Welcome to our SPOTLIGHT feature, where we highlight a journalist and ProfNet user to share their personal story and insight with you.
This month, we caught up with Stacy Julien, a journalist and editor with nearly 20 years of experience working in newspapers, magazines and on the web, including BET Interactive, AOL BlackVoices and Clever Communications.
In her current role as executive online health editor for AARP, she provides web strategy for health content for AARP.org and serves as a point of contact for other AARP media platforms. She also recently launched CRUSH Fitness, a fitness and health destination for women of color ages 30+.
Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist, or did you start off doing something else?
I’ve wanted to be a journalist since high school. My first published story was a movie review for my high school newspaper. It was exciting to see my byline for the first time. I fell in love with the concept of sharing information with the public, being a part of an industry that tells people what’s going on in the world -- good, bad or ugly.
Where was your first professional job in journalism?
I got a job keeping the community calendar for my local newspaper, Prince George’s Journal. They weren’t hiring reporters at the time, so I took that job just to get in the door. Before long, I worked my way to the news desk as a general assignment reporter, then to covering county government. It was a great training ground for me.
What do you like most about what you do?
I love meeting fascinating people and finding how they do what they do and why. Because I’m passionate about health and fitness, I like sharing information that can help or inspire someone to make better, healthier choices about how they live.
How did you come up with the idea to launch CRUSH Fitness?
With all of the health information available online and on the newsstands, my partner and I saw a gap with the representation of women of color. We see women of color working out a lot on social media, but we didn’t see an authentic, well-done publication that spoke to them. We’re trying to be that destination. We’re literally a two-woman team with a small handful of writers! It’s hard work, but worth the effort. And I know it will pay off in time.
What type of stories do you look for, for AARP and CRUSH?
For AARP: great health-related stories aimed at the 50+ plus generation. We cover quite a bit, from brain health to nutrition to fitness to managing chronic pain. We like “surprising” information based on research.
For CRUSH: health, fitness and nutrition tips, workouts from certified trainers, stories that highlight women of color with awesome transformation stories, beauty and hair tips and recipes. We’re open to edgy topics that women 30+ can relate to.
What advice do you have for PR reps or for anyone who wants to pitch you a story?
Get to know the publication and really sift the stories that have been recently done. For AARP, I often get story ideas that aren’t fresh or that aren’t for our audience. Also, pitches about products can work from time to time, but often don’t.
What should they never do?
Pitch a product. Legally, we can’t write a story about one product.
How can someone in PR get to know you?
An introduction by email is sufficient. I would ask about future topics that we’re thinking about to help with their pitching.
What advice do you have for members who respond to ProfNet queries?
Stay on the pitch. When I’m on a deadline, I only want to read responses that will help me achieve my specific goal at that time.
What type of experts do you like to work with?
For CRUSH: nutritionists, fitness experts with specialties in strength training, yoga, cross-training, pregnant women, therapists or life coaches, food bloggers, medical doctors.
For AARP: experts in the areas of aging, caregiving, medicine, sleep, health and fitness, and nutrition.
How do use social media?
To promote the brand, stories, videos, quick tips. We also follow certain people on Instagram or Facebook to keep up with what’s happening or to get ideas.
Can you tell us about one of your most unforgettable experiences as a journalist?
Meeting Stevie Wonder is pretty high on the list, but I would say being on the launch team of BET.com in 2001 is most unforgettable. I was new to the web, and most of us were thrown into the fire. We worked long, ridiculous hours. But we built it from the ground up and watched it launch and grow. All of the team members have since moved on, but going through that experience is why we’re all very good friends and peers to this day.
Do you have advice for someone just starting their career in journalism?
Be nimble. Appreciate diversity. Network a lot, and don’t burn bridges. And if you don’t see the perfect job for you, figure out how you can create it on your own.
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