Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Author: Bella Ramirez
Malick Mercier, sophomore at Ithaca College, explains journalism using social media in the modern age. From his love of airplanes to his work with the March for Our Lives coverage on Instagram’s Instagram, join PTF’s editor-in-chief Bella Ramirez and guest interviewer Ashly McNally in uncovering Mercier’s story.
Bella Ramirez: How did you overcome being called ‘green’? [Editor’s note: “green” means young in this instance.]
Malick Mercier: When the news director told me I was too green to have my own news reel, I told someone who is a mentor to me, and she told me that it is just you doing your work.’ It’s not you doing anything different, just you doing your work, and if you want to have that out there you should do that. It was helpful to have someone there to tell me that, but then I also wasn’t going to let them take me down just with that. I was really strong.
Ramirez: Where did you find your strength?
Mercier: I would say definitely in watching people that I really admired, and that was really important to me. Also, looking at people that inspired me, getting in touch with them and getting advice from them and seeing them do their job so well really made me want to do it. Because the more passion for it then the more energy you’re going to give to it.
Ashly McNally: Were there more triggers or were you always this ambitious?
Mercier: New York City is very inspiring to me, especially when I started going to high school in Manhattan. I was on the train every day in an hour long commute, so I would hear conversations from people, and everyone was doing something, so I knew I kind of had to hop on. I think I was always into life, and you need that. I always knew I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be in theater. I didn’t want to be in academics and then I decided ‘let’s do something else.’ It became [journalist] because of the Get Reel With Your Dreams program.
Ramirez: When did you switch from actor to journalist?
Mercier: When I started being a Disney volunteer at my high school, the original manager of that was actually the stage manager of our local news. I went out to the local news station, which was literally across the street from my school, so I thought that was super awesome because I was so close. It’s the top station in America in terms of local news because it’s in New York and it is the most viewed in New York. That was amazing. Get Reel With Your Dreams is a program started by Sade Baderinwa. She has her best friends, like I said, her mentors, all her colleagues, come out and talk to all of us, which was around 300 high school students. I went to sessions that day, “Live Reporting:” Lexi Gonzalez taught that one. She’s another anchor and a correspondent on GMA [Good Morning America] and all these amazing shows. She really inspired me, and I got her email that day. We have been able to stay in touch, and still before I did the March for Our Lives, who was I calling? Who did I call? She’s there, even though she’s in LA now and it makes me cry. I love her and get to stay in touch with her. Then the head writer at “World News Tonight with David Muir,” did a program called “Making Your Story Stand Out.” It showed David walking through a home and flipping everything over, and you saw that nothing was made in America, so they made this entire segment called “Made in America” and brought jobs back here. I saw you can really change things doing something so simple, and that really inspired me to get into journalism.
McNally: Would you say that is why your message became spreading kindness all over social media? What inspired you and guided you?
Mercier: I think that is a piece of me, and I think that is important, and I am a human and I like that. A lot of people don’t embrace that, so I think the kindness is me and the different initiatives I’ve been involved in. I think that when I was at Get Reel that was a big thing about their mission because I think that if you are not nice to people no one is going to want to help you out, and if you really want to get somewhere, you kind of need people to help you out. I think remembering that always kept me very intact with myself because I knew if I needed to get somewhere I was going to need a lot of people. That anchor told me, when she called me to a school and everything, she told me, “You are building your army and I am here to help you, I am here to be a part of that.” I think once you do that you do start to build your support group. I feel that is really important.
Ramirez: During your keynote presentation at the University of Florida, you gave a lot of advice on doing what made you feel ‘like you won.’ Usually this kind of awareness is associated with people older, so how did you reach that level of maturity so young?
Mercier: I think a lot of people don’t know what they want to do, and not knowing what you want to do is fine, but you need to find something that you like. A lot of people are waiting, and to me, it’s waiting for what? Waiting for the world to help you out? I think the world will, but you have to show up. Show up on one thing that you like. For example, I really like aviation. So, what did I do? I followed everyone I liked on Instagram that was doing aviation things; I followed pilots. The same thing is what happened with journalism, by always seeing what they’re doing and some of those people might follow you back. Some of those people, like if you post those sorts of pictures. I think that a lot of it stems from just making sure you are a part of those communities that you want to get involved in. In terms of doing it very young, I think that when you’re young, it’s harder and it’s scarier because someone might tell you you’re not worth it or you don’t deserve it. Yet, at the same time, I think you have to know somewhere deep inside, somewhere there’s your passion, and I think you should embrace that.
Ramirez: What tips for self confidence would you give to the people looking up to you?
Mercier: Robin Meade is someone that really inspires me. She is the anchor of “Morning Express with Robin Meade.” She wrote this book called “Morning Sunshine,” and she says a lot of people are looking for confidence from the outside. Like: ‘you need to believe in me in order for me to believe in me.’ How can you find confidence from outside? If you need other things, those can be helpful, but they can’t be without you. Like she says, self confidence comes from within, not without. If you depend on the outside, you wind up reliant and you wind up insecure. I think that there are people with amazing jobs who are on TV that are insecure. They need the fanbase in order to do anything. That shouldn’t be where it is coming from, and if it is, you can wind up in a real problem, because if it ever goes away, what would your worth be? So you really need to find that out for yourself within you, and when you start doing the things you love that’s when it becomes easier.
McNally: When did you start taking journalism seriously?
Mercier: I started taking my journalism seriously in my junior year [of high school]. I would say it’s been a year or two, but I’ve really grown a lot. I was always willing to put it out there, but now I’m more unapologetic. It’s kind of like ‘this is me, and if you don’t like it, ok, and if you do, stick around, thanks.’ I hope that people appreciate the energy that I give off and the work that I do, and I think I’m more confident because I found it within me for the work I’ve done. I think I’ve also learned to be more transparent and genuine when I talk about things, whereas before I was very worried about each little thing, and now I’m so much less concerned about what people think, and I think that’s good.
McNally: How did you get into aviation?
Mercier: For aviation, I started getting into flights in middle school. Then, when I got to high school, I started getting involved in online simulators, which had virtual communities where real pilots were inside of them. I would do my virtual flight and then some JetBlue pilots might jump in the chat room, also practicing online. Then they told me about this program that the JetBlue foundation does, the aviation career with the Black Aerospace professionals, so I got into that camp. Basically, it was a week, I got to fly my first plane, I got to go to the JetBlue hangar and I got to meet a bunch of people and do some really cool stuff. That’s how I got into aviation. I went back to the camp, I got to speak at the camp. I’m still very involved in JetBlue, they actually tweeted me yesterday saying they were very proud of me after seeing me speak to you guys. When I get in the air I feel like I really did make it to the top. I feel like it’s so cool that when you’re up there, every problem I have is so much more minimalized because you can look out and see. Then, I start thinking about all the problems we have as a country, and I mean, wow, that is so big and it’s so much bigger than me. Every little thing that was going on with me, not that it doesn’t matter, it just puts things in a different perspective. I find flying makes me do that.
Ramirez: A lot of your work blends personality and storytelling, what was your journey to find that happy medium?
Mercier: When I did drama, I think that really helped me because drama is so engaging, you can move around and it teaches you how to showcase you. Versus, coming from just a journalism perspective, you may think, ‘I need to be serious, I need to be like Anderson Cooper and I need to be that.’ For me, I don’t want people to watch stories that I tell and then not know who I am. I want to bring in me. Robin Meade is one that really inspired me in that because she is the one that comes on and says, ‘Morning sunshine, here’s the news. Here’s what’s up.’ It’s a national news show, and I think people that stick with her really love her show just because she’s so involved in it. I think that makes people really want to start listening more if they know the storyteller. Also, tying in with the fake news thing, if you know me, you would feel so much more trust in me if you knew me as a human, as the boy that goes to bed with a hoodie. You know, the weird things that I do that are so human, make me so much more. I think that is important so that you can trust.
Ramirez: You said you started getting into journalism in your junior year but when did you start building your social media?
Mercier: I had an Instagram back in middle school. At that point, my handle was literally @thatclassyteen. I didn’t really know what Instagram was. I don’t think any of us did. We all thought this was going to be some sort of photo sharing platform and that’s it, but now it’s grown immensely. Now we’re at [Instagram’s] IGTV. At the time I didn’t think of social media for branding, but I think I started taking it very seriously … I don’t know, I just started to want to broadcast my work and give people energy through there, and I thought emojis were really cool so I added them to my captions. To me though, it became an art form in a way.
Ramirez: Can we take a picture?