Name: Andaiye Taylor, founder and editor, “Brick City Live”
Why you should know about her: In 2013, Taylor began her hyperlocal news website, Brick City Live in her native Newark. The goal, she said, is to “try to cover some of the more positive things that happen in town, or cover things that are more problematic in a thoughtful way.”
Her story: Taylor, 32, is a fourth-generation Newarker, whose great-grandmother moved to the city from the South in the 1950s. She and her mother moved during her middle- school years to Hillside, and she went to high school at Newark Academy in Livingston as part of the NJ SEEDs scholarship program. But her grandmother remained in Newark, and Taylor spent much of her time at her South Ward home. In 2005, after finishing college at University of Pennsylvania, she came back to Newark and has lived there ever since.
A newshound: Taylor’s interest in news and journalism started when she was in high school, a byproduct of watching the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal unfold on television. “For total ‘reality TV’ reasons, I started watching C-Span,” she said. But having always had an interest in government and politics, the interest went beyond the scandal. She recalls regularly watching “Meet the Press” (“I became a huge Tim Russert fan. He was like my uncle,” she jokes) and became a “newshound.”
Finding an opportunity: She didn’t initially plan on pursuing a journalism career. After college she worked in online advertising. “I always looked at journalism and wasn’t really sure how to make inroads. It seemed like this impenetrable thing.” But in 2008, with the economy starting to slow and the future of the news industry in disarray, she suddenly saw opportunity. “When the sky started falling on the news industry, it created an opening for an upstart like me, that hadn’t really had a lot of experience,” she said. “As everybody was running out of the building I was rushing in,” she added.
Taylor applied to Columbia University’s journalism master’s program and attended part-time from 2010 to 2012. A big part of the curriculum was to cover a local beat; hers was Newark. “Just by doing the job and doing the reporting, I started to uncover all these characters and storylines that weren’t being covered elsewhere,” she said.
Rejections lead to success: “I never planned to start a local journalism site.” Instead, she started pitching stories to local publications, but kept getting rejections. “I had a pile of story pitches and half-finished stories, and I looked at that pile and saw a website.” She started the site in 2013, and though she initially left her full-time job to do it, she now runs the site and holds down a day job as content manager for a New York City tech firm.
On a changing Newark: Taylor remembers first moving to the downtown area. “There was one local bar where we would all hang out … If you didn’t have groceries on a Sunday you were stranded… Now in seven years, there has been so much change. We have Whole Foods opening across the way from me now. There’s a lot more energy; there’s a lot more excitement about what’s happening.”
In the neighborhoods: At the same time, Taylor sees that the pace of change downtown has not affected all of Newark’s neighborhoods equally. But she is hopeful that more attention is being paid to other parts of Newark. “There’s more attention to the neighborhoods … People are being invited to contemplate what the neighborhoods would look like.”
Her favorite story: On Valentine’s Day, “Brick City Live” did a story on five “power couples” in Newark.
“I thought it would be a great thing to do because there are so many everyday people in Newark who are doing awesome things,” she said. “People here, we don’t typically get this treatment. Giving some spotlight in a nice lifestyle-y way with everyday people who are doing great things.”
On working where you live: Taylor believes her roots allow her to cover her community in a singular way. “Not only am I from here, but I have access to a diverse group of people who experience Newark in different ways. I’m able to tell stories that are surprising to people.” She says she’s pleased to be part of a greater community of Newark bloggers, and prides herself on constantly trying new things on her site using social media and other tools.
Family: Taylor is full of praise for her mother, who also lives in Newark and celebrates her every victory. “She’s been the biggest supporter,” Taylor said. “She’s proxy for my audience often. I use her a lot to figure out what is news and what questions she is asking.”