It was amidst puffs of smoke that permeated from a room where an interview between Phish and High Times Magazine had just occurred, that Shirley Halperin got her first big break.
“I was an entrepreneur, and I was willing to learn, and I decided I wanted to work for High Times Magazine,” said Halperin, a music editor for The Hollywood Reporter who spoke to students in the Great Hall for the Media Arts Department Speaker Series, Thursday, November 17.
Halperin has worked for a broad spectrum of publications since she joined the High Times staff in 1999, most notably, Us Weekly, Rolling Stone, and the Los Angeles Times.
As a music junkie with an affinity for popular music at an early age, Halperin said, “I knew every song, every band and devoured magazines.”
Halperin encouraged aspiring journalists to find their passions and truly engross themselves in whatever topic interests them the most to achieve success their field.
“Read!” Halperin advised. “And I mean read books, not just the Wikipedia page, don’t just try to fake it.”
While the Internet has changed the way people gather information, Halperin admits that the journalism world is much more different since she began working for print publications in the 90’s.
“The digital world is a 24/7 news cycle,” she said. “Today, the people who get a lot of web traffic and eyeballs on their writing are the ones who don’t stop. It’s not what I signed up for but it’s how it is.”
Another key to success in journalism that Halperin suggests is to be incredibly versatile.
“Every time you start working on a new magazine you have to write in their voice,” she said.
From covering teen sensations N*Sync while an editor for Bop magazine to touring with the Foo Fighters for Entertainment Weekly, Halperin has known how to switch gears in order to write for different audiences.
No matter what position Halperin was in, one thing that she always stayed true to is honesty.
“If you are writing a critical piece, be a critic,” said Halperin. “You have to find that balance, but you also have to let people respond to you… Just be honest, honestly.”
Today, along with her extensive resume of publications she has written for, Halperin has authored three books including: Pot Culture, Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide and the forthcoming American Idol: Celebrating 10 Years (The Official Backstage Pass).
For updates on her coverage of the music industry and a peak into her obsession with American Idol, you can follow Halperin on twitter at twitter.com/ShirleyHalperin.