PolicyMic, meet Stephen Roper: He's a former teacher, a culture aficionado, and a native North Carolinian currently residing in California. Stephen is also our stellar pundit of the week, and eager to discuss his thoughts on movies, television and how PolicyMic can build upon its thriving community of culture pundits.
As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one exceptional PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member. This week's question is for culture editor Elena Sheppard.
Check out last week's Q&A with Medha Chandorkar.
About Stephen: He's a self-described Netflix addict who can’t wait for football season to start. Prior to California, Stephen lived in China for two years teaching English and writing for an English newspaper. Sports (mostly basketball), movies, and Richard Russo novels are his jam.
Caira Conner (CC): First things first, tell me about when and why you got involved with PolicyMic.
Stephen Roper (SR): Several friends had shared PolicyMic articles on Facebook, and one in particular was about a female gamer who got blasted for being the host of a video game show. It was something about nerds critiquing her gamer credentials or something. I hadn’t heard anything about it and thought it was a really interesting article, so I started checking PolicyMic out more and more until I saw the summer culture writing skillshare program. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to learn from people who share the same interests as me and I have not been proved wrong.
CC: What are the advantages to writing exclusively for the culture section on PolicyMic? Any ideas for ways our platform could better support niche culture writers?
SR: Well, an obvious advantage is that I have a somewhat legitimate reason to bury myself in television and movies, but having a set focus really increases the intensity of analysis and raises the potential for interesting insights into something people might not think too deeply about. We’re all bombarded with information about politics, sports, movies, and books, and I’m sure we all have opinions on them, but it can be hard to think of something useful or interesting to write about when you’ve got so many options.
Regarding improvements to the platform, I think it would be helpful to break the culture section down into more specific fields. Instead of having a piece about Dwight Howard right next to something about Mad Men or comic books, I think it’d be more efficient to further specify what type of culture the reader wants to be engaged with.
CC: What’s been the most surprising aspect of your user experience with PolicyMic?
SR: I have to say I’ve been most surprised by the support of the staff in their thoughtful critiques and genuine encouragement. I can only imagine how many pieces are read in a day, but I never feel short-changed with their comments. It’s really impressive and I know it’s a lot of hard work.
CC: You taught English in China for two years. If you were to do that again now, would PolicyMic be a good outlet to share your travel writing? Any suggestions for millennials who are thinking of going abroad and want a larger outlet for their work?
SR: It’s tough to say whether PolicyMic would be a good outlet for travel writing since, in my experiences, the stories you tell are more personal, like journal entries, and I don’t know how interested strangers would be in hearing about my zany afternoon classes. But PolicyMic would be an excellent opportunity since it’d force you to go beyond your initial experiences at, say, a karaoke bar, and think more critically about why they’re so popular in China.
For aspiring ex-pats looking to share their work, the first thing I’d say is to never go anywhere with the intention of writing about it. Go to experience it, because if you’re sitting there logging details you’re somewhat detaching yourself from all that’s going on and that defeats the point of traveling. I’d also say don’t be shy—if there’s an English newspaper in your area talk to them, see if they need a contributor. I found my groove as “The American in China” and offered reactions to things going on back home as well as in the city I lived, and I never would’ve had the opportunity to do so had I not stuck my neck out a little and asked around.
CC: Let’s go offline. What do you like to when you’re not PolicyMic-in’?
SR: Honestly, when I’m not PolicyMic-in’ it up, I like to do the things I’ll (hopefully) be PolicyMic-in' about. Summer is movies, fall is football and the return of television, winter is basketball, and spring is March Madness, (not a big fan of baseball, unfortunately). I also run, so there’s that. Oh, and books—always with the books.
CC: Your turn. What’s one question you have for a member of our staff?
SR: My question is for Elena Sheppard. As PolicyMic’s culture editor, I’m curious if you’re ever overwhelmed by the challenge of having to keep up with the numerous events- trends, shows, albums, movies- out there and how you decide, amidst all the content, what is culturally significant and/or worthy of a deeper discussion?
Elena Sheppard: It definitely can be overwhelming! There's a lot going on in this world of ours and I feel like I am constantly reading, watching, hearing about so many different interesting things and of course there's no way to cover all of it. I try to really keep a pulse on what people are talking about in real life, and anticipate the types of things they will be talking about next week (or next month), and designing content that mirrors the topics that I think people are interested in offline as well as on. Of course there are areas of the arts and entertainment world that I'm more interested in so I try to keep my personal biases in check (though they do shine through sometimes) to make sure that we keep our coverage as well rounded as possible. I also rely heavily on the amazing PolicyMic writers! They often have their toes in a world that I know very little about, and have great story ideas that I would never have come to on my own.
CC: Stephen, thank you for your input and sharing your perspectives. It's wonderful to have you writing for us!
For more news on Stephen, follow him on Twitter: @SmRoper20