Eric Harvey on Journalism and His Book

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Eric Harvey, former director of the Information Technology Associates Program (ITAP) and a current communications professor at Grand Valley State University, came to DePauw on Oct. 6 to promote his recently published book, “Who Got the Camera? A History of Rap and Reality.”

Harvey spent four years at DePauw from 2002 to 2006 and credits the institution for giving him the bridge from the professional world into higher education. 

“Being here was almost like undergrad… It really transformed my view of the world and my desire to get back into academia,” Harvey said. 

According to Harvey, the most pivotal moment in his career was when he started a blog about music and politics during his time at DePauw.

 “In the 2000s, it seemed like everybody had a blog but not everybody had blogs that were being read by enough people,” Harvey said. 

He added that having a blog helped him get hands-on experience with writing. 

“I fell in love with writing and researching and [thought], ‘you can do this for a job,’” Harvey said. 

Harvey said that a while after starting his blog, editors started reaching out to him because he produced written content that not many writers did at the time. As a result, he landed many writing jobs where he was asked to write opinion pieces. 

In 2008, Harvey got interested in the history of rap after taking a class about the history of African American music in graduate school and said, “It [the class] really opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

For that class, he wrote a paper in which he analyzed how music and news were evolving. 

“I was noticing a lot of parallels between [music] and what was happening with the news at the time, which was that the news was getting more entertaining… and rap was becoming more informational,” Harvey said. 

According to Harvey, he presented his paper at a music conference in 2014 and had it published in a quarterly magazine. Five years later, the same editor who published his paper asked him to turn the paper into a book. 

Harvey wrote a small portion of his book in the summer of 2019, but due to his busy schedule as a professor, it was hard for him to continue writing during the semester. Nonetheless, he still managed to make time. 

“I would wake up at five or six and sometimes wrote for three, four, or five hours,” Harvey said. 

Harvey’s book came out in October 2021, however, he was not able to do book readings or go on a book tour due to COVID-19. 

“I did a lot of stuff online such as Zoom presentations, which is fine. Other than that, there was not a whole lot of challenge [in terms of publishing the book],” Harvey said.

Harvey also shared some tips for aspiring journalists. In particular, he recommends figuring out what area of journalism one is interested in. 

“If you want to do reporting, like go out into the world and cover events, that requires a lot of institutional support. In that sense, I would recommend finding a newsroom and working your way up,” Harvey said. 

He also emphasized the importance of networking, getting to know editors, and learning how to pitch stories. 

“If you're not in a newsroom and you're not working for a publication, you're pitching stories around to see who picks something up,” Harvey said.

Harvey encourages young journalists to learn about different styles of reporting and storytelling by reading other writers’ content. 

“The other big thing is constantly reading other people's stuff, not just writing yourself, but finding people who write or report or do work that you think is good and worthwhile and then copying them,” Harvey said.