Brianna Holt writes to create change within the journalism industry | Alumni Q&A - Where Are They Now?
Brianna Holt has always loved telling stories and talking to different people. When deciding what to study in college, she chose journalism for the wide breadth of possibilities it allowed her to pursue.
“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be on-air, a writer, or work in the film industry,” Holt said. “But I knew that journalism could ultimately open the door to any of my interests.”
Holt is a 26-year-old author and freelance culture writer working in New York City and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 with a double major in journalism and communication studies. From her own column, Active Voice, through Medium’s GEN publication to being a contributor on retainer with The Guardian, Holt is an experienced freelancer and has worked as a reporter and editor at major news publications, including Verizon Media, Quartz and Buzzfeed. She is also the author of the novel “In Our Shoes,” a collection of essays which analyze the ludicrous standards Black millennial women are expected to live up to, set to debut in March 2023.
Holt’s passion for telling underrepresented stories is evident in the content she writes about: from music and cultural analysis’ to social issues and change.
Brianna Holt Q&A
What did you learn at the University of Texas at Austin Journalism School that helped you get to where you are today? I learned how to report and built connections with professors who have continued to mentor me throughout my career. I've always had strong social skills, so interviewing subjects was something I already felt comfortable with prior to JSchool, but my professors taught me which questions to ask, which questions to avoid and how to turn audio from an interview into a thought-provoking story.
Can you describe a typical day in your professional life? My days are pretty simple -- I'm either interviewing someone for an article or my book, writing an article or writing my book, or attending a pitch meeting for something I'm pitching. The luxury of being freelance is making my own schedule.
What is the greatest challenge you have encountered in the field and what has it taught you? Being a Black journalist, writer, or reporter is a challenge in itself. We are the least likely to be employed by a newsroom, and exist largely as freelancers without salary and benefits. Oftentimes our pitches are turned down until a white editor/publication finds it to be important, and this is a big reason why I pursued writing a book. I was struggling to find a non-contract, full-time job at a reputable publication yet was always tapped by the same publications to contribute as a freelancer. So now I'm writing a book about it. I found a way to turn my frustration into work that will benefit other Black women, hopefully create change in my industry, and simultaneously pay me.
What advice would you give to current journalism students? Start freelance writing in college. The sooner you can get clips, the better. By the time you graduate, you could already have written for the publication you hope to work at.
Bucket list item: To sell a screenplay (which I think my agent could very much make possible for me in the future)