By Luke Torrance
For Matthew Ackerman, his work this summer with the Pacific Coast Business Times will mark his first foray into professional journalism. But Ackerman has already been telling stories for years.
“Storytelling is what I’ve always been focused on, and my past internships allowed me to do that in a different way,” Ackerman said. “Music is storytelling, theater is storytelling, it allows me to exercise that in a different kind of way outside the classroom.”
He has also had plenty of chances both in and outside of his classes at Lafayette College, where he recently finished his junior year as a double major in English and Policy Studies. Ackerman, a native of Hillsboro, N.J., said a class about covering concerts and music journalism was what sparked his interest in journalism.
“I discovered that it was something I enjoyed, that chasing down the story aspect,” he said. “I realized it was something that energized me.”
So far, much of his journalism work has been done in-class. In the professional world, he previously worked as a conference and events intern for the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton, N.J. During his time there, he drafted press releases and blog entries along with other duties. Ackerman also served as an internal communications extern for Disney for a few months, but said he felt the work was getting too far away from the storytelling he loved.
“That’s why this year I went to Santa Barbara and spent a week with (the Pacific Coast Business Times) and had a wonderful time,” he said. “That is how I came across the Dow Jones News Fund.”
Outside of writing, Ackerman mentioned that he also saw music and theater as forms of storytelling, and he dedicates significant time to both. He does various percussion—but specializes in mallets—for the concert and swing bands at his college. He has also been involved in several theater productions, mostly as an actor. During his past school year, however, he moved to the director’s chair when he directed the musical “9 to 5,” an adaption of the 1980 movie starring Dolly Parton. Ackerman compared handling the different demands on the director to a juggling act but said he could handle it.
“If you’re someone who is a good manager, it’s very fun,” he said. “It gives me energy.”
When discussing his extracurricular activities, Ackerman spoke with almost breathless enthusiasm. His advisor at Lafayette, English professor Megan Fernandes, said Ackerman brought this passion to every project he tackled.
“I think for him, it’s almost unethical to go to class not having given 200 percent,” she said. “He would be a huge asset to any organization. Any time he steps into a room, he is ready to engage.”
Perhaps due to spending much of his time making noise, Ackerman said that he would like to explore podcasting and his ideal job would be to work for National Public Radio in Washington. He added that he would also like to work for the New Yorker magazine.
“I know those are prestigious organizations, but I cross my fingers,” Ackerman said with a laugh.