I’ll tell you the truth. I got into this mess because I had blog envy. Back then all the other reporters at my newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily News, were talking about how many hits and comments they got. I wanted a piece of the action.
I was a business reporter covering retail, real estate and whatever else came up. Basically, I wrote about money and I wanted to create a blog along those lines. I find the way people spend – and save – their money fascinating because it says so much about them.
At the time I was trying to invest my 401 (k) and absolutely HATED IT. Ug, that high finance stuff still puts me to sleep. But I loved saving money on say, a sandwich, or new top. If I loved saving money on everyday stuff, I bet a lot of other people did too.
That was the premise of my first blog, Bargain Hunter. Within a few days I was churning out 10 posts a day, avoiding assignments for print stories, and talking non-stop about blogging. Addicted? You betcha.
The Bargain Hunter was a hit and my editor asked me to write a weekly column based on the best blog posts from the past week. Hundreds and then thousands of people signed up for my daily email with that day’s deals. Universal Press Syndicate offered me a 10-year contract to syndicate the column.
Not bad for someone who studied music in college. I thought I was going to be a music writer. While earning a master’s in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University Newark, I took a class called Arts Criticism with Terry Teachout. He is an author and drama critic for the Wall Street Journal.
I wrote reviews of plays and movies for Terry and I loved it so much I began spending more time on his assignments than the rest of my degree. I was not a good writer in college – I struggled to get a B- in English. But in Terry’s class and for the first time in my life, I controlled the words. I could put my thoughts on paper.
The next semester I took an independent study class with Robert Snyder, who heads the journalism department at Rutgers Newark. He handed me a pad of paper and told me to cover the Sept. 11 memorial in Penn Station. “You want me to, like, talk to people?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said. Nothing terrified me more.
I dragged myself out to Penn Station in New York City, found the memorial, and started talking.
“Hi, My name is Julia Scott and I’m writing about this Sept. 11 memorial for the Newark Metro. What do you think of it?”
Today my pick up line has barely changed. Neither has my bewilderment at just how many people will talk to me. That day in Penn Station busy New Yorkers took 5, 10, 15 minutes out of their day to chat with me. One woman started crying. Many opened their lives to a stranger with a notebook.
I realized that a reporter’s badge is a passport into other people’s lives. And that talking to people is a lot more interesting than listening to music.
I started putting together a portfolio of published clips with the goal of becoming a reporter. My first clips were from online websites willing to publish a complete unknown. Then I approached the monthly and weekly papers. Eventually I landed a reporting gig at the Jersey Journal, a daily newspaper.
Later I moved up to the N.J. Star-Ledger, where I contributed to stories that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the resignation of then-Governor James E. McGreevey. He resigned because he had a gay affair with a staffer. My role was to stake out McGreevey’s new apartment in case he came home. I talked my way into the building and got a tour of an apartment just like McGreevey’s. Then I got kicked out.
From the Ledger I moved west to the LA Daily News, where I started the Bargain Hunter blog and column. I was flattered by the syndication offer but decided, because of a number of factors, to go off on my own. I left the paper in January and launched BargainBabe.com, which helps people save money on everyday expenses. In July, I launched a second site, BargainBabeLA.com, which uses Google maps to help Angelenos find and share local deals.
I’ve been profiled by NBC, and written about in the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and the LA Times. I’m still a journalist, but I’m also a businesswoman. Straddling these two worlds while helping folks save money is my current passion.