Joel Schwartzberg, '90
Q. What are you currently working on?
Several things at once. I am the director of digital strategy for Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers' new show premiering in January 2012. I also spend time working on my second book of essays, various freelance writing assignments, a horror screenplay, and teaching a public speaking course for Mediabistro.com. I’m also raising five cats; it helps that, like me, they’re generally nocturnal. I have been known to sleep and eat. People can keep up with me at www.joelschwartzberg.net.
Q. Could you describe one person, experience, or series of events at Emerson that shifted the course of your career and that illustrates one of Emerson’s core attributes of creativity, collaboration, risk taking, and excellence?
Forensics was a huge part of my Emerson experience. I won the National Championship in After-Dinner Speaking as an Emerson senior, and I credit my forensic skills for much of my professional ascension. But more so, being on the Emerson team allowed me to challenge myself, develop leadership skills, super-size my ambition, and tap my potential. And I’ve never ever had more fun.
Q. Is there an example of how a classmate aided you with your career?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as career help, but I think often about David DiNisco ’89 (digital compositor), who served as executive producer for an Emerson–produced public affairs TV show called Inside Out. Even on a campus where you couldn’t throw a Red Sox cap without hitting a TV genius, he was particularly admired. I wanted to be the show’s host, but was way too young-looking for the part (this didn’t help my dating life much either). David was impressed with my audition—my writing in particular—and encouraged me to do more scripting and producing. So I took his generous counsel to heart, and eventually served as associate producer on an episode about public schools. He was the first person whose assessment made me feel like I actually had some talent, and jump-started my self-esteem as a writer and producer.
Q. Are you professionally connected to other Emersonians?
Being involved in media, I run into Emersonians from time to time. One standout is Marj Kleinman ’92. We both worked in kids’ digital media sites for several years. When I was the executive producer of TIME For Kids Online, we brought Marj on to produce a big AOL homework help project. She was recently hired as senior producer, children’s interactive programming at WNET.ORG. When I was interviewing for my last job, as director of new media for NOW on PBS, the first person I spoke to was Richard Byrne, the head of PR and an Emerson MFA grad. It definitely helped to have that in common.
Q. What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to Emerson students?
I encourage creative students to test-drive any and all campus media that seem like a good channel for their creative impulses. At Emerson, there are so many opportunities to produce; there’s little excuse for sitting in your dorm room thinking, “Someday I’d like to...” Also, consider forensics—the training is invaluable. And eat breakfast regularly.
I also counsel college students to find the intersection of “what you love” and “what you do really well”—that’s where you ideally want to be earning your living, particularly for Emerson-type personalities.