women with red hair wearing graduation stoll poses by flowers
Photo courtesy of Charlotte Phillipp

Thespian-turned-entertainment journalism grad lands first job at news start-up

One week after graduating from USC Annenberg last May, Charlotte Phillipp began her dream job as an entertainment reporter for The Messenger, a start-up news outlet based in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

The Messenger had just launched that same month.

“Being there to see a news outlet take form and to build up its audience is something really amazing,” Phillipp said.

“There are a lot of people whose stories haven't been told out, who may not have had a voice in mainstream media. Giving those people a platform and sharing new information that wasn't known before is just a great feeling for me.”

Raised in the Chicago suburbs, Phillipp’s journey into arts and entertainment journalism was fueled by her two loves: theater and writing.

Her involvement with theater productions began in elementary school. 

“Theater was my jam,” she said. “I saw the passion and the artistry that went into a play: from actors, craftspeople, costumes, makeup and directing.”

Then in middle school, she got her first taste of journalism in the eighth grade when she helped start a newspaper. In high school, journalism was among the English electives she chose. 

“I really fell in love with writing nonfiction,” Phillipp said.

When it came time for college, Phillipp turned to USC Annenberg’s progressive degree program, which allowed her to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in theater as well as a master’s degree in specialized journalism (arts and culture). Her goal: to leverage the cultural and entertainment hub of L.A. to“get her feet wet” writing theater, museum and music reviews.

“In the master’s program, I would attend arts events in L.A. and either write straight journalism or criticism about it,” she said. “That gave me so much freedom and honestly opened me up to art experiences that I didn’t know were going on here.” 

Phillipp said the most important thing she learned from these experiences is do your research and then throw yourself head first into whatever it may be.

“I was a little nervous when I was getting into criticism because I had never done it before,” she continued. “What I learned is that everyone has a valuable opinion on art; it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be an expert on it.”

Phillipp said that guidance from Oscar Garza, director of the specialized journalism (arts and culture) master’s program, and Christina Bellantoni, director of USC Annenberg Media Center, was invaluable throughout her academic and professional journey. 

“Oscar really helped me figure out my niche in arts journalism,” she said. “And Christina helped me figure out how I was going to approach working as a journalist after finishing school. In fact, she’s the one who initially connected me with The Messenger” 

Working her way up the ladder at Annenberg Media, Phillipp served as executive editor of the school’s student-run outlet during her final year. Phillipp said that experience has enabled her to take the transition to a real-world newsroom in stride. 

“It can be challenging to be an entertainment reporter, but when you get a great scoop before other publications and can put that story out there, it is a great feeling to overcome that challenge,” she said.

On the heels of her early success, Phillipp has some advice for up-and-coming journalists: make connections. 

“I think when people hear the word ‘connections’ they think about LinkedIn,” she said. “What I mean is when you're at Annenberg, make connections with professors and other students that you are working with. Maintain your sources. I made lifelong friends in Annenberg. These same friends are with me along my career journey.”