Area native’s jobs lead to The Huffington Post
It’s a huge step from Hollidaysburg to the Big Apple and an even greater jump from working on the Holllidaysburg Area Senior High School yearbook to landing a managing editor’s job at a major online news source, The Huffington Post in New York.
But Hollidaysburg native Laura Schocker, 27, made those transitions by following advice she got in graduate school at Medill Journalism School at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
“My professors at Medill had advised me that the best way to get a media job in New York City was to just move there and pound the pavement, but I was terrified by the idea of not finding a job,” Schocker said.
Schocker first moved to New York City in November of 2009, the same night the New York Yankees won the World Series.
“I found myself a tiny apartment, gave myself a three-month deadline, worked part-time as a cashier at a Borders bookstore on Park Avenue and took as many freelance assignments as I could get,” she said.
She wrote for several publications while sending out job applications in whatever time she had left between writing and working.
“I still think that time was the hardest I’ve ever worked,” she said.
Eventually, she landed her first journalism job in New York, at The Knot, Inc., now known as XO Group Inc., which publishes The Knot, The Bump and The Nest magazines. Schocker’s job as an editorial assistant led to another editorial assistant job at Prevention magazine, where she admitted she started at the bottom, and said “scanning paper was a common task.”
But in time, she was writing stories for the health magazine and working on projects.
Most important, it was the job at Prevention that led to Schocker’s current position with The Huffington Post, a major online liberal/progressive news source that debuted in 2005.
Schocker said she was at a press event when she met an editor for The Huffing-ton Post and later that day, she was in the Huff Post office interviewing for a job.
“The next day, a Friday, I was sitting at my cubicle at Prevention when I got a call asking if I could come in and meet with [HuffPost co-founder and editor-in-chief] Arianna Huffington later that day,” Schocker said. “I was wearing jeans and had to run down the street to the Gap to buy a pair of pants!”
Landing the job at The Huffington Post and being named managing editor of the Post’s Health Living section marks milestones that Schocker didn’t think she’d attain until she was 30.
The daughter of Dr. Jack and Sandy Schocker and Kathy and Ed Henderson, all of Hollidaysburg, Schocker grew up in Hollidaysburg and attended Holidaysburg Area Senior High School where she worked on the school yearbook.
John Barton, who taught Schocker in Advanced Placement Language at Hollidaysburg, said early on, she displayed those traits of determination and resourcefulness that would later help her get her writing jobs in New York City.
“I am not surprised at what Laura has accomplished,” Barton said. “She was one of my most impressive students.”
She was able to start her writing career while still in college at first by working for her college’s paper and later as editor-in-chief for a national study abroad magazine that the college published, she said.
“That was a real labor of love that I worked on in the evenings, weekends and holidays,” she said. “Sometimes I still can’t believe that I now get paid to do what used to do for fun.”
Schocker’s time in college, both as an undergraduate and later during her graduate level studies, led to work for the BBC in London, where she was an intern for its online news magazine.
She has also written for publications such as Conde Nast Traveler and Chicago Parent Magazine.
“At the BBC, I had the opportunity to write about all kinds of topics, from why we feel compelled to friend people with the same name on Facebook to how Hollywood portrays autism in movies,” she said.
When she landed the job at the HuffPost, she was hired as an associate editor of the Healthy Living team and she started writing blogs.
She now mostly edits content written by other members of the team.
In March of 2012, she appeared on the “Today” show, talking about the benefits of living alone, based on one of the blogs she had written.
When she was writing her blogs, she pulled ideas from many sources including recent studies, the news and even her own life.
She wrote about such topics as why flip-flops will hurt your feet and why diet soda is bad for your health.
Schocker discussed then-GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her migraine headaches, noting that Schocker herself gets migraines, too.
“It can be nerve-wracking to disclose personal information about yourself, but I’ve always gotten a tremendously supportive response from readers who relate,” she said.
One of the editors at the HuffPost who works with Schocker said she’s much admired not only by readers but also by others in the newsroom.
“I think the thing that is most remarkable about Laura is her unflappability,” said Jimmy Soni, managing editor at the HuffPost. “I have rarely met anyone who is as poised and professional and who cares so much about her work.”
Although Schocker said she loves living in New York City with its museums, street fairs and Broadway shows, she also enjoys visiting her hometown in central Pennsylvania where “you hear crickets instead of sirens!”
Her father said her entire family is very proud of what his daughter has accomplished.
“By the time she was in high school, there was little doubt about her calling,” said Dr. Schocker, who is a radiation oncologist in Altoona. “Our community and schools rightfully can share some of the credit for this remarkable journalist.”