Taylor Lorenz certainly has changed the way you cover politics. If you don’t know who she is, she’s normally at one of the many protests or interesting political events in the DC Area.
She’s got the knack of being on the front line, getting all of the crowd reactions and telling a story on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. From hardly reading the news in college, Lorenz bounced around jobs before getting into Tumblr. At that moment, she was hooked on Social Media.
Let’s just say that Lorenz is a very skilled journalist who has a passion for politics and tech. I recently had the opportunity to interview Taylor over the phone and it was great to hear her story. Take a look at the interview below.
Steve Rudden: You’ve got quite an extensive resume, working at The Hill currently to previously working for Business Insider, People, Entertainment Weekly, and other freelance work.
Taylor Lorenz: Several Media companies, yeah.
Steve Rudden: Did you always want to work in politics, social media, and the tech world?
Taylor Lorenz: No. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after college. I had nine internships in college in all different types of things. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I actually never really read the news in college or anticipated working in news. Long story short, I graduated, I was working a bunch of shitty jobs. Then with the recession, so there weren’t that many good entry-level jobs out there, especially because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ended up, this girl at my temp job got me on Tumblr, and I was like, “What’s Tumblr? I don’t do any internet stuff.”
I had a Facebook in college, but I didn’t really use it. Anyway, she introduced me to Tumblr and the internet in general, and I ended up making a bunch of really popular Tumblrs. This ad agency called me and was like, “Do you want to do social media for brands?” So I did that for a short time at McGarry Bowen, which actually at that time was a really good agency. They were Adweek and Ad Agency of the Year that year. I helped basically do social media for lots of big, sorry, there’s a lot of sirens outside.
SR: No, that’s okay.
TL: I live next to a police station and a fire department, so this is like 24/7. Yeah, so after a short time doing social media for brands, I just started to spend more time on the internet, and I got more interested in news. I realized that the Daily Mail, they didn’t even have a Facebook page yet. This was in like 2012, or maybe it was 2011. I think it was 2012. I started February 2012. I ended up meeting with a publisher there and pitching him on this idea of me joining as a social person. I was the first social person they ever hired and ended up building a team of 11 within the newsroom running their whole social media interactive newsgroup. After that, I realized that I liked working in news. I had never thought about it before, but I just realized that that’s what I loved, and since then, I’ve just been working in media, and news, and tech.
SR: Okay. Wow.
TL: Yeah. I was never into tech growing up, so I feel like once I found it, I was like, “Whoa. This is cool.” My internet was so restricted. I went to this really small boarding school, and I didn’t have a computer for a lot of college, so I just didn’t really use social media except then, but now that I do, I love it.
SR: Right. No, that’s good for me. You actually seem like you enjoy what you do. It’s actually pretty cool to see what you do, and you’ve made an impact.
TL: Oh, thanks. Yeah, I love working in media. It’s the best for me. I like really face-paced jobs. Now it’s crazy because I’m such a heavy news consumer now, especially covering politics. It’s really nonstop, and I like the pace of it. There’s always something happening. It’s always really talkable. It’s really amazing to witness history in all these different ways and get to talk to people. You meet new people every day, talk to new people every day, so those are things that I really like that I feel like I couldn’t get from any other sort of industry or career.
SR: Right. Where did you go to college, and what was your major?
TL: I went to the University of Colorado for most of college, but my senior year, I went to Hobart and William Smith, which is a really small school in upstate. I had family stuff that I had to be back east for that year, but since most of college I went to UC Boulder, I sort of consider that my home. Also, that’s where my parents went and all my siblings went. I was a Political Science major, which is random. I actually just chose it because it was the least amount of core credits to do that.
SR: Makes sense. That makes sense.
TL: It’s funny because it’s ironic. Now, I live in DC where I feel like everyone’s a PoliSci major, but I don’t think your major matters at all.
SR: Right, well yeah. Considering I studied radio and TV broadcasting when I was in college.
SR: Yeah, and I do nothing with it.
TL: This girl that I interned for, she works in fashion magazines now, but she’s a biology major. I feel like so many people, I don’t know where you went to school, but most colleges, you have to declare in freshman or sophomore year, and you’re so young. It’s so rare to know what you want to do at that age, so I don’t know. I guess if you want to be pre-med or something, maybe you know.
SR: Yeah, that’s true. I follow you on social media, and you seem to be at every big event in the area. Do you ever get nervous about covering some events like in Charlottesville?
TL: Yes, no.
SR: You did a great job of being in the middle of the chaos, but were you worried that something might have been happened, which it did, that day?
TL: No. I mean, I’ve covered about 120 protests, actually, in the past year and a half, and I’ve been in a lot of situations where there’s been tear gas, or I was right next to the limos they were setting on fire during Inauguration Weekend. It’s been kind of crazy, but at the same time, it’s also not crazy. Ultimately … I mean, when that car blew through the street, that was crazy and shocking, and I was like, “What the heck happened?” in the moment, but I don’t ever really worry about that. It’s really more the activists that are putting their lives on the line or more in danger of repercussions or getting arrested or things like that. As as a journalist, you’re there to observe. You’re more of a neutral third party, and I’m really the most conflict-averse person ever. Usually, it just goes without incident, so I never feel nervous or anything, and it’s certainly not like being in a war zone, or whatever.
TL: It’s like ultimately, I’m covering political rallies and stuff, but even ones that are the most intense, I usually feel pretty safe because I feel like I’m responsible enough to know where to be when, and I’m very observant. I like to be where the action is, but not be in the middle of things too much where the danger …
SR: Right, that’s smart, yeah. You mentioned on your website that you eventually want to get to California.
TL: I love it, yes.
SR: What would be your dream job in California if you were to get out to the west coast?
TL: I think about that all the time. I think about that all the time, and I have no idea. It’s so weird. I always feel like when people are like, “What’s your dream job?” I have no idea. I don’t know. I’ve loved pretty much every job I’ve had. I’ve been really lucky. I think every job that I’ve ever had in media has been really great, but I don’t know. I don’t know what my dream job would be. It’s so hard to tell. There would be so many opportunities. Obviously staying in journalism, obviously staying in tech journalism. I guess covering tech more than politics maybe, but politics is fun to cover right now.
SR: Yeah, because of the times.
TL: Because of the times, yeah. But yeah, so I don’t know. I’m hesitant. I love it out there, but I don’t know. It would have to be probably like something really cool and new in tech journalism or covering a beat that I really like. There’s a million jobs that I would take, I feel, but also you have to find what’s the right, I don’t know. Some people have a dream job that they’re always working towards or something, but for me, it’s always been weighing the opportunity against what I feel like doing at the time. When I took this job at The Hill, I just took it because I felt like leaving New York. People wanted me to stay. They would have paid me to move to LA. They would have paid me to do a lot of things.
TL: I was like, “Oh, I’ve never covered an election. That would be cool.” You know what I mean?
TL: So I feel like, with each job, it’s more about, especially when you’re young, exploring your interests and learning as much as you can. I don’t know, but yeah. It’s kind of weird, sorry. Kids ask me that question or our interns, and I’m like, “I don’t know.” There’s no such thing as a dream job, in my opinion.
SR: Right, okay. No, that’s fair.
TL: Maybe some people have their dream jobs. Maybe I’m just weird.
SR: No. I go back and forth with wanting to work in sports still and also getting back on the radio, so that’s what I’m working on as well, part-time stuff. I don’t know, it’s all about trying to do what you love, and not have a dream, but at least trying and going for it.
TL: Exactly, and there are so many trade-offs that people make, too. My dad doesn’t love his job, but it’s been fine. He’s worked there for 40 years, or however, and it’s been great. He likes it. I just think that you have to be accepting incrementally, and it’ll work out. Or sometimes you take a worse job because of a specific reason, or it’s in a specific city, or they’re paying you more and you need more money right now to pay off debt. I feel like yeah, if you’re into sports radio and you keep doing things that are incrementally moving you towards that, eventually it can become your full-time job.
SR: Very true. How did you get into consulting for startups, brands, and media companies?
TL: Now with the political stuff, I freelance. I’ve been doing more freelance writing, actually, so I kind of stopped consulting six months ago. It’s because I was like you know, I kind of want to write more, so I thought I’ll just write on the side and do freelance journalism more than that. I’ve never sought out a client. People just come to me and say, “We need help with this,” or, “We need help with this,” and I’ve been like, “Yeah, that’s something I could do.” I try to always stay open to new opportunities. Some people have come to me like, “We want to work together in this way,” and I’m like, “Well, I don’t have time for that, but maybe I could do this for you,” or whatever.
TL: A lot of people, I feel bad because they’ve approached me and I’ve just been busy and not responded or whatever. I’m not a very good communicator in that way, but I feel like I’m good for the people that I work for, but I don’t know. I was full-time freelance for a year, and I loved it, but it’s so annoying because you have to spend like half of your time doing administrative stuff like billing, invoicing, keeping track of stuff, following up with making progress reports for clients. It’s such a journey. It’s like running your own business, so I prefer freelance journalism now because it’s more, I don’t know, it’s just more what I want to do right now.
SR: Okay, because I’ve got a personal website and a sports blog, but I seem to have issues getting a presence online, and on Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Facebook.
TL: When you say “get a presence,” do you mean growing your audience and stuff?
SR: Grow my audience, gaining more followers, hopefully being Twitter verified one day. I really want to be verified on Twitter so I can …
TL: It does nothing for you. I was so blessed when I finally got verified.
SR: Did you have to apply for that?
TL: No. They just verify journalists all the time. I don’t know, people always ask these questions. I’ve worked a lot on brands and helping brands increase their stuff, but for me, I don’t know. I don’t even have that many followers. I have like 20,000 something followers on Twitter, which is not like 100,000 or something, but I always feel like it’s so hard. I feel like it’s so down to your personality because there are other really, really, brilliant people I know, like some of my favorite people in media that actually don’t have a really big Twitter presence, or they’re not even on LinkedIn, but it’s just their personality, so I don’t know. It’s kind of hard. I feel like it’s just like, takes a lot of time and effort.
SR: Yeah, I know. I know, and I’m trying, and hopefully with this interview series that I have on my personal website, hopefully, that’ll help me. I’m also trying to go to the Country Music Awards and interview country artists there, so hopefully, that’ll help me out something. I don’t know.
TL: Exactly. That’s just the thing. For journalists, or if you want to be a news person or something on Twitter, you have to be places and be sharing new information. That’s the best way to get followers, so I feel like yeah, especially if you go to the Country Music Awards, or interviewed this interesting person, that’s a really good way, but it’s also having a focus. For me, I love talking politics. Almost everything I share is related to tech, but I work in politics now, so it’s like everything I share is related to my interest. I don’t know, it’s such an uphill battle with personal stuff. Some people are like, “Oh, I’m putting my brand on LinkedIn,” or whatever. I’m like I don’t even know how. I hate LinkedIn. I did LinkedIn campaigns for school before. Ugh, I don’t know. And Facebook is a wash. You have to basically sponsor yourself at this point. It’s so crowded.
SR: You’re big into tech stuff, but do you have the latest-and-greatest? Do you always get the newest iPhone?
SR: Oh, okay.
TL: I have a really old iPhone right now. I literally don’t carry gadgets or anything at all and growing up, I never had any of that. I never even had a cell phone for college, or I guess, no. I had a really, really shitty Nokia in high school.
SR: I had one, too.
SR: When I was 18, that’s when I first got my cell phone. It was a big, fat Nokia Sprint phone, and our plan was so low that the first incoming minute was free.
TL: Yeah. I was constantly going over my minutes and text limit and stuff because I had a long-distance boyfriend. I had a bunch of long-distance boyfriends in high school and college, and I just remember texting and my mom would get so mad at me because there was a text limit or something because it wasn’t like iMessage back then.
SR: Right, yeah.
TL: So I really, even to this day, could care less about any gadget. That’s just not at all what interests me in technology. I mean yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what new the iPhone does, and I’m interested in the way that it changes the way that we use it, but I don’t know. I’m not like, “This one has eight gigahertz,” whatever.
SR: Right. Okay. My final question, I actually ask this to everybody that I interview, is what advice would you give college students looking into getting the same type of work that you do when it comes to writing for elections and tech stuff?
TL: I have such a weird career that I caution any student to follow in anything I’ve ever done. I think that basically, what students should do though, and this is true because like I said, I had nine internships in college. I was like hyper intern, let me follow in the career steps of people and stuff, and I just feel like ultimately you have to have a general idea of what you like, and then you, sort of like I was saying before, make as many incremental steps as possible to get there. People say never work for free, and I don’t think you should, but when you’re in college, definitely work for free if it’s like blogging on the side, or writing on the side, or taking an extra journalism class. Basically, you have to do stuff so that people can’t not hire you. I remember when I wanted to run the Verizon tech blog at my office. When I was doing corporate social media, my client was Verizon, and I wanted to run the tech blog, and my boss was like, “No, you don’t have enough journalism experience. You don’t have enough tech knowledge.”
So I went to school for a year and a half every Sunday for nine hours and got a certificate in web development from NYU so that I had enough tech experience. I also went into all these classes in journalism also at NYU to get a certificate in journalism. I was like, “Basically, there’s no way you’re not going to let me do this,” and I feel like I get that with everything I want. I feel like if you have your mind on something, like say you want to get a reporting job, just do so many things that you’re so over-qualified that eventually, someone will just be like, “Fine. You can do it.” It’s a lot of side work.
SR: It’s funny that you mention that because I went to school for TV and radio, and I worked in radio 10, 12 years ago, and I got out of it, but now I want to get back into it part-time, so I’ve applied to a few radio station jobs, but I’ve been turned down. So I’m taking a class this semester so I can get on air on the internet radio station so I can prove to these program directors who have turned me down to show that I’m going to get back on the air and I’m going to be on your station.
TL: Yeah! That’s a good thing to do. I’m divided in the sense that, well, you should just try and learn as much stuff as possible. It’s always good to enrich yourself, go back to school a million times. Do everything. That sounded great, and eventually, it’ll work-out. You have to try it a million times for everything. People are going to turn you down forever, and then eventually, all you need is for it to work out once and then you have a job.
Taylor Lorenz is one of the best at covering tech news and the current state of politics. Her work at The Hill is top notch and her time taking those Journalism classes have paid off.
If you want to follow her on her many social media sites, don’t hesitate to follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @TaylorLorenz. You can also read more from her at http://thehill.com. Taylor also has a personal website and you should check that out as well http://www.taylorlorenz.com.
I look forward to reading more from Taylor Lorenz and I hope you do too!
Thank you so much to Ms. Lorenz for taking the time.