Stephanie Schwartz | Media & Information Gatherer & Producer | Journalist, Critic, Blogger & All-Around Media Maven
I Like to Know.
I work in communications because I like to know.

I am an information seeker. I work in communications because that is who I am — I really, truly, want to know, and I find media fascinating, how and why and what stories we tell. Human nature doesn’t change, but the details do.

I like specifics, and the central question of my life is how.

Published Writing

I have been fortunate for my writing to be published in several places.

Most recently, I expanded my skillset working for an online publication that covered national politics, concentrating on researched stories that showed how politics mixed with society, identity, technology, and media.

For a year and a half, I was a pretty rare find — a full-time paid print journalist. My time at Pascack Valley Community Life, the largest weekly by page volume owned by North Jersey Media Group, was great experience and a lot of fun. I got to cover a variety of stories and really got to know a community. I could barely name a town in the Pascack Valley, despite living within twenty minutes of the area for fourteen years, when I started. Interesting people following their passions and doing good work can be found anywhere, and they can sometimes be found in your local paper.

Before that, I worked at The County Seat, named for its home base, Hackensack, Bergen County’s capitol.

Note: Unfortunately, many of the links to these stories are quickly becoming dead, as North Jersey Media apparently stops hosting stories once they reach past a certain timeframe. I realize that the photocopies are less easy to read than a webpage. I can send PDFs or Word documents of articles if requested.

The National Memo

Pascack Valley Community Life

  • Zelcowa

    Zelcowa

    Zelcowa is a non-profit that helps students further their education in Ghana and the United States. It was founded by a Westwood, NJ resident named Barbara Tobiassen. My interview with her lasted over three hours until we were kicked out, both of us with tears in our eyes. She is a remarkable woman. When she entered the Peace Corps in the early 2000s, she was sent to Ghana to teach math — which eventually led her to help revitalize the educational prospects of the children she met there. She now splits her time between the U.S. and Ghana, helping needy schoolchildren complete their education. This story was my only double truck and one of the longest I ever wrote.

  • Halloween Snowstorm

    Halloween Snowstorm

    Community Life’s version of breaking news. Before Hurricane Sandy, this was the most recent bad storm. For large events like this, we combine all our reporting into one story; my contributions are here and here.

  • DePiero’s Mall Development

    DePiero’s Mall Development

    DePiero’s is a local farm that has been shrinking over the past couple of decades as the owners have had to find ways to make a living. The land now houses a beloved country farm store, but the owners have recently sold land that will will likely turn into North Jersey’s first Wegman’s, a high-end supermarket and specialty store that is unrivaled, along with likely more shops. This article is at the beginning of the process, which is ongoing.

  • Redeveloping Downtown

    Redeveloping Downtown

    Development issues were a major topic in both towns that I covered, as Montvale and Woodcliff Lake used to be country-like and now have little undeveloped land. This story is another one in an ongoing series of redeveloping Broadway, the main thoroughfare in Woodcliff Lake. I’ve always bristled at the planner’s mention of Asheville, N.C., a city I’ve been to that Woodcliff Lake is nothing like and will never be, but I agree that the town should start to think in that direction.

  • Broadway Corridor

    Broadway Corridor

    When I left Community Life, I was sad to leave one story unfinished — although it is likely to stay unfinished for a very long time. Broadway is the main thoroughfare in the small town of Woodcliff Lake, and its decrepitude mars an otherwise very upscale area. Local politicians have been wanting to develop it for a while, but the area is problematic as it borders private land and has considerable environmental restrictions, including a state waterway protection. Woodcliff Lake had begun to take tentative steps toward developing the land, but any plans were very controversial and meetings were very fractured. This particular story made the cover and was quite memorable because of the raucous meeting it describes.

  • Governor’s Landing Doesn’t Surprise Police

    Governor’s Landing Doesn’t Surprise Police

    This is an example of an angle I took on a story that had already broke. This was breaking news — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a state helicopter to watch his son play a baseball game against St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, a town I covered. By the time I heard about the story, it was too late, and especially for a weekly, there was no point in covering a story that had already broke everywhere else.

  • Woodcliff Lake Election Q and As

    Woodcliff Lake Election Q and As

    For election season, I got to sit down with each candidate and grill them on their plans for fixing up the town they lived in. There was so much that could not be published, unfortunately, since due to space we only published two questions (or as you’ll see from the clip, two groups of related questions) with each candidate’s response. Locally, basically everyone is really passionate, and I find incumbents run again not because they love the power but because they want to see projects they started completed.

  • Woodcliff Lake Election Candidates Capsules

    Woodcliff Lake Election Candidates Capsules

    For all elections during my time at Community Life, we published biographical capsules of the candidates.

  • Woodcliff Lake Election Debate

    Woodcliff Lake Election Debate

    This was one of my favorite stories during my time at Community Life. The 2011 election was unexpectedly exciting — hectic, certainly — but I was able to do a little political analysis and commentary with this piece, since Woodcliff Lake actually hosted a debate between candidates. One of the perks of attending every meeting was that I could call it when I saw it — and I did.

  • Lauren Barbelet

    Lauren Barbelet

    I LOVE THIS WOMAN. Lauren Barbelet’s enthusiasm and energy is so inspiring, and that’s why she’s such a natural — and so beloved — as both a principal, and now, a superintendent.

  • Bruce Meisel

    Bruce Meisel

    Bruce Meisel is a high-powered businessman in the Pascack Valley, the CEO and President of Pascack Community Bank. He essentially revitalized Westwood, the town that headquarters the bank. I always thought it was interesting he majored in creative writing in college — proof that yes, sometimes liberal arts degrees lead to big bucks.

  • Josh Thomsen

    Josh Thomsen

    I got to learn a little about the high-end restaurant business from Josh Thomsen.

  • Jodie Levinson

    Jodie Levinson

    As arts and entertainment section lead, I interviewed a lot of local artists, musicians and actors, and anyone who landed a spot on television. Jodie Levinson is a New York City-based musician who released her debut album in December 2010. I joked at the time it was my shot at writing a Rolling Stone-like profile. Well, it’s hard to get to that level of detail when you only have an hour with the person, but Jodie was sweet, generous and lovely to talk to. And of course, she’s a fantastic singer.

  • Kathleen Gerard

    Kathleen Gerard

    I interviewed a number of people who had published books, but Kathleen Gerard was the only one who made me cry.

  • Rich and Mari Small

    Rich and Mari Small

    This couple, who ran a prostate cancer support group, were among many of the wonderful people I met during my time at Community Life. One of the things I love about journalism is that it gives me the opportunities to see things and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. This is the only Q&A with two people I did, and I loved that they mentioned technology and the library, where we met for the interview.

The County Seat

  • Teaneck Budget Cuts

    Teaneck Budget Cuts

    Like many schools around the country, Teaneck was having major budget issues. One of the decisions the board made was to cut the popular film program — filling the school cafeteria with angry students, teachers, parents and alums. This meeting lasted past midnight and was rough to witness.

  • Maywood Kindergarten Goes Half Day

    Maywood Kindergarten Goes Half Day

    Similarly, Maywood — a much smaller town than Teaneck — was forced to turn their kindergarten program into a half-day one, which seemed completely at-odds with society today. I am always shocked to read that full-time kindergarten is not mandated in most states and many districts do not offer it. I was lucky to attend full-time public kindergarten and cannot fathom that things have not changed in the over twenty years since then.

Academic Work

Academically, I am interested in a lot of the same things I write about recreationally. Media effects, especially in regard to television and the Internet. Identity and behavior. How and why things and people change. Technology and social and cultural effects. Fan culture and entertainment messaging. I relate all of this to communication practices, and how this helps or hinders. I am very interested in prosocial movements on both a macro and micro level as well.

I attended undergrad at Ramapo College of New Jersey, on the border of New York and New Jersey. After much soul-searching that now seems ridiculous in retrospect, I double majored in American Studies and Communication Arts, with a concentration in Media Studies. A lot of people thought this was a strange combination, but I wrote a lot about technology and communication in my American Studies classes and incorporated history and cultural studies in my communications work. They complimented each other well.

Years later, I decided to go to Elon University, in north-central North Carolina, to learn many media skills that I hadn’t picked up in the previous years. Funny enough, by this time my undergrad had revamped its communications program to include a version of what my master’s degree is in — Interactive Media — and it’s likely I would have majored in that had I been ten years younger.

Graduate

  • The Internet as a Motivational Tool

    The Internet as a Motivational Tool

    This is a literature review on how people use the Internet as a motivational tool. I am increasingly interested in positive technologies and prosocial movements, and this paper is a continuation of my study of identity and behavior in various Internet spaces and communities.

  • Vice Persona

    Vice Persona

    Who do you think is the optimal viewer of Vice.com? Well, I got to create my dream guy — or at least a guy who’s a regular reader of Vice. So yes, I know a couple of males who read the site (they did introduce me to it), and along with some research about the company, created Ryan.

  • Entertainment Education

    Entertainment Education

    One of the running themes in my recent work is the study of how people (and on a greater scale, society) make major changes in their lives. I married this idea with my love of media effects, especially with television, and came across entertainment education, the movement that weaves social messages into fictional television series. I focused my research on the developing world, and used the Kenyan series The Team as a case study. The research paper is available here, but we had to present an interactive component as part of the project, and I did a webpage, hosted on Tumblr, to encapsulate my main findings.

  • Comparing Patch and North Jersey

    Comparing Patch and North Jersey

    I was lucky enough to not have to worry about Patch.com while I worked at Community Life, as the hyperlocal website did not cover the towns I covered. However, Patch was always in the background, even though their coverage was spotty and mediocre at best. NorthJersey.com, the website that housed my weekly and the many other papers owned by our publisher, was a constant source of frustration for us employees, as we were on it daily yet found it difficult to use. I decided to do a comparison of these two sites for my Interactive Strategies class, finally giving me the opportunity to voice my opinions with research behind them.

  • The Reminder — Mobile Application Design

    The Reminder — Mobile Application Design

    Inspired by one of my college roommates, who always announced when it was time to take her birth control pill (7:30 pm, to be exact), I designed a mobile application that would help women remember when they needed to take their pills, as well as any symptoms, side effects and other relevant information regarding their periods. This is the interactive portion of the project, done in Flash, which showcases the design and functionality of the application. 

     

  • The Reminder — Mobile Application Design, Wireframe

    The Reminder — Mobile Application Design, Wireframe

    This shows the vertical wireframe design and explains the parameters and functionality of the application.

  • FarmCuba.org

    FarmCuba.org

    The flagship of the iMedia program is its Winter Term Fly-In, where students travel in small groups to a different country, usually in Latin America, and produce an interactive project for a non-profit or other do-good organization. I was incredibly fortunate to be chosen to go to Cuba, where I visited Organo`ponico Vivero Alamar, an organic farm outside of Havana. I enjoy food (I have finally admitted I am a foodie) and food, cooking and healthy eating are a hobby of mine, so it was a good fit. At the farm, I interviewed employees, the owners and locals, and was in charge of organizing the content and producing the written portions of the website, which is linked above.

  • Cuba article in The Pendulum

    Cuba article in The Pendulum

    I wrote an article for the school newspaper on Vivero Alamar, the farm I visited in Cuba.

  • Cuba Photography

    Cuba Photography

    Published photography in the cover story of Elon Magazine, spring 2013. My pictures are featured on the cover, and pages 22-27, which includes a brief excerpt of my experience there.

  • Picking Apples Flash Game

    Picking Apples Flash Game

    I was really proud of this project — a simple game in Flash — because I designed the graphics in Photoshop and was able to actually make this thing work! Done for my Producing Interactive Media class at Elon, otherwise known as the Flash class.

  • Self-Tracking: A Brief Exploration

    I knew I wanted to do a project on Quantified Self, the movement that uses monitoring technology to make behavioral changes. My professor suggested a Sunday Morning-style video feature, and I loved the idea because I had never done a a project like this before. Although I attended the local Quantified Self  meeting, that never made the cut — but it did lead me to John Martin, one of the subjects of the video, who has documented every day of his life since 2004 on his LiveJournal. In addition to John, the piece introduces two women who also use tracking to make positive changes in their lives.

  • Interactive Media: The Game

    Interactive Media: The Game

    It was Interactive Media: The Game that won me a spot to ConvergeSE, a “creative technology” conference filled with designers, developers and other funky tech people. Later, after much thought, I answered that this project was what I was most proud of in graduate school — because everything about this project I did myself, and I was the only solo contestant to participate, let alone win.

    I wish I could actually build this, and what I mean by that is not just technically, but actually get a game like this off the ground. This is a marketing tool used to promote Elon University’s MA in interactive media. It’s a simulation game, where players would have to get through a particular segment of time in school, gaining competency points that would somewhat resemble real skills learned in the program while balancing other demands of school and life.

    I presented this vision to a panel of iMedia professors.

  • Clearing House

    Clearing House

    I, along with several other students, redesigned the website for a real business, Clearing House  in Charlotte, North Carolina. I reformatted the content, did the javascript for the items page, and did the map feature for the visit page, as well as work on other features.

  • iWrite

    iWrite

    Yes, this is me — or was me, in the spring of 2013, when I was selected among all students attending Elon University to represent the college’s new writing program. This was a huge poster hanging in the library. The link takes you to my page on Elon’s website, with links to some of my writing — most of which isn’t reproduced here.

  • Isabella Canon Center

    Isabella Canon Center

    Redesigned the homepage for the international center at Elon. This design is housed on the imedia.365 homepage, which features student work from our class. I was part of the imedia365 development team and helped coordinate and organize content.

Undergraduate

  • Sex and the City: An Unfulfilled Fantasy

    Sex and the City: An Unfulfilled Fantasy

    My infamous Sex and the City paper. Done for my Television Audience & Analysis class, I used semiotics to dissect the two-part finale, “An American Girl in Paris.” Presented at that year’s Media Collisions exhibit, a showcase of communications students’ work, the paper made waves at the time because I boldly stated my thesis in the first sentence, and I frankly didn’t care about most of the criticism directed toward the show — that it was narcissistic, materialistic and unrealistic. All of those things are true, but they don’t matter to the fans of the show; it’s the emotion, the heart of the television series, that made the show connect so well with audiences. 

  • Evangelicals and the Rise of George W. Bush

    Evangelicals and the Rise of George W. Bush

    For my American Studies thesis, I chose to do an exploration of George Bush’s rise to the presidency. I am a very interdisciplinary thinker, and one of the things I love about the field is that you can explore many different fields through American concepts. In my American Studies classes, I tried to touch on a number of topics — literature, history, technology, class — and had yet to do a project around something involving politics. So for my thesis, I decided to meld politics with religion, another subject I hadn’t studied, and figure out why George W. Bush got elected. Bush was president throughout my high school and college years, and most people I knew did not care for him or his politics. Much of his background was completely foreign to us, adding to our mystification as to why he was elected. The red state-blue state culture war was also big at the time, and I always like to study contemporary culture.

  • Identity and Behavior in Social Media Spaces

    Identity and Behavior in Social Media Spaces

    In 2007, when this paper was written, academic literature on social media was scarce. I remember looking up “social media” on Wikipedia at the beginning of the semester and there was a short paragraph. Every few weeks I’d check again, and it grew longer and longer. This project capped off my communications major, and similarly to my American Idol paper, I undertook a survey of students on their practices involving the two biggest communications platforms at the time, Facebook (before the chat feature was instituted), and American Online Instant Messenger (AIM). This paper continues my exploration on identity and communications practices over the Internet, a topic I have continued to write on.

     

     

  • American Idol: Audience Reaction and Behaviors

    American Idol: Audience Reaction and Behaviors

    Although I rarely watched American Idol, I was persuaded to write a paper on the topic. My professor offered me the opportunity to expand either this paper or my Sex and the City one to present at the Eastern Communication Association, and I chose this one because I felt there was more to say. I traced why exactly the show was so explosively popular, as at the time it was the number one show on television and had been for quite some time, and connected it to fan engagement, surveying roughly 50 American Idol fans on their voting behaviors and their involvement with the program.

     

     

     

Personal Writing

I enjoy writing on many topics, often focusing on societal effects of technology and media criticism, although I dabble in feminism, food, education, entertainment and national news. The blog posts below are a sample of some of my work.

Contact

I love to hear from people. Don’t be scared, I will respond. Suggestions, criticism, curiosity, whatever… email me at mediasmaven [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks for downloading!

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