New memoir shines a light on local newsrooms
Several of Joangel Concepcion’s old colleagues deleted her from their social media accounts after the release of her television newsroom memoir, Dropping the Mic: My Break-Up with the American Media (Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., 2017).
She wasn’t at all surprised that people from the news stations she worked at were none too pleased with her revelations about their toxic work environments and cut-throat reporting tactics.
Concepcion, who grew up in Miami, spent two of four years in television news in Rochester, reporting for WHEC News10NBC, and the other two at stations in Texas. Dropping the Mic details the highs and lows of being a television reporter in the current climate of profit-driven news, workplace racism, and office politics that permeates the country.
“Media jobs are inherently stressful, due in large part to tight deadlines. But what’s disappointing is when (mostly) well-intentioned reporters and producers have to do a substandard job because of factors they cannot control,” says Rob Czyzewicz, executive producer and cofounder of 20/20 Visual Media in Philadelphia.
Concepcion had to deal with outdated technology, poor management, dog-eat-dog competition between colleagues vying for stories and air time, and racist attitudes.
Rebecca Aguilar, an award-winning journalist and founder of Wise Latinas Linked, has been a reporter since 1981. She wholeheartedly agrees that working in the fast-paced world of TV news is extremely difficult and can wear down even those with the thickest skin. During her many years as a reporter she has also dealt with bullies and racism, not to mention poor treatment from what she referred to as the “white boys club,” who spent weekends golfing, playing cards, and smoking cigars with the boss. “It is hard for a female to penetrate that,” she says.
The stress of working in such high-pressure and unhealthy TV stations led Concepcion to leave the news industry in 2014 to reestablish both her physical and emotional well-being.
“I felt unhealthy externally and internally. I developed a stutter that I never had before … I used to never let things sink down to my inner core,” she writes.
But Concepcion wasn’t going to let her mic drop signal defeat. She knew her experiences could inform and educate other reporters, students, and viewers.
It took her just six short months to write the initial manuscript of Dropping the Mic.
Concepcion’s memoir impressed veteran journalist and resident scholar in media at St. John Fisher College and professor emeritus of communication at Monroe Community College Tom Proietti. He tells (585) magazine that “she is truly one of the best and the brightest I have ever met. She is penetrating in her thinking and so very hard working.”
Dropping the Mic is a down-to-earth, real-talk look at the other side of the camera. Concepcion approaches the subject with honesty and eye-opening personal stories about her dedication to telling tough stories and the obstacles she faced while doing so. Her writing is accessible and humorous, and the book is a must read for anyone interested in what goes into serving up TV news in the era of the twenty-four-hour news cycle.
Proietti thinks that Dropping the Mic would be a great addition to college journalism courses. He says that the book is “so informative about several sides of the news business that most students might never anticipate and most classrooms might only casually mention.”
When asked if she misses being a TV reporter, Concepcion laughs and gives an emphatic “no.” She is proud of the stories she reported on, including her coverage of the Ebola outbreak, the Sandy Hook tragedy, and conflict along the US-Mexico border. But she couldn’t continue to work in stations that weren’t willing to support their reporters in their mission to bring important stories to the general public.
“We need curious, ambitious journalists. The current toxic climate isn’t allowing them to thrive. Journalism is in danger, and our democracy is at stake here,” says Concepcion.
These days Concepcion is living in Washington, D.C., and working on her first screenplay. She is still a self-proclaimed “news junkie” who encourages everyone to stay informed and demand quality news coverage from TV and print news outlets.
When asked if it stings that she has lost some social media followers as a result of the revelations in her book, she says with complete surety, “I’m totally fine with that.”
Christine Green is a freelance writer who lives on the Erie Canal in Brockport with her family.