This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Beatrice Forman, COL ’22
This summer, I spent a lot of time doing internet research, which is just a funny way of saying my 9-to-5 involved scouring TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram for pitches. As an editorial intern with Vox.com’s The Goods, I wrote feature-length articles about the nebulous — but potent — connection between social media trends and consumerism.
Vox’s digital-first environment provided a lot of flexibility and autonomy, allowing me to operate as a full-time staff writer from day one. And though initially intimidating, the ability to tackle major stories and conduct interviews with powerbrokers in the social media space proved invaluable. Mere weeks into my internship, I had crafted a niche at the intersection of social media, labor, and racial justice, where I got to combine my love of frivolous memes with my desire to incubate change. My articles discussed everything from portrayals of toxic productivity on TikTok and romantic comedies to breaking news of the #BlackTikTokStrike and a wave of copyright registrations for trending dances.
This opportunity to report was generously funded by Career Services, and though their grant covered living expenses, it also served a big purpose. My Career Services funding set the backdrop for me to tackle my imposter syndrome.
As the first Latinx Editor-in-Chief of Penn’s arts and culture magazine and the longest-serving diversity chair of our student newspaper, I am painfully aware of how lucky I am to exist in an industry that has long upheld white privilege. Only 5.0% of The Washington Post’s reporters identify as Hispanic, with that percentage falling to a measly 3.8% for leadership positions. At the New York Times, Latinx reporters make up only 7% of the newsroom, and the majority of them report on immigration, labor, and poverty, constantly emphasizing the trauma of their communities and not much else. Simply put, I perpetually worry about the future, about my ability to outwork institutional barriers, and about whether or not my writing reinforces long-standing ethnic stereotypes.
This summer, I got to write narratives of BIPOC success and tastemaking, all while achieving many of the goals I thought used to be pipedreams. In July, I appeared on an episode of NPR’s flagship current events program to discuss my reporting on influencer burnout and productivity as a whole. My first media appearance, it built my self confidence. I realized that my writing stood on its own and established me as an expert (even if I don’t feel like one most days), and I’m tremendously grateful to both my editors for encouraging me to lean into opportunities instead of hiding behind the term “intern” and the inexperience it used to confer.
All that to say, I leave Vox with a plan for the future. I hope to become an internet culture journalist post-graduation and report on the creator economy with the same rigor and intention reserved for more well-established industries. If there’s one thing Vox taught me, it’s that culture is, of course, serious, but writing about it is seriously fun. I learned how to deal with hostile sources while compiling a list of plastic surgeons for an exposé on Brazilian butt-lifts and how to parse complicated financial documents while determining how much influencers get paid for brand deals. And while those learning experiences may be a bit unorthodox, I wouldn’t have had them any other way.