#MediaMonday – Geri Koeppel
Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Geri Koeppel, a veteran journalist who just moved back to Arizona and is currently writing for Times Media Group and The New Times.
How did you get your start in the media? What is your story?
My first foray into the media was at age 16 when two friends and I started an underground newspaper called The Scum, covering everything from injustices at our local high school to political commentary to profiles of local record stores. One friend typeset it on his 1980s Radio Shack computer, my dad ran off 300 copies on the Xerox machine at his office and I passed it out in the hallways at school. It became a local sensation; all the local TV news channels did segments on us and articles were written about us in several local newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press. I think that explains a lot about me.
From there, I began writing for my local hometown newspaper, the Clarkston News, providing dispatches about events going on at the high school. My first paid media job at age 18 was at a legal newspaper, where I manually recorded all the court cases filed the previous week, rewrote press releases and got a few bylines. While in college and graduate school at Wayne State University, I wrote restaurant and film reviews for the Metro Times independent weekly in Detroit.
In my 20s, I was an editor at a reference publishing company for a few years before moving to Phoenix in 1998, where I jumped right into freelancing for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Magazine. In 2001, I was hired as a features writer at the East Valley Tribune when it was still a daily paper, and from 2003-06 worked at the Republic as the East Valley “things to do” reporter and part-time copy editor.
Since then, I’ve mainly freelanced, though for a couple years in downtown San Francisco I ran my own hyperlocal news site, the Barbary Coast News, which was subsumed by the online news startup Hoodline. There, I covered business, crime, politics, entertainment — basically, anything and everything happening in the heart of San Francisco. I used to walk an average of six to seven miles a day covering my beat.
My husband, Eric, and I moved back to our home in Ahwatukee in July 2022, and I started freelancing for local publications here again about a year ago.
Tell us about your outlet and types of story pitches you want?
I mainly write for the Times Publications’ East Valley weekly papers and for Phoenix New Times’ food and drink and arts and culture sections.
For the Times, I generally do profiles of newly opened businesses of all stripes—not only food and drink—and event previews. Please pitch anything having to do with a new business opening or an upcoming event in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert or Mesa. The Times doesn’t have a presence in Tempe; sorry.
For Phoenix New Times, pitch almost anything having to do with food and drink, arts, culture, events, or anything that has a tie-in with pop culture, the arts and more. You never know what might spark an idea.
However, the New Times is more likely to accept pitches that are more edgy, less mainstream. For example, they look for articles on cool new independent businesses offering something fun and events that are new or different.
Here are my usual responsibilities or food and drink: I write profiles of upcoming and newly opened restaurants and bars (generally not additional locations of existing concepts), “First Taste” mini-reviews on new restaurants (again, not new locations of existing ones in the market), roundups (things like lists of local breweries with great food), profiles of people in the F&B industry and features on anything interesting with a food or drink angle.
Here’s what I’ve sold lately to arts and culture: Business profiles on local entrepreneurs with a cultural bent; events stories that reveal something fresh about a holiday or its tradition;, arts openings that offer something unique.
With few exceptions, my editors aren’t crazy about covering national chains or businesses, unless they’re new to our market. We aren’t going to reply to pitches about the new menu items at a national pizza chain.
I can’t get back to everyone on all pitches, but I do appreciate them all
Where did you grow up?
I grew up about an hour north of Detroit in a boring suburb, but as soon as I could drive, I was in the city all the time at punk shows, and I lived in and around downtown Detroit from age 20 to 30.
Favorite type of music?
Classic rock. The Rolling Stones were my first musical love, and I was lucky enough to see them in London pre-pandemic.
Turquoise blue, so I think I was destined to live in the Southwest.
Favorite TV shows or movies?
I’m a huge TV fan, and this is a golden age now with all the series to stream, but at the moment, I’m into Resident Alien, Only Murders in the Building and The Morning Show. I also highly recommend After Life, and not just because of the quirky newsroom staff.
Favorite local restaurants or other haunts?
Since we’ve been back, standout restaurants I’ve tried include The Collins Small Batch Kitchen, The Farish House, Restaurant Progress, Sottise and The Uncommon. Caveat: I still have a huge “wish list” I’m working on!
For everyday meals and takeout, Ahwatukee and Chandler are blessed with a variety of incredible Asian mom-and-pop places, including AZ Pho & Grill, Chennai Fusion Grill (for Indian; also, this is the one with the fun robot server), Origami Ramen Bar, Taste of Thai and the new Gogi for Korean and more.
For artisan cheeses, wines and dessert, Tracy Dempsey Originals is my go-to.
Three things readers would be surprised to know about you?
- I have a master’s degree in communications with a concentration in feminist film theory, which has been as useful as it sounds.
- I never liked or drank beer until I was in my 40s. (I am making up for it now.)
- Cherries are my kryptonite; I despise them and call them La Fruta del Diablo.