Me, trying to keep my cool at Buzzfeed.
I first followed Dominic Holden on Twitter in the early hours of June 12, 2016 when @buzzfeednews tweeted, suggesting that those who wanted updates on the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, Florida, follow him.
When Omar Mateen killed 49 people in the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, I was only 187 miles south. And despite it being the middle of the night, I was awake.
After I read the words BREAKING and SHOOTER, I climbed off the sticky, deflating air mattress that I was sharing with my sister, and found myself sitting on the piano bench in the dark living room. I clicked follow and spent the remaining hours until my family woke up reading everything I could about the tragedy that took place in Orlando that morning.
Dominic Holden is the national LGBT reporter for Buzzfeed News. He is based in New York.
I have been following Dominic’s work for the past nine months. When I first followed him on Twitter I had already been hired by The Beacon, but I did not yet know that I wanted to be a journalist.
Two weeks ago, I entered a media tours lottery for the fast approaching College Media Association spring convention. I clicked the boxes for The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed. I was one of twenty students who got to go to Buzzfeed. I was so excited and overwhelmed and busy in the days leading up to the conference and tour that reaching out to Dominic before the tour did not occur to me until the morning of.
Two hours before I was supposed to be walking through the gates of heaven, oh wait, I mean walking through the doors of Buzzfeed, I DM’d Dominic on Twitter. I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” And clicked send.
This is the view from the 16th floor of Buzzfeed NY. (My jaw dropped, too.)
He responded, told me where his desk was, and said he would be glad to talk to me.
After the tour of Buzzfeed’s incredible, 16 story New York office, I was introduced to him in the cafeteria, which they call The Canteen. I was so nervous that my hands were shaking, but I smiled and shook his hand and he invited me to stay for lunch.
Me, after the tour Q&A with Buzzfeed video producer Matt Ford, during which I raised my hand about 12 times.
Just be yourself.
My stream of consciousness from those few minutes looked something like this: I’m wearing heels, what if I fall? Don’t spill. Don’t fall. Don’t forget all the questions you want to ask him. Don’t look nervous. Wow, this place is so cool. I want to work somewhere where they give you free Mexican food. Compliment her purple hair but don’t stare. Don’t trip. Don’t spill. Act natural. Wow, I really want to work here. What do I have to do to get them to hire me? Why is everyone wearing jeans? Can they tell that I am freaking out? Don’t fall. Don’t spill. Don’t stare.
Dominic noticed that I was looking confused and told me I could sit wherever I wanted. Great, I’ll go clear myself a spot at the breaking news desk, I thought. But then realized he meant for lunch, and I found a table for two in the middle of the room near a window, and sat down.
After a few minutes, I settled down.
In 2016, Dominic won the Journalist of the Year Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association. His niche is LGBT news. He’s reported on so many important LGBT stories including Gavin Grimm, the Pulse Nightclub Shooting and North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. and checks Twitter from bed. He makes his own ranch dressing and when lunch at the office isn’t catered (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) he brings a turkey sandwich and Doritos. He’s from Seattle but he loves New York. Before he was hired by Buzzfeed he was the news and managing editor at The Stranger, a weekly arts and culture newspaper in Seattle. He didn’t graduate from high school and he doesn’t have a G.E.D.. Before he became a journalist, he was a drug activist and campaigned for the legalization of marijuana. He’s turning 40 this spring. He likes his job.
He patiently answered all my questions, and surprised me by asking quite a few back.
After I finished telling him about the story I wrote for National Coming Out Day and the ways I hoped it would be thought provoking and impactful on our small, Catholic campus, he asked me, “Do you want to be a journalist or an activist?” I paused then said, “A journalist.”
We talked about the difficulties of reporting on social issues in a neutral way. He said he finds it difficult to report on some issues as if they are two sided, when one side clearly neglects human rights. But it’s his job to cover them neutrally, so he does. “Do you want to be a neutral journalist?” he asked me. I thought for a moment, and told him, “I don’t want to be a neutral person, but I want to be a neutral journalist.” I explained how important it is to me to cover things that matter and provide neutral, but thought provoking coverage that may challenge problematic ideology by presenting facts and truth.
According to their website, “BuzzFeed is the leading independent digital media and tech company delivering news and entertainment content to a global audience.” The company has 18 offices worldwide and the New York office is in the process of constructing a rooftop workspace. When I visited, most people were wearing jeans. The energy was positive and productive. When it came time for me to leave, I didn’t want to. I was left wanting more. I learned and left inspired.
I only spent a few hours at Buzzfeed, but I haven’t stopped talking about it since I walked out of the building.
I only got to go on this tour because of the media tours facet of the College Media Association spring convention. This was absolutely the best part of the conference and trip for me because in the time I spent at Buzzfeed, and since then, I have realized what my goals are, I have been totally reinspired to pursue them.