From interviewing movie stars to meeting pop culture icons on the red carpet, every day at work is different for Redbird alum Jeff Conway ’08. Not only is he living his dream as an entertainment journalist, he’s also meeting and interviewing his favorite celebrities.
Conway has been an entertainment journalist for 14 years and currently writes for Forbes as a senior contributor in the Hollywood and Entertainment section.
When the Schaumburg native arrived in Illinois, he first joined WZND radio as a news and weather reporter and later produced entertainment pieces for TV-10.
Conway credits Laura Trendle Polus ’87, MS ’00 and Bob Carroll ’89, ’94, MS ’15 of TV-10 and Deb Lesser ’83, MS ’84 of WZND, who impacted his experience as a student at the school of communication and helped lay the foundations of his professional career.
“They knew I wanted to get into entertainment, and they respected that — it meant a lot to me,” Conway said. “It was good to have teachers who were supportive of what I wanted to do and where I am today.”
After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from ISU, Conway rose through the ranks from intern to sole producer of the entertainment television show. 24/7 on NBC5 in Chicago, where he often interviewed celebrities on the red carpet.
He continued to work in Chicago as a host and producer for private Comcast channels, including Life Creative Network, where Conway was nominated for an “Outstanding Program Host” award at the Chicago Emmy’s in 2017 for his achievements in front of the camera. . Beyond that, Conway also served as the fashion and entertainment editor for candid magazinewhich was a London-based publication, and served as multimedia director for Chicago scenewhere he featured city events and celebrity interviews.
“COVID-19 happened, and everything stopped – all the red carpets were non-existent,” Conway said. “But I had to keep doing journalism. It would destroy me not to do my passion and what I went to school for.
Conway persevered by pursuing an opportunity with Forbes.
“They looked at me for about two months, but I finally got approved to join their team and it was amazing,” Conway said. “A few months ago, I exceeded one million page views in less than 18 months. Forbes name helps me and I’m grateful to him, but it’s my tenacity and creativity that gets these interviews.
Conway continued with more information about his career as an entertainment journalist now in Los Angeles.
Tell me about an average day for you.
Right now I’m writing my interview with Blake Lively and my exclusive with her and her non-alcoholic Betty Buzz cocktails – it was a hilarious, fun and informative conversation. I transcribed this video interview, then I wrote an article around his quotes. I’ve booked Lindsay Lohan for an exclusive interview, but I’ll start writing down my questions and doing my research on everything Lindsay does with her new podcast called The Lohdown. Every day is different, but I like it that way.
How did you come to entertainment journalism?
I loved movies and entertainment. I was watching these celebrity interviews by these reporters, and I found them so robotic and impersonal. I thought these interviews were very professional. I felt like there was something inside me that knew I could talk to these people in a friendlier tone and with carefully crafted questions that would make them feel comfortable enough to forget that it was business. . It’s about two friends or strangers talking at opposite ends of the bar – that’s the kind of mentality I try to have with all my interviews and it worked. I am a human first and a journalist second.
What was your favorite interview and why?
Channing Tatum has got to be one of my favorites, he’s just a cool guy and very humble and playful. Broadway star Kristin Chenowith is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. She is loving, exciting and genuinely enthusiastic about life, which I appreciate as an interviewer. Matt Damon, Ryan Reynolds, Robert Downey Jr., Sam Heughan and Chrishell Stause have also been some of my favorite interviews.
If there’s one celebrity on your list that you always wanted to interview but didn’t, who would it be?
Meryl Streep because she’s a chameleon when it comes to her acting work and I just love her for it. I’m also intrigued by Julia Roberts, Rachel McAdams, and Mariah Carey because she owns Christmas.
It’s hard for me to think about it because I’ve interviewed most of the people in my dreams. Email after email of trying to reach the right people got me where I wanted because I was respectful and consistent. I realized my own dreams and I’m happy about it.
How has the State of Illinois helped you?
ISU helped me find these outlets to express myself and create from an early age. TV-10 and WZND were open to me and not too competitive, which was good because I could do whatever I wanted. Schools like Illinois State allow you to grow and create a more open environment with an accessible curriculum that allows you to find your true calling. I loved the ISU and I always look back on it with so much emotion.
What interview advice would you like to give?
Do your research and know all you can. Double check sources and accuracy because you don’t want to be wrong. Also, think outside the box. My instructors at ISU would agree – if so many people are in the same industry, you’re not going to make it if you don’t stand out to some degree. Examine your skills and see what sets you apart, then use them to your advantage.