Leah Cooper ’02 on Fashion Journalism
Did the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism prepare you for life as a freelance writer?
I don't think anything can prepare you for the freelance life! Constantly writing pitches and reaching out to editors is very challenging, and I'm also someone who prefers an office setting to working from home (or a coffee shop!). However, I got an amazing education at Columbia, and that is certainly very helpful. No surprises yet, but I'm sure some are on the way.
What has been your favorite assignment?
When I was at Columbia I wrote a story about a young designer named Samantha Black who'd worked with Harlem's Fashion Row (HFR) - an organization that promotes diversity in the fashion industry. I was really impressed with Black's Sammy B label as well as HFR's mission. At the time they were both relatively under the radar, but in the year since I wrote that story, they've garnered a lot of recognition and continue to do great work. It was a pleasure learning about Black and HFR early on, and it's been even more fun seeing all the success that’s come their way.
In the age of the Internet, are there more opportunities for writers or fewer?
There are more opportunities in the sense that the Internet offers an unlimited amount of space; anyone can start a blog and virtually all print publications have an editorial website as well. However, there are fewer opportunities to do traditional reporting and long-form writing because newspaper and magazine staffs are much smaller than they once were.
What advice do you have for a young writer who’s just arrived in NYC?
I have three pieces of very cliché advice. One, don’t give up. This is an extremely tough profession and an even tougher city. Rejection (lots of it in most cases) is inevitable. If that deters you, it will
be extremely hard to succeed. Two, work on perfecting your craft. Write and read as much as possible and really immerse yourself in the world that interests you - whether it’s fashion, politics, sports or something else. Three, take advantage of living in NYC. It’s an amazing city filled with so many fun things to do and interesting people to meet. There’s no place like it.
What’s your dream job?
I have several. I’d love to be a reporter for the New York Times Style section or a fashion editor at New York Magazine. I’m a huge fan of women’s magazines, so being a senior editor at a major glossy would be amazing, too.