Alums in Journalism

A Florida Gators Reporter from New York: The Storytelling of Sports

By John Deery

 Not that long ago Will Sammon (QC 2013) was a New York City college student, commuting every day from his home in Middle Village to Queens College.

“Coming from a small school like Queens College allows more attention to be focused on you,” he said. “It allows you to build meaningful relationships with your professors.”

Now, after five years of writing and practicing his craft, Will lives in Gainesville, Florida. where he covers The University of Florida “Gators” football team for the sports news-site, “The Athletic.”

What  might appear to be a rapid ascent from writing for a college newspaper to a dream job was the result of a lot of hustle, focus, and knowing early on what he wanted to with his life.

After college he  worked several jobs before landing his current position.

“When I was in college and still in New York, I did a bunch of internships with weekly newspapers there…. I probably hit every one of them,” he said.

He mostly covered crime and politics in metropolitan New York, but he was itching to write about his true passion: sports.

 “I’ve always loved sports, and I got to cover sports while going to college.” he said. “I wrote about Queens College sports for the school newspaper, “The Knight News.” He ultimately  became the editor of the paper.

 Writing for “The Knight News”  taught Sammon a lot about journalism, sports, and developing a strong work ethic.

 “New York is all about the hustle, always being on the go and working. This is what makes me stand out in the South– my tone and constant work ethic.”

That  work ethic is what propelled Sammon to the South, after working for the high school sports section of the Long Island based newspaper, “Newsday.”

. “I first got a job offer for a local paper in Auburn, Alabama, to cover college football. College Football is huge in the South, so I figured it’d be a good place to go.” he said.

 After a year of working in Auburn, he moved to “The Clarion-Ledger” in Jackson, Mississippi, where he covered the college football team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

 “The Clarion-Ledger is the most circulated newspaper in Mississippi, so I was really in a place where my work was being recognized.” he said. “And I got to work directly with the players and coaches, so that was a cool experience.”

A few months after starting in Mississippi, another opportunity developed. “Last year, the sports news website “The Athletic” was becoming really popular, and a lot of people I knew we’re getting jobs there. And at the same time, the coach of the Bulldogs, Dan Mullen, told me he was going to begin coaching the Florida Gators.”

 Following Mullen to Florida led to what Sammon describes as the best job he’s ever had.

“Sports just makes for good storytelling. It allows you to tell stories that involve conflict, a winner, and a loser.” he said. “It brings great stories out of people. Sports is all about people, specifically the people playing the game, and they often have great stories to tell.”

A Career Inspired by a Hunger for Knowledge

By Megan Hein

Queens native Jano Tantongco (QC 2015) always had a profound curiosity about life,  which made  him try his hand at several different interests, including  photography and psychology. He eventually realized that journalism would not only allow, but actually encourage him, to use  these passions to explore his intense desire for enlightenment.

“One of the main things that drove me was an appetite for knowledge, an appetite for trying to understand things, people, and events around me,” Tantongco said.

He met me in the lobby of his workplace and guided me into his bright office space abundant with green plants, walls of books, and a view of the lower Manhattan skyline. Sporting an “It’s Lit” baseball cap, he described the  journey that led him to his current job as digital media producer for “The Moth.”

“The Moth” is a nonprofit group dedicated to authentic storytelling, allowing both celebrities and ordinary individuals to share their personal stories before live audiences. “The Moth”’s tagline, “true stories told live,”  sums up what the company is all about.

“The Moth” is a lot of things,” Tantongco said. “The Moth is, to you, whatever it is, depending on your point of contact.”

Tantongco’s primary responsibility as digital media producer is managing the organization’s social media accounts. This includes pulling quotes, video and audio from the live shows and packaging them in a way that will resonate with the online audience, basically unveiling “the story behind the story,” he explained.

He reminisced about the time he travelled to Missoula, Montana to attend one of “The Moth”’s  “mainstage” shows, which are curated events featuring five storytellers who develop their stories with the organization’s  directors. One storyteller, a police officer named Ross Jessup, shared an experience that deeply resonated with Tantongco.

During “the show’s rehearsal, “The Moth” team  noticed how the officer’s nervousness was  affecting his storytelling, and  provided some performance coaching. As a result, Jessup told the story the next day with heightened confidence and self- reflection.

“It was transformed,’ Tantongco said of the story. “He was transformed. To see that in person was really amazing.”

Tantongco started out as editor of “The Knight News” while studying at Queens College and doing wedding photography on the side. He went on to become one of two reporters at a small news organization, “The Long Islander,” and  moved on to work as online editor for “Long Island Wins,” a  nonprofit that advocates for immigrants.

A good friend of Tantongco’s, Steven Rengifo, recalled the time they spent together at Queens College. “He was a person who was very well rounded, and I knew that he was a really good writer,” he said. Now a professional photographer, Rengifo said they  helped each other advance in their respective crafts.

“I looked to Jano a lot, mimicking what he did when it came to photographing anything,” he said.

The combined  knowledge from  his early pursuits compelled Tantongco to seek somewhere that would allow him to advance his multimedia skills even further , and he eventually landed at “The Moth.”

“All the different skills that I had started to merge together and I just thought…  ‘maybe it is good that I took this weird, winding route because everything is blending together now,’” he said.

From Freelancer to Billboard’s Hip Hop Editor

By Shendy NgCen

Carl Lamarre was only 10 years old when he was inspired to become a writer by an animated television series called “Doug.”

“I used to always walk around with a journal…you might be too young for this… there was a show called “Doug” on Nickelodeon and he use to always walk around with a notebook…,” he said.

Lamarre now works as hip hop editor for “Billboard” magazine’s digital edition, an online  magazine about the music industry that publishes pieces involving news, video, style, and music..

He sat down next to me in Soon Deli and Grocery on Main St.  in Flushing on a recent morning.

Lamarre talked about how he began his career with the intention of writing about sports, freelancing for publications like “Dime,”  a basketball magazine.

“ I started doing this when I was 19,” he said,  “but even back then I wasn’t getting paid.”

He recognized his passion for writing early on, and was willing to pursue it at all cost. “…I was getting little to nothing. Maybe enough to just buy a sandwich in here, and a drink,” he said.

Lamarre’s story is an example of how pursuing one’s passion can lead to a career.

He took on multiple freelance jobs during his years at Howard University and later when he transferred to Queens College.

“I use to um, Professor McCarthy will tell you this, I don’t regret it!” he said with a laugh. “I just don’t know if I should say it on record, but no, I use to cut class!”

Instead, he would go and do interviews that would eventually land him a summer internship with “Vibe,” a magazine that predominantly features R&B and hip hop music.

After the internship he realized he wanted to pursue a career writing about music.

“I always loved music, but I never thought that music and journalism go hand in hand,” he said.

His career in music journalism began four years after he graduated from Queens College in 2013 as a media studies major.

Right afterwards he went to write for a  company he declined to name, and that he wasn’t too fond of, writing about topics he considered vulgar.  Then he got laid off.

“I was going to move into my first apartment, unemployed….”

Luckily, he was able to get a job at “Billboard” after contacting an editor from a previous freelance job.

“I was just having a conversation with my old editor…She gave me the email that said, ‘Hey, do you know any writers that would be interested in doing full time freelance for Billboard?’ And I said, ‘Uh, me, duh!’”

He was eventually promoted to be “Billboard”s hip-hop editor.

Jason Lipshutz,  his boss and the editorial director at “Billboard,” said of Lamarre, “He loves hip-hop music, appreciates the culture… One of the reasons why he is the perfect hip-hop ambassador at “Billboard” is because of his inherent passion… ”

Lamarre now spends his days at the magazine’s office on Broadway, writing about celebrities he gets to interview. Asked  who was his favorite interview subject, he compared it to “trying to pick a favorite kid”.

But after a moment of silence, he said, “I would probably say…Nipsey Hussle,” He turned away, looking toward New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, before continuing. “He passed away back in March. I would say that only because it was real intimate. We had dinner at Del Frisco’s and we sat there for two hours…”

Lamarre hopes to keep on writing high-quality pieces like  Nipsey Hussle on the Genius of Master P, Upcoming Joint Album With YG & Being the ‘Tupac of His Generation’” that appeared in February, 2018.

He gives much of the credit for his success to his editors, “You can’t be sensitive. You have to be open to edits and criticism.”

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