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Editor uses her own magazine to launch entertainment media career

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Shirley Halperin, editor of news for the Hollywood Reporter and music editor for Billboard.

By Harper Lundgren
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Taking her own route to success, Shirley Halperin, news director at The Hollywood Reporter and music editor at Billboard, found her niche in journalism right away.

Halperin attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick as a history major on a 4 1/2 year plan and started her career without graduating. She worked for the school paper and began her own entertainment blog called Smug. Finding her love for music, Halperin turned her blog into a magazine and ran it for five years.

She’s been blogging and writing since she left college. She spent time writing for Idol Tracker, an entertainment blog, and for Us Weekly in her career.

But her love for history put her in the news room, Halperin said. She’s intrigued by  the way people handle life now compared to how they have in the past. And breaking news gives her a competitive rush. In college, Halperin also found a love for theater and music. With all of these passions, she took her future into her own hands.

“I totally went the opposite way and started as an entrepreneur for my own magazine,” Halperin said, “and then went to work for a mainstream magazine.”

Being an editor of her own publication was just the beginning of her career. Her success took her to publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and Wenner Media. Now, she splits her time between Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. She also has written a book called “Top Line” that focuses on the journalism behind the entertainment.

“Time flies when you’re stressing out,” Halperin said. She starts her day at 7:00 a.m. with a meeting in New York. Then she’s checking her 100 to 200 emails. Her priorities include finding pieces, editing stories, setting up layouts and the overall design of the magazine. Living in New York creates a non-stop day, especially when The Hollywood Reporter isn’t exactly a daily commute. Never stopping is the lifestyle she prefers.

Her world revolves around the music industry. Legal cases, money, who goes to what concert and news are what she curates for her publications. “It’s a really big business that’s shifting right now,” Halperin said about the entertainment industry.

Being deeply involved and talking with musicians is just one of the many perks of her job.

Her passions are clear. “I am kind of a newshound, and I like breaking news and being competitive with really established publications like The New York Times; I love playing in the big leagues, the music industry and what a screwed up place it is,”she said.

When asked about the challenges, Halperin hardly hesitated. “Working in print is very challenging; it’s a different time. The production world doesn’t jive with the digital world,” Halperin said. She has a hard time getting the digital people to cooperate with the print people and vice versa. Print and digital run on different clocks. As an editor, she needs to make sure the publication is running smoothly.

Halperin’s advice for future entertainment lovers is to spend time on the journalism side of things. Halperin often refers to how the world of journalism as shifting, not only with a move to digital but with ethics. Her main concern lies with how “wild westing,” a term she used to refer to bloggers who are appearing too often in publications. She believes there is a time and place for everything. Knowing the rules of the newsroom should be a main concern.

“Really learn proper journalism, what’s right and wrong, what the rules are and good ethics,” Halperin said. Even though she didn’t finish school, she values the ethics lessons she learned while there. “It’s a bit of a dying breed but still needed.”

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