Meet the 2018 SFJ Diversity Fellows: Brittany Britto & Janelle Harris

The Society for Features Journalism is happy to announce that Brittany Britto, @brittanybritto, and Janelle Harris, @thegirlcanwrite, are the 2018 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They will be joining us at our conference Sept. 12-15 in New Orleans (which you should also register for now!).

Here are some more things to know about them.

Brittany Britto

Britto

Brittany Britto is a general assignment features reporter and blogger for The Baltimore Sun, where she writes about culture, the arts, entertainment and viral news.

A proud Terp twice over, Brittany graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in creative writing, and a master’s in journalism from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

In her downtime, Brittany enjoys spending time with loved ones, hanging with the locals in foreign destinations, trying new foods, crying during episodes of “This is Us,” and hoarding various sized notebooks and journals.

Q: Tell us about your current work.

I am a general assignment features reporter at The Baltimore Sun, where I report on local arts, entertainment, and my favorite topic — culture.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

Working on the Baltimore Club Dance story turned into a fun, collaborative project that allowed me to work with Baltimore Sun photographers, editors and a talented interactive designer to take the written story to an experiential level with gifs, video, and a special layout. I also curated a playlist with the help of some of the Baltimore Club scene’s most pivotal figures and learned some dance moves along the way (TBD on my “crazy leg”). But most of all, I got to see why Baltimore is so proud and passionate about their culture. It also led to at least one other story, which we’ll release this summer.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

I interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates about which part of Baltimore he misses the most. It was pretty cool getting to talk to a storyteller who has had an impact on the city.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist?

The best advice I have for aspiring features journalists is to say “yes” and tackle as many stories as you possibly can early on. In my time as a reporter, I’ve been thrown into so many different stories on topics I know little about, which has taught me how to be more versatile and make stories more engaging. It has also allowed me to hone in on what I like to write about, which is the cultural expression and histories of marginalized communities.

I’d also say, don’t be afraid to spend time with sources, especially in-person. With deadlines, it can be hard to really take your time with certain interviews, but often, when it comes to features writing, I find putting in a little extra time allows a writer to paint a better picture for their readers (and sometimes, it earns the respect of the subject and puts them at ease).

Q: Favorite guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?
Overall, Twitter is probably my guiltiest pleasure. My timeline allows me to follow a bunch of different outlets and personalities to make sure I’m getting a mix of coverage, opinions and insight on what’s happening. “Moments” has also been a decent tool when checking social media’s temperature for the day. A not-so-guilty pleasure is O Magazine. It’s the perfect way to put my day on pause for a bit and get some much-needed positivity. And … Oprah, amirite?

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

“The Comfort Food Diaries,” by former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn. I love stories about family, food, travel and transformation, and so far, Nunn’s book has been a nice blend of all four. Plus, she includes recipes, so you can try your hand at what she’s making in the book.

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants—from hole-in-the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining—in your town?

When looking for some good Italian food and the best happy hour in Baltimore, my coworkers and I visit La Scala Ristorante, which boasts $7 bowls of homemade pasta and decadent espresso martinis. They also have bocce ball, which makes for a fun activity while waiting for your food or post-meal. If sharing and sampling is your thing, visit La Cuchara, a Basque restaurant, which has some pinxtos and other small plates, delicious cava, and mouthwatering churros.

Brunch at Blue Moon Cafe is bound to fill you up and excite your taste buds, with Cap’n Crunch french toast, a Frito pie french toast, and the “Sweet Baby Jesus,” a heap of hash browns, crab meat, eggs and hollandaise sauce, topped with Old Bay (Warning: might need help walking out of the restaurant after this).

If you’re not afraid to get a little dirty and dig in hands first, crack open some crabs and indulge in seafood at LP Steamers.

And don’t forget Baltimore’s carryout staples. Sunny’s Subs has one of the best chicken boxes in the city and also serves lake trout—a fried fish sandwich that has nothing to do with a lake, or trout, for that matter. Wash it all down with a half-and-half, a sugary mix of sweet tea and lemonade. I’ve learned, it’s the Baltimore way.

Q: Last song you sang out loud.

“What’s My Name” by Rihanna featuring Drake (at the gym!)

Q: Favorite quote.

“Your work is to discover your world, and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.” — Unknown


Janelle Harris

JanelleHarris2016 (1) (1)

A writer since she won a crisp dollar bill in an elementary school essay contest, Janelle uses her platform as a storyteller to explore the experiences, challenges and diversities of women and people of color, particularly Black folks, who she loves fiercely.

As a journalist, her work covers race, class, gender and culture and has appeared in more than 40 print and digital publications.

As an editor, copywriter and communications consultant, she has shaped content that reframes played out narratives and equitably represents communities undervoiced in mainstream media. She believes in the magic of stilettos, cookies and cream milkshakes, and saying “hi” to strangers on the street.

 

Q: Tell us about your current work.

I’m in a space where I want to try new things. I want do some documentary work. I want to learn photography. I want to launch a podcast. I want to write longer, feature-length articles.

Right now, I’m working on a series of stories that lift up the voices of poor people. I think they’re talked about, but not necessarily talked to, so I’m shopping some pieces about the realness of poverty, like the psychological effects of gentrification, for example.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

I traveled to Alaska to interview a Native community in Anchorage about a rites of passage program and ceremony for teenage boys. In addition to learning about a culture so different and far away from my own, the beauty of nature was breathtaking. The people were super friendly and I loved their community-centeredness, putting family and honor over anything external.

I interviewed an elderly couple — he was 92, she was 86, I think — who made feathered fans for the boys to use in the ceremony celebrating their transition into manhood. It was my first time using a translator for to ask questions and they were all incredibly patient with me. It was such a dope experience.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

I have a bucket list of folks I really want to meet and most of them are older, so I tracked down Gloria Richardson — civil rights legend, white privilege eviscerator, fearless bayonet pusher — and interviewed her in March this year. She’s 96 and still remembers the details of her protests and negotiations so clearly, it’s amazing.

I can’t remember what I did yesterday but she can recall with clarity a conversation she had with Malcolm X 50 years ago. I’ll never forget it.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist?

Create systems to help streamline the un-sexy parts of writing: transcribing interviews, fact-checking, following up with sources. When I started outsourcing my transcriptions and doing checklists for my facts, I had more time to focus on the thinking and writing, which is what I want to be doing anyway.

Q: Favorite guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

I love Red Table Talks with Jada Pinkett Smith on Facebook and my short attention span lets me stay on the treadmill if I’m watching a Broadly or Refinery29 mini-documentary on YouTube.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

“Barracoon,” by Zora Neale Hurston

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in-the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining — in your town?

For casual sit-down, the fried chicken at Langston Bar and Grille on H Street is so good. It’s tiny in there, but the people are friendly and you don’t feel the smallness of the space as much.

Henry’s Soul Café in Oxon Hill, just a few steps across the southeast DC border, has godly soul food. There are a few tables but I’d go on ahead and carry out.

The Hamilton on F Street in Northwest is get-dressed-and-go-out nice, but their chicken wings and mumbo sauce is the best in the city, in my opinion.

The Monocle on D Street NE by Union Station has amazing steaks and the best darn house breads I’ve ever tasted. You actually feel sad when the bread basket is empty. And a lot of politicians and chichi uppity folks eat there, so you might catch a whiff of gossip while you’re eating, which is cool if you’re interested.

Q: Last song you sang out loud,

“For the Love of You” by the Isley Brothers (loud AND off-key)

Q: Favorite quote

It’s not an absolute favorite, but it’s one of them: “The man who can murder on the printed page can do so time and time again and need not fear jail or death.”
—Addison Gayle, Jr.

Of course, I would change that to “man” to “woman.”

 

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