Profile by Kayla Seymour
Black Coffee and Journalism: A Conversation with Pat Kernan
Pat Kernan: a man who enjoys tea more than coffee but drinks more coffee, black. You can catch Pat Kernan Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday writing the obituaries, or “obits,” for the Times Leader. The Times Leader is the local newspaper of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. On average, he edits fifteen obits a day. The funeral home will send Pat the obituary, and he will edit the grammar and polish it up into “newspaper style.” Pat did the math, and if he continues on this luxurious path of writing fifteen obits a day for a typical five day work week, he will be at four thousand a year.
On the weekends, Pat is on the hunt for a good story. He will listen to the police scanner, and if he hears a possible headline,he will go to the scene and get what information he can from the cops and the surrounding people. For an aspiring journalist, this directness may seem intimidating. Yet Pat says to “not be afraid of hearing ‘no.’ You’re going to hear it a lot. Just find other people. When a journalist loses that fear of rejection, he or she will get better at reporting.”
Pat got his start in journalism before he even graduated Marywood University in 2016 with his degrees (yes, degrees!) in both English and Communication Arts. The former Editor-in-Chief of the Times Leader visited one of Pat’s journalism classes and saw possibility in Pat. Originally, Pat was just supposed to be an intern for the Times Leader, but they ended up hiring him. Along with this golden career path, Pat also works for the Weekender. The Weekender is the local, free magazine for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. For the Weekender, Pat interviews local musicians. Pat would like to work with artists in the future and work in the field of music journalism. Are you curious about his favorite band? Right now, Death Grips.
Although Pat’s career is budding, it still has its challenging aspects. Pat explains that sometimes his job gets “depressing, because obviously obituaries,” and sometimes the news is not always good. Pat looks at me with solemn eyes: “Kids get shot…the challenge is disassociating yourself from it. The reporter is not a part of the situation; they’re just there for the story.”
In other news, Pat is currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson created gonzo journalism. Gonzo journalism is a form of journalism in which the reporter becomes a part of the story. Rolling Stone sent Thompson on an assignment to cover drag racing. Thompson took a smothering amount of drugs and recorded everything he saw.
For the future journalists of Marywood University (or any other institution), Pat gives some advice. English and Journalism (or Communications) are a great combination of degrees for this career path. Pat explains that a journalist is a “historian working in today. A journalist is writing today’s stories to talk about.” This is a big role to fill! So, being well-rounded is important.
Pat also emphasizes something iPhone screens and televisions of today try to distract us from—getting involved. Every group you are in is something to put on a resume. What matters on a resume more than grades, especially in communications, is what the applicant did (clubs, events, volunteering, et cetera.) Pat explains that what got him the job at the Times Leader was all the work he put into the Wood Word (Marywood’s school newspaper.)
Furthermore, Pat gives Marywood his warmest regards. Marywood has prepared him to not only be a better writer, but also a fine-eyed researcher. He advises student writers to “find as many sources as possible.” For example, finding twenty sound resources is much better than finding the required amount of three. This sort of technique follows Pat when he is finding a story for the Times Leader: “When I’m out I’ll ask as many people as I can.” By doing this, Pat has a bulk amount of information to work with. This allows him to weed out the best information and, thus, write the better story.
Thanks to Marywood, Pat explains how all the professors in the English department left fingerprints on who he is today as a journalist.
“Dr. Brassard really tightened up my writing. Dr. Bittel and Dr. Sadlack helped me with finding the best research. Dr. Conlogue helped me read more critically. Dr. Wotanis helped with her background in hands-on journalism.”
In the abyss of April, with many student obligations coming up, it was refreshing talking to Pat, especially talking to him about his greatest personal accomplishment: “My greatest personal accomplishment is actually getting paid for what I want to do now. For example, writing for the Wood Word was one thing, but making money for my writing is another. I’m happy that I can pay rent and eat just based on writing.” Pat then goes on to explain that it is better to worry more about the bigger picture. “Do not worry about the paper, but worry about the class,” he explains, “Worry about things as a whole, and figure out what’s important based on that. Worry more about the experience than the grade.”