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Former Amherst resident finds success writing about celebrities for a national audience

It’s a typical day in New York City. There are billboards and signs everywhere, the streets are humming, and Julia Birkinbine is running through Times Square. Although there are stores, buildings and restaurants that catch Julia’s eye, she cannot take a detour. She is on her way to an interview.

She hurries to her appointment, and when she’s done, she hurries across the city again, going back to her office.

Julia, a former NeXt correspondent for The Buffalo News, is now working in New York City as a senior online social media editor for Bauer Xcel Media.

Julia writes for Closer Weekly, a magazine in her digital group that focuses on celebrities and targets readers who are age 40 and up.

Although Julia has been working at Bauer Xcel for about two years, she began her writing career here in Buffalo.

“NeXt was the biggest thing in high school that I did that was exactly what I wanted to be doing with journalism,” Julia said, tapping her pink manicured fingernails against her parents’ kitchen table in Amherst. “It was awesome to be writing for a newspaper and see that side of things.”

For Julia, being a NeXt correspondent solidified that she wanted to become a journalist. She felt that it was a great program where she got to work with other aspiring journalists and get real experience.

During her high school career, it was an invaluable and rewarding experience to work on a story from start to finish, and then have it published.

Before attending college at the University of Wisconsin, Julia went to Williamsville North High School, where she met Lisa Carney, an English teacher at North. After taking Carney’s journalism class, Julia decided to apply for NeXt, per Carney’s suggestion. She showed Julia the application, and introduced her to a new side of the journalistic world.

“She was very naturally inquisitive and extremely sharp. Very interested in the world around her,” Carney said. “These were all attributes that I saw in her that I felt would make her very successful in what she’s doing.”

From a young age, Julia had a passion for writing, specifically an interest in the world of magazines. She always excelled at English and preferred writing courses over math and science. In high school, she took the journalism English elective, as well as the creative writing class. Knowing she wanted to attend a university that had a journalism school, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, from 2010 to May 2014.

Her family also recognized her love of writing.

Julia’s mother was not surprised at all by her career choice.

“She always liked to write, and she always did well in English class. And she loved Mrs. Carney’s journalism class. I think that was a big spark in her interest,” Linda Birkinbine said.

“Yeah, and I think that we always stressed that verbal and writing skills are very important, and Julia really took to that,” added David Birkinbine.

Despite getting a job the week of graduation, Julia explained that it is not easy to land a journalism position right out of college. She worked all semester long trying to secure a job during her senior year at Wisconsin, but many opportunities were missed because companies were not willing to wait for her to graduate in May.

“I had a bunch of interviews where employers said ‘OK! When can you start?’ And the second that I said, ‘I don’t graduate until May 18,’ they said, ‘Oh, we need someone tomorrow.’ ”

But Julia didn’t let this stop her. Her drive and persistence landed her in a brand new position at Bauer. They were willing to wait for her, due to the job’s recent creation.

Despite being told discouraging things from people along the way, Julia continued to pursue her dreams.

Julia explained, “Journalism was my passion. I wasn’t going to let the fact that it wasn’t the most high-paying job or the easiest job to secure hinder me from trying. Everyone told me it was a bad industry to go into, but I did it, and if anyone else wants to do it, they can too.”

With six weeks between the day she graduated and the day she started work, Julia was swept into the whirlwind of New York City.

And just like Julia, her parents were slightly apprehensive about her immediate move.

“That took a little getting used to. But it also helped that, coincidentally, her little sister was moving to New York City in a couple months later that fall for college,” Linda Birkinbine said.

Julia’s sister, Allie, would be attending Pace University that fall. And the sisters wouldn’t be too far away from each other.

“Three subway stops, so about a half-hour walk,” Julia said, as she adjusted her ponytail.

Since the news cycle never stops, Julia’s schedule can be very demanding.

Everyone in the city is on the move, trying to meet deadlines, and trying to work hard. Julia is no exception.

“I could be writing something in all hours of the day, and I have at times,” Julia said. “I usually write between 10 and 12 stories a day.”

Because Julia works in celebrity news, there is always something new to write about. Her writing schedule will change three or four times a day, with new stories constantly popping up.

In her free time, Julia also attends celebrity events. These events are work-related, but are off the clock, and usually just for fun.

“Whenever I saw ‘How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days,’ Kate Hudson was a magazine writer that inspired me in some way to look into this job and field more. I went to a talk that Kate Hudson was at recently. She was just two rows in front of me,” Julia said. “It was surreal.”

Most recently, Julia attended New York Fashion Week shows.

Julia is happy in her current position, but with the journalism field changing constantly, she is not sure where she will be in the next 10 years.

With new technologies and social media platforms, journalism is becoming more media-based.

“I think that’s just a natural progression of the way that society is moving. I think that because people have so much more access now to devices, it’s only natural that they want to get their news and information online,” Carney said.

Julia doesn’t know where she will end up in the future, but she does have her predictions.

“I bet in 10 years, a new story will have only hours to live before it becomes old news, because everyone will be wearing Apple watches and will be able to check anything. We won’t be able to hide from any information,” she said with a laugh.

Even with the ups and downs, Julia loves what she is doing.

“It’s hard to think of me doing something else. I just keep powering through. I’m right where I should be.”

Note: After this article was written, Julia Birkinbine moved to Chicago, but still works as the Online and Social Media Senior Editor at Closer Weekly.

Annabeth Collis is a sophomore at Williamsville North High School.

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