Burning Questions with First Amendment Week Keynote Speaker Jon Lovett

Photo Credit: CAA

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Burning Questions with Jon Lovett – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

1. You’ve done a great deal in your life, and you’ve only just turned 30. What keeps your work ethic so strong?
I’ve had a few really lucky breaks. Getting to work for Hillary [Clinton], getting to work for President Obama, getting to write a TV show for NBC – these were very lucky breaks where I happened to be at the right place, at the right time. Other than that, it was two things: one, trying to be really honest about how much I had to learn and trying to really learn from people around me. … The other part was about knowing when to listen.

2. Is there something you haven’t done yet that you want to do?
I have no idea. I really try not to be a planner. I really try not to think too far ahead. I try to take things as they come. When you think of your life as a series of career choices, I think that’s a mistake. I think it’s much better to take the opportunities as they come … and also be ready to take a chance.

3. What do you think is the most valuable thing you’ve ever done?
I’m really proud of the number of speeches I had the chance to work on in the White House. There were moments where I had the chance to help influence important decisions, that being a speechwriter gave me the chance to make an argument that I’m really proud of. That experience – working at the White House – there’s nothing quite like it. There’s no experience like seeing the president deliver a set of remarks that you helped write and that you’re really proud of. Those were the times I felt like I made a real contribution.

4. What does the First Amendment mean to you personally?
It’s our great defense. It’s our great protection. There are a lot of places that don’t have that. They do have the right to elect their leaders, but they don’t have the same set of protections that we do. The First Amendment is our defender against the people who tell us that our ideas aren’t worth hearing, that our ideas are dangerous or that our religion is dangerous or that what we’re saying about power is dangerous. There have always been times in which really good ideas are considered unacceptable, but we’ve been protected by the fact that we have this amendment that says it doesn’t matter what everybody thinks.

5. What’s your reaction when people protest “First Amendment!” in cases that aren’t governmental, like when “Duck Dynasty”star Phil Robertson was suspended for homophobic comments in a GQ profile?
When people say, ‘Oh, they’re violating First Amendment rights,’ but it’s obviously not a First Amendment issue, it’s an inarticulate way of saying that they don’t like somebody being told not to say something. So obviously, that’s incorrect. There was no actual First Amendment issue in play. … But it is actually an important point. It’s obviously a point being made incorrectly, but it’s a really important point, that the freedom of speech doesn’t begin and end with the government. … In this particular case, what he said was pretty terrible. I understand both sides, and it obviously wasn’t a First Amendment issue. But that conversation playing out, of people having the right to say terrible things, at the same time, a conversation about what you’re saying is unacceptable is sort of how the culture changes. It’s how we decide how we change as a culture. … That’s a good thing.

6. You’ve spoken multiple times about bulls— in our culture. What makes this subject particularly compelling to you?
The culture is nothing new. I think it’s been around for a long time. We’re in this position where it’s almost like it’s been weaponized. Politicians have gotten very good at using that to figure out how to craft their message. Advertising companies have gotten very good at pushing the buttons of consumers. … Also, the Internet and social media and all the different ways we absorb the entertainment information now means that not only have companies gotten better at it, they’ve also gotten everywhere. An advertisement is no longer the back of the paper. It’s on your phone, it’s in your life – we’re surrounded by it. … I just think it’s an interesting time for people to try to tell the truth.

7. You’re really an active Twitter user – do you think having such a public, immediate forum for using our First Amendment right helps the cultural dialogue?
Yes, I do. I think Twitter has a downside. I think thoughts that come quickly aren’t always the best ones. We’ve all said things in conversation that we regret. Twitter is a way of saying things immediately, and that of course has some risk to it. At the same time, I think Twitter has been an incredibly positive force. It’s done really great things for people that didn’t previously have a voice, or a way of connecting with powerful interests that controlled newspapers and TV stations. They have a voice now, and they can reach those people. When there’s an important story, we don’t just read it now – we share it. And that sharing is powerful. People now can argue and debate with each other and make their best case … and, look, obviously, it’s a mess. It’s a big mess. But I think that conversation is really good. A lot of people make fun of Twitter and make fun of social media and say that it’s a bad influence on culture. But it’s amazing how often that comes from people that already have a platform, a way to reach out to people. … There are people who don’t have that. They have a chance to be part of that conversation. I think that it’s without a doubt, even with some negatives, a much better think for the culture.

8. With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games having just started in Sochi, where freedom of speech is not only unprotected, but is also particularly threatened, do you feel like this is a good time to be reflecting on our First Amendment rights?
There’s never a bad time to do that. I think you look at what’s happening, and you see journalistic institutions being shut down in Russia, and then you see all this corruption in the Olympics, and you see the crackdown on people, and you think, well, the freedom of speech is a great protector against corruption. And when you get rid of it, you very often find yourself not just in a country where people don’t have the right to speak – you find yourself in a country that’s fallen apart because there’s nobody holding the government accountable. We’re so lucky that we have this incredible tool of protecting ourselves and keeping our country on the right path.

Burning Questions with the outgoing Editor in Chief

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: 11 Burning Questions with the outgoing Editor in Chief – Los Angeles Loyolan.

1. What emotions are you feeling as you transition out of the Editor in Chief (EIC) role?
It’s bittersweet. That’s the word that I have been using to describe it. Nothing could be more true. It’s really nice to get the chance to enjoy the end of senior year, but I will really miss having this job.

2. What first drew you to apply for the position?
It was actually inspired by people telling me that I should think about it, and that really made me decide to go for it.

3. What are you proudest of from your tenure?
It’s hard, because there are so many things that I’m proud of. I’m really proud of the way that we have worked on our Web presence. I think that we have done a better job of being in tune with the campus by covering more and getting more of the breaking news. I’m proud of the ways that we have grown as a paper.

4. What is your biggest hope for the Loyolan in the coming year?
Really working on the Web and finding ways to keep the student body interested. It’s a new crop every year. A fourth of the school changes every year and it’s really important to think about that when you plan out what direction the paper should go in.

5. Which of your articles is your personal favorite?
I have two. My first would be my coverage of when The Loft stuff was going on my sophomore year, about not having a liquor license, because that was the first time I got really involved with a story (in the Feb. 24, 2011 article of the Loyolan titled “Loft adopts new procedures”). My other favorite was the piece that I wrote on addiction last year. It was a favorite in terms of getting to know those people, learning about it and getting to write about it feature style (in the March 29, 2012 article of the Loyolan titled “Addiction: roads to recovery”).

6. What are your post-graduation plans?
You know, I wish I had an answer. I know that Kenzie [O’Keefe], the 2011-12 Editor in Chief, did last year. My biggest goal is just to find something that I enjoy as much as I enjoy working here, and just being comfortable with it, whatever that might be. If anyone has any suggestions…

7. How do you plan on filling your time that used to be devoted to the Loyolan for the next couple months?
That’s a tough question. I’m going to try to really take advantage of my last semester here.

8. You are known in the office for your guilty television pleasures. Out of “Army Wives,” “Revenge” and “Chicago Fire,” which is your favorite and why?
To be honest, once First Amendment Week ended, I watched eight episodes of “Army Wives” in a row and I am just right back in it. It is so good.

9. You’re also known for your love of your cat, Charlie. What do you think Charlie would say about your tenure as EIC?
He would ask me if this meant that I was going back to Boston. He’s my best friend! We’ve been apart for four years, and it’s been hard.

10. You’ve gotten to travel a lot during your time at the Loyolan. What was your favorite trip and why?
That’s hard, because each trip has been great. I think that Chicago for the Loyolan was an incredible trip because it was a great chance to bond with staff members, expand journalism knowledge and experience really being in a city with a downtown and a subway.

11. Which film do you hope will win Best Picture at the Oscars this weekend?
Most of my favorite movies don’t get nominated. I’m not super passionate about any of them. I honestly probably like “Zero Dark Thirty” the most, and I’m biased because I love [screenwriter] Mark Boal because he came here, but I think that movie is a great example of what a movie should be. “Zero Dark Thirty” was great because it happened within our lifetimes and it is already filmed and it’s factual. “Argo” and “Silver Linings Playbook” were also great.

12. Describe what the Loyolan means to you in one sentence.

13. What is your funniest story from working at the Loyolan?
In a lot of ways the funniest ones are what was the worst. Like when the power went out and we literally couldn’t make a paper, or when the printer self-combusted. We once had to print stuff at the library and run it back, and I almost got my printer from my room. LMU has actually marked me as spam because I emailed everyone in ITS asking them to fix the broken printer after hours because I needed help. You know what? Someone called us and it got fixed, but until this day I cannot email someone without it possibly popping up as potential spam, so check your spam folders for me!

11 Burning Questions with an L.A. Times editor

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: 11 Burning Questions with an L.A. Times editor – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Photo Credit: John Corrigan

1) How did you first get involved at the L.A. Times?

I’ve been involved with the L.A. Times since 1999. I was hired as the night city editor and the business editor for the San Fernando Valley. I was a screenwriting major here at LMU, and when I graduated I couldn’t figure out how to become a screenwriter. So I ended up getting into a Master’s program at [CSU] Northridge in communications. From there, I managed to get an [unpaid] internship at the L.A. Times and some clips.

2) How did you transition from your old position as business editor to your current post?

The former [assistant managing editor] had left the organization. The editor, Davan Maharaj, approached me to take it over. I had been associated with some quality journalism projects – I edited our Wal-Mart series that won the Pulitzer in 2004. … [Maharaj] was aware of my arts background and thought it would be a good fit.

3) As assistant managing editor for arts & entertainment, what is your goal for the section?

My goal is to have the best arts & entertainment section in the country. We live in the entertainment capital of the world, and we have special access to filmmakers, to actors, to producers. What I want to have is both print and online content people really want to read that is useful, compelling [and] thought-provoking.

4) What do you think arts & entertainment can do that is special?

Especially in this era of the Internet and instant news, if you look at the hard news headlines, a lot of the time the stories on the front page or in the news sections people have some familiarity with. … Arts & entertainment has the unique position where most of the stories on our cover, people may not have a familiarity with.

5) How do you feel your work in business sections informs your current work?

In business in particular, you get a discipline of looking beyond what people say to [the] numbers and information. … When you are covering the showbusiness elements of the entertainment industry, it does force a certain mindset to try to find facts to go with the words — to look a little deeper and harder for information.

6) Do you feel your screenwriting major background makes you more drawn to film in arts & entertainment?

Screenwriting was really helpful [to me] in being a journalist. … When you’re writing about features or events, you have to think [about] storyline, the plot and characterization. When you’re writing about people, you want those people to come to life.

7) Did you write for the Loyolan back in your LMU days?

I did indeed. I remember covering Bobby Seale, the Black Panther who came to campus … that was on Page 1 of the Loyolan. And I believe my first assignment [was about how] at the time, people would park on campus and their windshields were leafleted with ads from a term paper research company.

8) We featured a debate (“How real is too real?” in the Sept. 20. Loyolan) about the photo of the Libyan ambassador that ran on the front page of the L.A. Times. Can you speak at all to the decision making behind that?

I really can’t. I was not directly involved in that decision.

9) You sit on the LMU Magazine advisory board. What do you do in that role?

We meet about four times a year to review the magazine and make suggestions. … One of the big audiences is alumni, and so I thought pictures of what’s going on on-campus now, that’s important – more stories to just bring you back to campus.

10) What do you hope to bring in your speech to the Loyolan staff? [Editor’s note: Corrigan spoke at the Loyolan’s staff meeting last Monday.]

To me, journalism is really a wonderful pursuit. … Years ago, reporting was very strict: not opinion … only a few people could be commentators or have opinions. Increasingly, though, with so much news out there … there is a chance for analytical writing, for opinion writing. … There’s something about writing that is strong.

11) If you boiled your life down to a headline, what do you think it would be?

“Making the most out of life.”

Spencer Sharpe

11 Burning Questions with a 2012 Olympic attendee

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: 11 Burning Questions with a 2012 Olympic attendee – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Spencer Sharpe

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis | The Los Angeles Loyolan

1. How did you get the opportunity to attend the Games?

I learned about a program at the London School of Economics and Political Science through one of my friends who actually was a graduating [LMU student and] Ignatian last year. … I then checked the dates and realized they lined up with the Olympics. So it was kind of an accident.

2. What events did you see?

I saw men’s volleyball. That’s the only thing I could get tickets to, actually, because they stopped selling tickets to Americans. … I was asking at an information booth, “I’m just looking for a ticket. I really don’t care what it is, any event.” And the guy next to me said, “I have some extra tickets, I’m not gonna be able to go to this event. I’ll sell them to you at the same price I paid for them.” And people were paying, like, five to 10 times the value of the ticket, so for 20 pounds, I said yes, and I got to go to the men’s volleyball match between Poland and Australia, and it was really cool. Most people weren’t rooting for a specific team, so every time a point was scored, the audience went crazy.

3. Who was your favorite Olympian this year?

It would have to be Michael Phelps. I still think he’s a god. I think he’s amazing in the fact that he can come back after four more years have gone by and still win gold against brand new athletes and younger athletes.

4. Has it been a goal of yours to go to the Olympics?

More of a dream. I’m originally from Iowa, so I never really thought it would be possible, because the Olympics aren’t coming to Iowa, ever. I never really imagined I’d get the opportunity, so this huge accident was kind of fulfilling one of my dreams.

5. Do you feel you can go back to watching the Olympics on TV after seeing them in person, or will it just not compare?

There’s no comparison anymore. I got the opportunity to watch the Olympics with a whole bunch of people from all around the world, because it was a very international school that I went to, so it was really exciting, watching it there in the city with those people.

6. Do you consider yourself more of a summer Olympics guy or do you prefer the winter Olympics?

I definitely like summer. There are more events I can watch that are more suspenseful. … My sister’s really into soccer, so my family’s a big soccer family, so we always watch those games. I really think the equestrian events are cool, the swimming is awesome, the diving is fun. [Spencer’s sister is LMU soccer team captain and senior Whitney Sharpe.]

7. What else did you do while in London?

I did a lot of cultural stuff, and I did a lot of nerdy stuff. I went to the British Museum, the British Library, and I got to see some of J.K. Rowling’s handwritten [pages] of the first Harry Potter ever, and the first ever drawing of the Shire from “The Hobbit.” The best thing to do … was the pubs you could go to, just because there were people from all around the world at every single pub that you went to, and it was just so international and such a world city at that time.

8. If you could compete in one Olympic event, which would you choose?

I would do the high dive, because I think that’s fascinating. I really think that being up that high and jumping would get my adrenaline rushing.

9. For freshmen reading the Loyolan for the first time, what advice do you have for them?

I’d say, really, if you’re trying to get a solid GPA, don’t take your first classes as a joke. Really focus on your coursework. … Don’t forget that you’re here for school.

10. What are you involved in on campus?

I am an Ignatian, and I’m working on starting a new organization on campus, but it doesn’t exist yet. It’ll be a policy-based organization. Our idea, me and a few other Ignatians, is that it [will focus on] issues that affect Los Angeles. So homelessness, economic issues, environmental issues. We’re going to find professors at LMU who study that issue and then what we’re going to do is with them, create a type of policy proposal or a solution to that problem. Just in a sense of hoping LMU students become more aware of issues that affect Los Angeles so we can offer real solutions. (online only)

11. What are your big hopes for LMU during in its 101st year?

I hope that LMU continues to create a great reputation. I feel like with our 100th year, more people were becoming aware of our University, because it’s mostly a regional school, I’d say. So I hope we continue projecting our image both nationally and internationally, so that eventually our school could be a little more recognized. … I just don’t think people take LMU as seriously as they should.

12. LMU’s LGBTSS is staging a presentation of the play “8,” about Proposition 8 and marriage equality, in early September. The decision has just started to get a little flack. Thoughts?

As someone who’s a bisexual individual, I really do care about this issue. … What I think the University should recognize, as I think they did by [allowing] this, that they have a wide range of students. Not every student is a Catholic or a Jesuit, so I think by LMU allowing it to go forth, in a sense it’s kind of addressing the fact that many different students go here, and they will support and bring awareness to every issue, even if it goes against religious affiliation. I hope that LMU does not cave to this outward pressure. … If they really stood their ground, that would be very respectable in a university, and as a bisexual, I would feel like my university supported me, and didn’t have a sense of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, just because it’s a Catholic university.

Nice Piece Production co-founders

LMU alumni video featured on Funny or Die website

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For orignal, please refer to: LMU alumni video featured on Funny or Die website – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Nice Piece Production co-founders

Photo Credit: Nice Piece Productions

For any LMU students who left “The Social Network” wanting more, two LMU alumni have created just the thing to quench your thirst. A trailer for the fake film “The Social Network 2” arrived online last month, with great feature spots on CollegeHumor [collegehumor.com] and Funny or Die [funnyordie.com]. The trailer takes a different view of Facebook, begging the question, “What would the world do without our favorite website?”

John Gasienica (‘10) and Bennet Silverman (‘09), talked with A&E Editor Kevin O’Keeffe this week about their production company, Nice Piece Productions, the trailer’s success and giving people a reason to procrastinate.

Kevin O’Keeffe (KO): How did the idea for “The Social Network 2” trailer first gestate?

Nice Piece Productions (NP): We have a few friends who spend an inordinate amount of time on [Facebook]. We were having a discussion about what these individuals would do without social networking and just kind of ran with the idea. A trailer seemed like the best medium to convey the concept, but we’re really the ones who should be made fun of. The shameless online self-promotion we’ve done for this video has made us both Facebook regulars.

KO: The video was partially shot on LMU’s campus – what drew you back to your alma mater to film?

NP: The underground tunnel connecting Rosecrans and Desmond suited a lot of our shooting needs. We’re also huge fans of LMU. Most of the cast and crew are LMU alums.

KO: How did you get your video featured on Funny or Die and CollegeHumor?

NP: This is now the fourth video we’ve done so we felt confident enough to send it around to some of the big websites like funnyordie.com. Right off the bat we got a feature from collegehumor.com, followed by techcrunch.com, which really launched “The Social Network 2” out into the digital world. Luckily, at Funny or Die, it got shown to a few of the people in charge and apparently they liked it. It was really a thrill to see Chasen Banks (an LMU ‘10 alumnus actor in “The Social Network 2”) on the front page of Funny or Die.

KO: How did your company, Nice Piece Productions, come into existence?

NP: We became friends at LMU … but it wasn’t until after we graduated and realized how annoying it was to work for a living that we started producing these shorts. Bennet [Silverman] had the directing and producing education from LMU whereas John [Gasienica] had the LMU business background and was working on his master’s in screenwriting over at USC. We both liked the idea of giving people a reason to procrastinate and making them laugh while they do it.

KO: What other projects does Nice Piece have in the pipeline?

NP: We have about three or four Nice Pieces in development right now that are almost ready to go into production. We hope to release the next one in mid-January.

To learn more about Silverman, Gasienica and Nice Piece Productions, visit their website at www.nicepieceproductions.com. You can also follow them on Twitter (@heynicepiece), and like the company on Facebook.