Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Question or Two with Terrence Russell, journalist-- and more importantly, my kid!

Today's Question or Two with... interview is Terrence Russell, a freelance journalist covering consumer electronics and entertainment for publications like WIRED and Fast Company. When he's not busy chasing down stories, Terrence also works as a contract copywriter, copyeditor, and researcher. But most importantly (because it reflects on ME), Terrence is my second-born son. T-bone, as he is known in family circles, was born during the launch of the very first Space Shuttle, Columbia, and his rise has been meteoric ever since. *groan*   I invited Terrence to answer a  question or two about his career and here's the result:

1. Can you give us a synopsis of the "Life of Terrence Russell," thus far?

There's not much to tell, really. I started writing a teen advice column for AOL's now-defunct Digital City: San Francisco around the age of 16. At 18, I was working as a staff writer and copy editor for my junior college newspaper. A few years after that, I was a disillusioned UC Davis drop-out working for Verizon Wireless.

Serendipity got me back in front of a word processor; Wired.com just happened to be looking for writers to cover the mobile space, and I just happened to have the right contacts and product knowledge at the right time. The world's fascination with the initial iPhone (and my ability to write about and around it) definitely helped things along too.

With that said, my writing is much less product-focused these days. I'll still do the occasional review for Wired Magazine/Wired.com, but a lot of my attention in the last year has been focused on entertainment reporting and behind-the-scenes filmmaking. I'm just now starting to work on my own screenwriting projects too, but it's a little too early to go into any meaningful detail.

Otherwise, I'm enjoying life as an acerbic 30-year-old living in a mostly-riot-free Oakland.

2. Do you attribute your brilliance to having been raised by me? *grin*

No. I personally believe that a person's path in life derives from a number of influences. Some are conscious decisions made on the part of the individual, and others are more passive influences like the role of a parent.

I'm unquestionably grateful for the pragmatic, middle-class-military upbringing gained from my parents. However, I'd argue that my current station in life is more a product of the good/bad decisions of my 20's.

(Also, claiming there's demonstrable proof of my own brilliance is just begging for a brutal fact check. I'm not going to invite that level of scrutiny.)

3. Do you consider yourself a writer, journalist, blogger or ? Are distinctions between those types important? Do they affect what or how you write? What you are paid?

This week I might be a journalist. Next week I might be a writer. The week after that I might be a contract copywriter. People seem to get the gist of "journalist," so I stick with that.

I find that the actual titles are mainly useful for letting people know what you’re trying to accomplish in any given assignment. My personal rubric breaks down accordingly:

Writer - A person holed up somewhere typing out the next Misery. Or On The Road. Or Transformers 4: The Transformining. These individuals are creatively-driven, and quite possibly financially insolvent between works.

Journalist - A person creating newsy, analytical, or servicey content that follows the traditional news cycle. Fact checking, asking “why” before publishing, and fulfilling editorial demands now is the norm for a journalist. Pay varies greatly.

Blogger - An individual devoted to a compelling retelling of the news, with a fair bit of opinion and armchair analysis thrown into the mix. Speed, contrarian opinions, and snappy copy are valued over heavy research or measured analysis. Pay is dismal unless: A) You’re blogging for a huge outlet, B) You’re crooked, or C) You’ve built a solid brand for yourself.

My typical week is that of a journalist and occasionally a writer. Things are relatively modest on the income front; a handful of journalistic assignments typically pays all my living expenses for the month (including leisure). Any income past that is typically funneled back into upcoming work expenses. Being a freelancer definitely isn't cheap, but I manage to live comfortably.

4. How prepared are you for the coming zombie apocalypse?

My secret preparation tactic? Try to be the best looking person in the room. Can’t swing it? Then find a new motley crew of survivors.

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that the suspiciously handsome are the only ones slated to survive a zombie apocalypse. A spot in a bunker alongside Johnny Depp, Scarlet Johansen and Gwenyth Paltrow is a death sentence for most of us.

However, if you’re huddled in the dark with Mickey Rourke, Gary Busey and Steve Buscemi? My math says a lack of facial scars and a properly buttoned shirt should see you through.

Well, there you have it. Terrence totally credits me with all his success and his very being. I'm so touched. Wait, what?  He answered "No" to the second question? Oh dear, Terrence WON'T be getting another wine grape bonsai or home beer-brewing kit from me for Un-Xmas!

Anyhoo, follow the links below to peruse some of Terrence's writing or to contact him-- especially if you want to contract him to write the fascinating story of his mother, moi,  Emme Adams.

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