Monday, June 30, 2014

The Mideast Show: Kayvon Afshari (GSAS '12) and Serhan Ayhan (GSAS '13)

The Mideast Show with Kayvon Afshari is the first political satire all about the Middle East. We had a chance to sit down with creator, Kayvon Afshari (GSAS '12)  and head writer, Serhan Ayhan (GSAS '13) to talk with them about the show. Click here to listen or use the player below.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ken Albert's (ARTS '61) Vineyard in Vermont

Ken Albert (ARTS '61) began growing grapes in his back yard and now has a full-time, commercial scale grape growing and winemaking business. Shelburne Vineyard is located in Shelburne, Vermont and has produced award-winning wines such as their Marquette Reserve which recently won Gold- Best Red Wine of Show in the 2013 International Cold Climate Wine Competition. We had a chance to speak with Ken on the phone about his time at NYU and his journey in the wine business. Listen here or using the player below.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Featured Alumna: Mallory Carra (CAS '05)

What’s your journey been like since graduating from NYU? 

Oh my. I graduated in May 2005 - 9 years ago! - from CAS with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in history, as well as three years at the Washington Square News. Two weeks later, I moved to Raleigh North Carolina for an internship at The News and Observer, a newspaper that paid me $500 a week and gave me my own cell phone. Mind you, this was back when newspapers were doing very well. After that, I moved back to NYC (where I'm from) and looked for work, eventually deciding to take a job at a mid-sized newspaper in Tennessee, The Chattanooga Times Free Press. My college friends thought I was nuts to cross the Mason-Dixon (again) and used to joke that it was my study abroad experience, but my three years in Tennessee wound up being the most influential, eye-opening, and inspiring years of my 20s.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Aaron Sherman (CAS '06), Co-Founder and CEO of SevenFifty

SevenFifty was launched in 2012 by Aaron Sherman (CAS '06), Gianfranco Verga (Stern '06), and Neal Parikh as a way to bring together professional wine buyers and sellers online. We had an opportunity to ask Aaron about the company and his time at NYU.

What did you study while you were a student at NYU and was starting your own business something you were considering or did you start off on a different career path? 

I ended up taking a fairly focused set of courses, which was somewhat surprising given that my only goal when I first arrived was to get a broad liberal arts education. I ended up with an Italian major and an "almost" History major, a result of having become singularly focused on a career in the wine industry after graduating. My assumption was that I would eventually own and operate a restaurant in New York, so yes, I've alway considered being in an ownership role, but I couldn't have imagined it taking shape as it has.

Tell us about SevenFifty and how the idea came about? 

I and my two co-founders were all involved in some capacity or another at a local bar in the East Village, and the idea for SevenFifty evolved over a series of months as we complained out loud about why someone hadn't provided a good, modern, online platform for buyers and sellers in the alcohol industry. Gianfranco (also an NYU alum) and I, having worked in wine and spirits for nearly a decade each at that point, had a good sense of what problems and inefficiencies afflicted everyone in the industry. Our third partner, Neal, is a computer scientist and wine/spirits enthusiast, so was able to work with us to design and build a solid technology product.

How has SevenFifty changed the business model that was previously in place between buyer and seller? 

The average person's interaction with the beverage industry is via restaurants, bars, and retail shops, which are usually run very well, at least from the customer's perspective. The professional and wholesale side of things, however, is still very old-fashioned and inefficient. As one example, before SevenFifty, it might take a beverage director at a restaurant a (sometimes long) series of phone calls to even find out whether a given distributor carries a given product, whether it's available for purchase, what its current price is, or what the available volume discounts are. If a product switched distributors, that could result in the product simply being dropped from a restaurant's menu due to it being too much work to track it down again. You couldn't simply check to see what Napa Valley wines were available across the market. And so on. SevenFifty doesn't change the industry's business model, but it makes it all work much more efficiently. All the information above, and much more, is now accessible instantly online, which significantly streamlines the sales process and lets buyers and sellers each devote their time and attention on what they do best – build high quality beverage programs and educate professionals about their portfolio, respectively – instead of wasting a large amount of their time and money finding, sharing, and managing basic information about products in the market.

We have a number of Arts and Science Alumni who are producing wine. What is the process for someone who wants to start using SevenFifty to get their wine out there? 

We encourage any local wineries in NY state to reach out to us and make sure their products are available on the site for members of the trade, either direct from the winery or via their distributor. We understand that small wineries who are focused on making the best wines they can make might not have the time or resources to properly market their products. SevenFifty can help them get their brand out in front of the decision makers in the industry who move the needle on awareness of their brand in the market in a time and cost-sensitive way.

Do you have any other wine-related ideas/products that you are planning on introducing in the future? 

What we've done so far is exciting in part because it suggests many future opportunities to help beverage professionals throughout the industry. We think of SevenFifty as a core platform on which a number of future tools and products can be built.

Can you give us a few of your favorite go-to wines? 

My first true education in wine came while I was studying abroad at NYU's campus in Florence, Italy so I will always have a soft spot for Italian wines. The first "ah-ha" moment I had was with a bottle of Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino from the 2000 vintage – I'd recommend it to anyone fortunate enough to find a bottle on a wine list!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rob Brunner (GSAS '97), Senior Editor at Fast Company

Rob Brunner is a senior editor at Fast Company. He was previously an editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York magazine, GQ, The Awl, and Men's Journal, among other publications. He currently teaches at NYU at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. You can follow him on twitter @iamrobbrunner.

You've interviewed a number of people over the years. Do you have an interview that stands out in your mind as being one that you are most proud of? Did you ever have an interview that didn't go so well?


I’ve been lucky enough to interview a bunch of my musical heroes, whether it was driving around Northern California in Tom Waits’ Chevy Suburban, getting a guitar lesson from Richard Thompson (challenging for him, since I don’t play), or just chatting with Jay Z, Brian Wilson, Patti Smith, Pete Townshend and George Martin (not at the same time, unfortunately). One of my worst (or maybe best?) interview moments was when Jon Bon Jovi almost punched me. I had asked him a couple of semi-humorous (I thought) questions about the band’s then-recent collaborations with Britney Spears producer Max Martin and video director Wayne Isham, who, I lightheartedly pointed out, had just shot an ’N Sync video. Bon Jovi was not amused. “I’m going to beat the cluck out of you,” he said, only he didn’t say “cluck.” “It’s going to be easy,” he added with a scowl. But it turned out okay. After a moment he cooled down and the interview continued.

Tell us about your course at NYU, Reporting the Arts. How would you explain your teaching style?

It’s a broad look at pop-culture journalism with a heavy focus on writing assignments: reviews, Q&As, blog posts, profiles, trend stories, etc. We have a lot of fun (class projects sometimes involve going to the movies and interviewing musicians), but we take entertainment writing seriously and work quite hard. The class emphasizes practical, real-world skills—how to produce the kind of work that magazine and website editors are looking for right now.

What advice do you give to your students who are interested in going into journalism as a career? 

Just dive in: Write as much as possible about all sorts of different things. You can learn a lot from great teachers and editors, but experience is crucial. And read! Magazine profiles, criticism, novels, nonfiction books—it will all improve your writing, especially if you read closely and try to work out how the best stuff is put together. Good writers are usual avid, careful readers.

 Outside of the classroom you are a Senior Editor at Fast Company and What are your responsibilities in this role? 

Fast Company is a really exciting place to work (and not just because we recently won Magazine of the Year at the National Magazine Awards!). It’s a business magazine that focuses on innovation and creativity rather than finance. I edit features, both in the magazine and online, and work on various other parts of the magazine, including packages like the 100 Most Creative People in business. I also do some writing (in the current issue I interview Jerry Seinfeld and The Fault in Our Stars author John Green), and I still cover entertainment as a freelance writer. My work has most recently appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ and Rolling Stone.

What are your thoughts on social media? Have you found it to be a useful tool to interact with fans of Fast Company and even some of the people you have interviewed?

I’m a big fan of Twitter, which is a great way to interact with readers and other journalists. It’s also good for promoting your work, of course, but more important, it alerts you to all kinds of great writing that you might have missed otherwise. Anyone who thinks Twitter is dumb isn’t following the right people.

What are your thoughts on the future of magazine publishing? Do you think print magazines are doomed? 

I suspect print magazines will stick around. There’s something about flipping through those shiny pages that you just can’t replace. People love magazines and still read them in big numbers. But certainly there is a shift toward digital, and that isn’t a bad thing. There’s now so much great magazine-style writing out there—both in print and on the web—that it’s hard to keep up. My highly subjective, totally unsubstantiated sense is that people are more excited about longform journalism than they have been for quite some time. Channeling that enthusiasm into a sustainable business is an ongoing challenge, but I’m optimistic.

What are you currently watching? 

The same stuff everyone’s watching: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Good Wife. I’m a big fan of Louis C.K.’s Louie, which some people find off-putting because it’s about a comedian and takes the form of a sitcom but isn’t really a comedy. There’s nothing else like it on TV. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with Comedy Central’s iPad app. They’re now producing a ton of truly funny material: Stewart and Colbert, obviously, but also shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Broad City and Kroll Show.

What are you reading? 

I recently interviewed Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard for GQ, and I’m quite taken with his six-volume, 3,600-page autobiographical novel, My Struggle. I promise it’s better than that description makes it sound. My office is quite close to the Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca, and I spend way too much money there on international crime fiction. I’m now working my way through a stack of novels published by Soho Crime (currently one by Dutch writer Janwillem van de Wetering). And I’m excited to dig into The Essential Ellen Willis, a new collection put together by her daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz. I was a student in Ellen’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU, and her work has been a big source of inspiration.