Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Colleen Sparks, Editor of the North Central News.
Colleen Sparks and I have known each other for several years. We had a chance to catch up at the annual Society of Professional Journalists summer mixer, just days into her new gig as editor at North Central News.
A perfect opportunity to be a #MediaMonday feature.
Tell us how you got your start in writing?
I have always loved writing from the time I was a little girl. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Cardwell, said she thought I was good at writing. I wrote for our high school newspaper and later became one of its features editors. I loved being able to interview people and share their stories, as well as learn about things I wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to as a high school student. In college, as soon as I took my first reporting class at Michigan State University, I was hooked and knew I wanted to pursue a career in journalism.
Tell us how you came to start working in the Valley media scene?
I started my career at a community newspaper in Lapeer, Mich., near Flint, and then spent about a year as a reporter at a community newspaper in the Chicago area. When I moved to Arizona to be in a warmer climate and near family members, I got a job as a reporter at a newspaper in Sedona. After about two years I was ready to move on and I landed a position in public relations with an audio manufacturer in Phoenix. Once I moved to the Valley, I started freelancing for the East Valley Tribune, covering anything they needed help with on nights and weekends. After moving to Tucson, where I lived for a little over three years working at the Arizona Daily Star, I moved back to the Valley when I started working at The Arizona Republic.
And how did you come to the North Central News?
I was working as the managing editor at SanTan Sun News, when Teri Carnicelli, who was the editor for many years at the North Central News, contacted me to tell me she was relocating to California. She is a long-time friend I have known through SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) and she encouraged me to apply for the editing position. I have lived in North Central Phoenix for several years and I love the area! Also I was excited about the prospect of having even more creative control over a publication as the editor and substantially cutting down my commute time to work so I applied for the job and here I am!
Tell us about the outlet and types of story pitches you want?
The North Central News is a hyperlocal, monthly newspaper that provides comprehensive coverage of North Central Phoenix (the area roughly between 19th Avenue on the west, 44th Street on the east, Indian School Road on the south and Thunderbird Road on the north). It covers everything from hard news topics including redevelopment, the light rail and elections to non-profit organizations making a difference in the community and schools providing innovative new programs for students in grades K-12. The circulation is about 22,000 copies mailed directly to homes and businesses in North Central, as well as 5,000 copies distributed from racks in the area. North Central News has a great website that we frequently update with the latest news and fresh photos at northcentralnews.net.
Where did you grow up?
East Lansing, Mich., (home of Michigan State University! Go Spartans!)
Favorite type of music?
I love classic rock including The Beatles, U2, David Bowie, Duran Duran, The Eagles, Journey, Eric Clapton, Depeche Mode and New Order. I’m always listening to KSLX and I’m a music nerd, who knows lots of fun facts about the lyrics to songs and personal lives of rock stars!
Favorite TV shows or movies?
“The Big Bang Theory,” “Younger,” “Southern Charm,” “Below Deck,” “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” and “Real Housewives of New York City” on TV and some of my favorite movies are “The Graduate,” “It’s Complicated,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “All the President’s Men,” “Legally Blonde” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
Favorite local restaurants or other haunts?
Carlos O'Brien's, Greektown, Armadillo Grill, Spinato’s Pizzeria, Pita Jungle, The Human Bean, Black Cat Coffeehouse, Half Price Books, Symphony Hall, the YMCA and anywhere I get to spend time with my niece and nephew!
Least favorite food?
Three things readers would be surprised to know about you?
1.) I took dance classes for many years, starting at age 8. I have taken classes in ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, New York hustle, Argentine tango and even belly dance! I love to watch and do just about any type of dance.
2.) I collect pigs (figurines and other knickknacks, not real ones!) Friends and family members have bought me adorable little crystal, wood, clay and silver pigs over the years and I have an oven mitt with flying pigs on it. I can’t start the new year without a great, new pig calendar!
3.) Several years ago I performed in a local, indie movie, playing a nerdy secretary in a sci-fi/comedy. I had never taken an acting class or performed in a play or movie, but just wanted to try it so I responded to an ad and went to audition for the part. It was a lot of fun and I met some really cool people but it never made it to the big screen! Needless to say, Hollywood has not called!
What is the lead time you need for content or pitches?
It’s never too soon to pitch a story. Having said that, at least a month ahead of time is great. Typically our drop-dead deadline to have copy is the 15th of the month prior to the issue it will run in, so Sept. 15 for our October issue, etc.
What should (and shouldn’t) people be pitching to you?
They should pitch stories that are about people, businesses, events and organizations in our boundaries in North Central Phoenix that would be interesting to diverse readers in the community. If it’s something your neighbor is talking about, it’s probably something we would publish. They should not pitch stories that have no connection to North Central or that do not have a good, timely news angle.
What is the best way to reach you?
By email: email@example.com.