually, I tried my own hand at covering shows for local publications. In college, I climbed up the editorial ladder at the student newspaper. By my senior year, I was paying for textbooks with stories I was writing for local alternative weeklies and international magazines.
What drew you to journalism in particular?
I love having the ability to tell people’s stories that otherwise might not be told. This could be something fun and inspiring, like the 10-year-old piano prodigy with autism I recently wrote about, or a celebrity people want to learn more about, like Paul Reiser (aka Dr. Sam Owens from “Stranger Things”). One story that really put things into perspective for me was an investigative piece I did in college on an alleged gang-rape at a party off campus. With my reporting, I was able to prove that the party was held by a fraternity which was denying culpability. Years later, I heard from the victim. She thanked me and is actually suing the people involved in hosting that party. A journalist’s job is to seek the truth and report it. We’re the ones who provide checks and balances to a society.
Do you have any advice for younger writers who are interested in pitching stories of their own?
Write a succinct sentence or two about what’s going on and why someone should care. Follow that with a sentence about you. Keep it short and to the point. When people ask me how they should pitch a story, I tell them to think about how they would tell their friend about that same story over a beer and chili fries. Use that. If you don’t hear back in a week, follow up.
How have your past academic and professional experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
I wouldn’t be able to function in a newsroom today if it weren’t for my student paper. Sure, my college classes helped me hone in on elements like grammar. But student media taught me how to not only tell a story, but run with one. There’s so much independence at a student paper. You have to figure out how to deal when shit hits the fan. You have to learn how to manage both up and down, all while worrying about getting the paper out. That sort of scenario can never be recreated in a classroom.
What’s been your biggest career milestone to date?
I don’t know how many people would call being laid off a milestone, but that week changed everything for me. I was called while on assignment and told I would be part of my newspaper’s next wave of layoffs. Two days later, I landed my first front-page story with the paper. I ended up tweeting my story along with my layoff announcement on a Friday, then a photo of my front-page story next to my severance papers the next day. My phone blew up from there with job offers, notes of solidarity, blogs and newsletters about me—you name it. As universally shitty as getting laid off will always be, I’m so proud of myself for not wallowing and putting the news first. It showed everyone in my community—from fellow journalists to people who live in the neighborhoods I cover—why reporters do what we do. Aside from that, I think being plagiarized might be one of my biggest career milestones. I had just become editor for my college paper when it happened. A local publication blatantly copy and pasted multiple paragraphs from my story. After trying and failing to resolve it with the paper peacefully, I wrote a column that said: “If I was caught plagiarizing I’d be expelled. But if I was this reporter, I’d get a paycheck.” It was one of the first—but definitely not the last—times I got a threatening phone call from an older man trying to scare me out of a story. Ultimately, it taught me how to stand on my own two feet and be confident in myself. It became the jumping-off point for a lot of additional career milestones.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Between being a woman and being a young woman, I’ve experienced what so many of us have—not being taken seriously. It took a lot of time, strength and confidence-building (which again, I credit so much to student media) for me to be able to really own my persona and be able to say “Hey, I’m here for a reason." Impostor syndrome is real, and being looked down on by people (read: groups of older white men) doesn’t help. So, I let my work, my clips, my resume, my events and their success speak for itself.
How do you feel about the current state of journalism in America and where do you see its future heading?
I was recently asked this on Jeff Pearlman’s podcast. In short, journalism is in a weird transitioning space right now. Our freedom and our actual lives are at risk as we saw with the Annapolis shooting. But, I think millennials are what’s going to get us through all of it. We’re a smart, equal-rights priding collective that hasn’t been handed everything on a silver platter. Movements like Time’s Up are a testament to that. I think as long as we continue to let more women and non-binary individuals, people of color and LGBTQ+ friends take seats at the table, we’ll be in a good place.
Who are women in your field you look to for inspiration?
Powerhouse reporters like Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who broke stories on Harvey Weinstein. Their work helped break and expose stories of sexual harassment that until recently were under lock and key. A few others: Maggie Haberman for her wonderful reporting at the New York Times and even more damning tweets. Lily Herman for cranking out timely explainer pieces for outlets like Refinery29 and somehow finding the time and strength to run getherelected.com. And Lauren Duca for obliterating political pundits with sheer, unapologetic feminism.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
If you can, start with your student media outlet. This is the best place to figure out what you want to write about and get greedy about it. Become the expert on that topic and cover it from any and every angle for your student publication. Then, take those best five clips and go to a local alternative weekly with it, and so on. If you’re at a community college, public college papers will often still let you contribute. If that’s not an option, take the same steps, but with a personal blog and grow from there.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
There are a few exceptions but, for the most part, never-ever write for free. You’re too valuable for that noise. No one can afford to work for “exposure.” One woman once told me she would follow that rule “unless it was for Vanity Fair” because that was her “dream publication.” About 12 of us immediately responded, “Vanity Fair can afford to pay you.”
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