Cynthia Gordy- Washington Reporter & Blogger, The Root
Within the two years that Cynthia Gordy has covered the nation’s capitol for Essence Magazine, she has interviewed President Obama in the Oval Office, the First Lady, Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and several other Cabinet members. Now that she joined The Root as a Washington reporter and blogger, she finds the transition from a lifestyle women’s magazine to a daily online news magazine to be invigorating.
Founded in January 2008, The Root features commentary on political, social and cultural issues, and showcases the extent and depth of viewpoints currently shaping African American culture.
While Gordy settles into her new role, she is enjoying being a part of the bigger conversation online.
“I really like writing about politics and policy for a publication that is known as the go-to source for black news. Readers are coming to The Root for this kind of reporting, and it’s exciting to see energetic, smart conversation bubbling up from different posts,” she explained. “Even when its negative feedback, I still enjoy generating dialogue and being part of the conversation on politics in such a robust and immediate way.”
Gordy worked at Essence for seven years in a variety of roles including culture assistant editor, news editor and most recently, Washington correspondent. While there, she knew that it was important to expand to digital platforms.
“Now that I’m working at a website, I feel really relieved,” she said. “That’s not to say that I think print media is dead, but the digital space generally feels more secure because it’s how more people are getting their information now. It’s certainly not going anywhere.”
With some online magazines, content can be compromised due to a lack of comprehensive reporting that leads to shorter posts and articles. Gordy finds it frustrating to see long-form journalism completely abandoned in favor of quick, page-view driven content.
That’s not the case in her position. She is glad to continue covering Washington, D.C. with longer, feature length articles on a regular schedule and at the same time authors The Root’s blog, Blogging the Beltway.
“It’s a huge balancing act. But that’s the nature of writing for the Web, and I find the challenge invigorating,” she said.
Since the third grade, Gordy wanted to be a journalist. She always liked writing and had her parents and teachers encourage her dream. But it wasn’t until she started college at the University of Pittsburgh that she became excited about it. She majored in creative nonfiction and was inspired by literature and language. “It really opened my eyes to all the beautiful things you can do with language, and how to make news reporting really come to life,” she said.
When Gordy moved from New York City to D.C., she quickly learned the ropes through the White House Press Corps and formed relationships in different areas of the federal government. Looking ahead, she wants to continue to develop and learn about a wide range of issues. Additionally, she strives to break more news in addition to reporting and commenting on what’s out there.
“I’m also excited about writing more narrative pieces on regular Americans, and how their lives are affected by different policies,” she added.
After only being at The Root for three weeks, she is still getting a sense of what a “normal day” is. She is always working on various pieces and projects, but she never feels frazzled.
“In the first few weeks alone I’ve pushed myself more, writing stories that are longer and more in-depth. I expect that I’ll grow to become more astute at analyzing policy and providing shrewder political commentary,” she said.
Even with a busy work schedule, she stays active and is currently training for a 10-mile race in April. She takes advantage of the diverse restaurant scene, museums and of course, loves reading creative nonfiction books.
Gordy finds it to be a stimulating time to be part of American politics. “I came to D.C. at a particularly exciting moment. More people than ever are engaged by what’s happening in politics and the tensions between the White House and Congress can be dramatic,” she said. She admits that she was apprehensive about leaving New York but explained, “I’ve been able to make D.C. my own and am happy to be a Washingtonian now.”
Gordy prefers to receive press materials via email. “Faxes and snail mail are not things I pay much attention to, and sometimes phone calls can be disruptive.”
She encourages follow-up emails. “I really appreciate them because sometimes I’m so busy at work that I honestly just forget to write back to people the first or second time. So follow-ups are great.”
Even though she covers politics, she has opportunities to write about history, culture and general news. “I’m open to just about anything that makes sense for The Root brand and audience,” she said.
Her attention is caught when the pitch has a specific news peg or unique angle. “I don’t like getting super broad pitches like ‘Write a profile about this person who is a successful black professional!’ In black media, oftentimes you get pitches that seem to be driven by the idea ‘You’re a black publication, so you’ll love this black subject,’ and there’s nothing remotely interesting about it, and no thought given to how it fits in with the specific title,” she explained. “But if you can tell me why this subject is timely or compelling, or why you think it suits the publication, that could work.”
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