We The Journalists: Nila Do
In celebration of National Diversity Month, which takes place every October, SPJ Florida is featuring a finalist of its 2013 Diversity Award.
Nila Do is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor of Gulfstream Media Group and its 10 magazines, which include Jupiter Magazine, The Palm Beacher, Boca Life and Gold Coast.
By Jason Parsley
She graduated from the University of Florida’s journalism college, and has helped her publication win 13 Florida Magazine Association Awards and a Society of Professional Journalist’s Sunshine State Award. She’s interviewed fashion designers (Tommy Hilfiger and Trina Turk), champion athletes (Anquan Boldin, Jozy Altidore and Ryan Hunter-Reay) and influential leaders (Ambassador Nancy Brinker). Over the years she’s been involved with several non-profits organizations including the Museum of Discovery and Science, South Florida JAZZ and Broward Public Library Foundation.
Follow Nila on Twitter.
SPJ Florida: What are your thoughts on diversity in the newsroom and diversity in coverage?
Nila Do: I’ve seen diversity soar by leaps and bounds since I first started working professionally. I feel employers are appreciating the cultural awareness, perspective and sensitivity that many minority journalists offer in their news coverage. Still, I look around in my office today and I see I am the only Asian-American employed full time, and I do hope there’s a time when that no longer is the case.
What’s one part of your job that most folks don’t realize you do?
That I am the managing editor for 10 total magazines (which all have separate digital versions), and part of that job also requires me to help with the marketing charge for all of them as well. I manage our social media, and in addition to that I help with several marketing efforts, such as creating launch parties and landing sponsorships for key community events.
Most frustrating part of your job now?
The most frustrating part would have to be working with others who might not have the same immediate sense of deadline that I do. Because I work on so many publications and tasks, my job is built on efficiency. Understandably, others might not grasp the workload and the self-imposed deadlines that I have. So sadly there’s a fundamental breakdown between me and several subjects on a consistent basis.
Hands down it would have to be the chance to create. Every month I start out with 140-some glossy blank pages that our talented team needs to fill. The chance to present stories in attractive, creative yet digestible ways to our readers – and collaborate with some highly creative teammates – is an opportunity I am thankful to have.
Hands down it would have to be speaking to Michael Jordan’s mom. I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls during the Jordan era, so I idolized #23. So recently, there was a far-fetched chance we could have featured MJ himself in our magazine. After calling several different contacts, I finally got the number for Michael Jordan’s mother. I took a deep breath, counted to 10, and dialed her number, thinking that she’d hang up on me like everyone else did. But surprisingly she didn’t. She talked to me for a solid 10 minutes, and it turned out she was a lovely woman. Too bad she wasn’t able to secure me an interview with her son, though!
About six years ago, I was getting pummeled and ridiculed by a stately and seasoned journalist whose career was capped off with a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. This journalist, who was probably three times my senior, berated me over and over again on my lack of skills and poor writing capabilities. Quite frankly, it felt like Ali getting nailed by Foreman’s heavy punches for four straight rounds. But in the long run, it toughened me up and made me a better editor and journalist. And, I felt like I won the sparring fight, culminating with a Best Feature Writing award for a story I later wrote.
Most amusing professional gaffe?
About five years ago I was interviewing the Bryan Brothers, twin professional tennis players, perhaps the best in our era, if not in history. They were in town for a tournament, and we had the chance to interview them in person. The two guys looked pretty much exactly alike. So, after interviewing one brother alone for about 5 minutes, I thought it was weird how his answers to my questions weren’t as lively as I had hoped. Then, it hit me. I got the two mixed up! I was interviewing one brother, who I thought was Bob Bryan, but indeed it was Mike Bryan! I was asking questions to this one brother that really had nothing to do with him, but instead his brother. After I realized my severe mistake, I switched gears quickly (and hopefully without it being obvious), and righted my ship’s course by asking Mike Bryan questions that were more inline with him.
Give us your weirdest dues-paying job in your career.
That might have to be cataloging and archiving our entire magazine’s history. I’ve only made a small dent in cataloguing the nearly 50-year history of our publications, but there’s nothing worse than data entry. At least I got to read about cool stories we did in the past while entering the info.
How have you incorporated or utilized social media in your job or at your company?
Both as a company and personally, I have really embraced the chance to share ideas and market ourselves via social media. I’ve learned that a lot of people actually get their news via social media. So the chance to grab someone’s attention within 140 characters is one that I think all media professionals should incorporate in their lives. I have become a Twitter junkie (follow me, @nilado), often tweeting about new restaurants, community events I’m invested in, or new journalism tips that I’m learning and trying.
One piece of advice you would give journalism students.
Listen. And care. During your interviews, your subjects can tell you so many details, so many nuances about their lives, their hardships and their successes. But you’ll never really get to the beauty of having an emotional and revealing interview if you don’t show that you care about what is being said. Interviews should be like conversations you have with your best friend. Your friends notice if you’re not paying attention and if you don’t care about what they are saying. So will your interview subjects. Put all of your heart into an interview, show your genuine compassion, and listen to what you are being told.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Even though I’m pretty well immersed in this digital age of journalism, I can’t stress enough how important I feel it is to pay your dues the old fashion way. No computer or machine will ever replace beautiful, poetic writing that is crafted and developed over years of practice. I can’t think of one robot who can conduct an interview better than a human being. And, there will never be a robotic replacement for “Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel – only worse.”
Visit NilaDo.com to learn more.
Throughout September, October and November, SPJ Florida will feature Q&As every Friday with Florida’s most prominent journalists. Want to see someone featured? Want to conduct your own Q&A? Want to join SPJ? Email us.
Jason Parsley is President of SPJ Florida. Follow him on Twitter.