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Read His Work:

Justin Curto

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I’m on my way to coffee with the senior music editor of People — i.e., the person with my dream job — on the Friday of week eight of my ASME internship there, and she asks me what my favorite experience has been so far. It takes me a minute to jog my memory of celebrity interviews, late closing nights and red carpets before I tell her it was probably the hot Saturday of Pride weekend when I sat next to Drag Race legend Alyssa Edwards, in full drag herself, as she opened up about her life and career for 15 short minutes.

 

We have a great talk about her career and her advice for a young music journalist that morning. Then, later in the day, she calls me over to her desk, and proceeds to invite me on a reporting trip with her to Camp Mariah, the career-oriented summer camp that Mariah Carey sponsors for low-income middle-schoolers. She asks it like it’s even a question: “Would you want to go?” It takes me no time to say yes.

 

The day of the trip, we take a car 60 miles upstate in the pouring rain to Fishkill, New York. It clears up once we get there, thankfully, and we spend the evening taking in the scene as Mariah arrives to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the camp. I interview campers and counselors about what the camp’s done for them while my editor talks with a special guest, ballerina Misty Copeland, and awaits an interview with Mariah. I don’t get home until 1 a.m., and when I get into the office the next day, the work isn’t over — my editor is gone on vacation now, and she’s tasked me with transcribing our interviews and prepping the story for print and digital. Once it’s all over, I have a new answer to that question she asked me on our way to coffee.

 

I’ve dreamed about an ASME internship at People for easily over a year, since my magazine editing professor told me as a sophomore that I should apply to the program. And while some parts have been exactly as I’ve expected, I couldn’t have prepared myself for just how much I’d get to do in just one summer.

 

After I got a brief primer, I fact-checked a print story on my first day, which also happened to be closing day for the weekly magazine. Things only got busier from there. I covered music, movies and TV news online, including Taylor Swift’s new music and summer blockbusters like The Lion King and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I reported on red carpets for events like the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and the opening night of Moulin Rouge! on Broadway. I interviewed a whole slew of celebrities: from big names like Julianne Moore, Andy Cohen and Karamo Brown, to personal icons like Edwards, comedian Julio Torres and Anastasia Surmava from Below Deck: Mediterranean. I fact-checked features and packages like the “100 Reasons to Love America,” “The Ultimate Guide to Sending Your Kids to College” and “50 Companies That Care.”

 

OK, I sorted lots of books and transcribed my share of interviews too, but that let me develop relationships with editors who I know I’ll stay in touch with for years to come. That and coffee chats, of course — preferably in the Starbucks Reserve connected to Meredith’s amazing New York office.

 

And as the summer went on, I realized I’m really into what People does. I’ve known for a while now that I want to be an entertainment journalist, covering music and culture in some form or another. I’ve pursued it throughout my college career at Northwestern by writing and editing for student website NorthbyNorthwestern.com, interning at 435 Magazine in my hometown of Kansas City (and later coming on as their freelance calendar editor) and freelancing for publications like Billboard, the Chicago Reader and The Outline. But as someone who’s previously written features about alternative rock radio and the archives of an experimental composer, I never thought I’d get so invested in covering celebrities personal lives — until I actually tried it. Now, I just might be hooked.