Sheena Foster ’04 Loves the Thrill of the Scoop
Life & Style Weekly editor Sheena Foster calls the exhilarating kick journalists feel when they learn something before the rest of the world gets the story “an adrenaline rush.”
“It’s the thrill of the kill. That thrill of having information first and putting it out there, and then knowing people are going to talk about it—that’s awesome,” she said. “When something breaks, I can turn around a story in under an hour.”
Life & Style is a New Jersey-based weekly publication that keeps readers nationwide informed about entertainment news, pop culture issues and lifestyle trends. Foster handles the “Inside Hollywood” and “Hollywood Heartbeat” sections, and she and her team of designers, photo editors, reporters and news editors deliver interesting and—she stresses—accurate stories.
“We have eyes and ears everywhere, and it shows in our news coverage. Over the past few years, the tabloids have broken a lot of major stories,” she said. “We use multiple sources on especially sensitive stories, and check in with publicists to corroborate the information. Then our legal team goes through each story with a fine-tooth comb.”
With the rise of citizen journalism, where everyone has a keyboard and a camera on a cellphone, some media pundits say print magazines are a dying art. Foster disagrees.
“There are still legs in the tabloid world,” she says. “For the most part, our sales are due to impulse buying. Plus, we offer great stories. As long as people are reading Life & Style, we’ll keep putting it out. There’s still a healthy appetite for juicy celebrity news.”
While an honors student at Lynn with a full 16-credit course load, Foster secured a job at Star Magazine, where she wrote “Edge,” a column featuring celebrity interviews and high-tech gadget and beauty reviews.
“I was 17, maybe 18 years old, probably one of the youngest people to ever say that they had their page in a national magazine. And I was interviewing celebrities and demoing beauty products, and I had this byline. It was like a paid internship on steroids,” she says with a laugh. “While my classmates were busy doing their homework, I was crashing parties and reporting from red carpets.”
She calls Matt Damon “one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed,” while Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase, Entourage) was “cocky and didn’t want to answer my questions. And I once missed interviewing Lindsey Lohan by a few minutes. I’m sure that would’ve been interesting.”
At Lynn, Foster was also editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, e-Pulse. After graduating cum laude with her journalism degree with a minor in criminology, she didn’t waste any time in rolling up her sleeves. After graduation, The National Association of Black Journalists broke tradition by honoring her with not just one but two postgraduate internships with The Tampa Tribune and The Island Packet (Hilton Head, South Carolina). From there, she worked as a reporter and an anchor at television stations in Panama City, Florida, and in her native New York City. Later, she decided to get back to her entertainment roots, writing for Essence.com before joining Life & Style in 2010.
“I still appear on-air as a celebrity talking head,” Foster adds, “so I advise anyone who enters the vast field of journalism to be fearless. Focus less on having a rigid and linear career and let your gut be your guide. You never know when you will call upon those old skills again.”
She credits her success to her “incredible professors” like Jim Brosemer and Myles Ludwig. “Professor Brosemer was a super-caring professor who saw my talent and encouraged me to go into broadcasting. Professor Ludwig was my Journalism 101 professor, and we would talk every day. I was so inspired by him. He’s such an incredible writer, reporter and editor. He was my first introduction on how to really profile someone and to paint the picture of a person with words. And that has never left me.”
Before Foster heads off to the daily 10 a.m. editorial meeting to go over stories, she offers Lynn journalism students some advice: “Be fearless and pursue your dreams. Go out there and focus on doing what you love. Work from a place of passion and a place of service, and you’ll do well. And remember—at the end of the day, we do it for our readers.”