The Real World goes to New York

“How do you like the real world?”

From what I can tell, almost everyone over the age of 30 asks recent college graduates this question. I personally hope to never impose those seven words on anyone. But since you are wondering, the real world is just fine, thanks for asking.

Armed with my prestigious McGill undergraduate education and a “real world” conquering confidence that only a humanities degree will instil in a young mind, I recently began chapter one of my working life with AOLNews at their New York City headquarters.

On the first day of my new gig I learned that one of my editors is married to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Steinberg. I was off to a good start.

Within the AOLNews organization, I write for a recently launched hyper-blog called the Surge Desk. Please visit and click recklessly. In brief, the Surge Desk aims to identify “trending topics” on the Internet—think GoogleTrends or Twitter’s “trending” list—and write stories on these topics in order to generate hits for the website.

If, say, the Architecture Café was being shut down (yes, I still occasionally read the Tribune) and “Architecture Café” emerged as a highly searched term, I might write a story compiling student reactions from across the blogosphere (this approach works better for U.S. politics) or research the top five menu items students will miss when the café closes. Lemon poppy seed muffins would undoubtedly make this list.

When I do my job well, hundreds of furious critics will rush to the article’s comment section to viciously trash me and the liberal media as they hide behind the veil of Internet anonymity. They seem to hate me, but I adore them.

I also once cooked hot dogs for six-time hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi when he visited the office to be interviewed two days after being arrested for climbing on-stage at the 2010 Nathan’s Hot Dog Easting Contest on Coney Island. Normally, I do not cook hot dogs for celebrity hot dog eating champions.

Other perks include an endless supply of free Starbucks coffee, a few good laughs over the days when AOL was the only “on-ramp” to the Internet, and having my photo on a pretty sweet bio page that reads “Steven Hoffer is a New York City based journalist who also worked for FoxNews.com and Relix Magazine.”

Also, I wouldn’t call this a perk, but it’s worth pointing out that before he joined AOLNews, my editor-in-chief worked for the New York Times. This means that he can say things like, “When I was at the Times…” To a media nerd like myself, it hardly matters what comes next.

Although compared to my days at the Tribune I consume far fewer Subway sandwiches (read: zero Subway sandwiches) and have fewer drinks when I go out with my colleagues, the “real world” is still treating me well.

And I guess a recent college grad can do worse than the occasional “How do you like the real world?” If it weren’t for that question, I’d just be left with friends and relatives uttering the seven other words that journalists straight out of school tend to adopt as a pet peeve: “I have a story you should write.”

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