Jacob Cornblatt ’20 has kept plenty busy since he arrived at LMU as a film and television production major a little more than three years ago. A self-described overachiever, he began writing for the life and arts section of LMU’s student newspaper The Loyolan during his first semester, and in February 2019 took on a year-long stint as its editor-in-chief. Along the way, he transferred into SFTV’s film, TV, and media studies major and will graduate in spring 2020—a full year ahead of schedule. We caught up with Cornblatt shortly after his tenure at The Loyolan ended.
What got you interested in journalism?
I worked on my high school’s student newspaper and made some close friends through it. It was fun, and I figured it would be a good way to meet people in college, which it has been. But I didn’t expect to stay at the paper for as long as I did.
What made you decide to apply for the editor-in-chief job?
One day at a meeting, the paper’s advisor, Tom Nelson from Student Media, asked everybody who was leaving the next semester to stand up. And over half the staff stood up. They were mostly seniors. We realized that newer staffers were going to have to step up, and Tom and others encouraged me to apply for editor-in-chief. At first I was resistant, but after some thinking and talking about it, I decided to go for it.
What was your typical day like at The Loyolan?
Lots of emails to reply to. Lots and lots of meetings, usually every day, with upper administration or our advisor or the editor of a section. We post new stories online every day. On Monday and Tuesday we produce the print paper and those are really long workdays.
Basically being an editor-in-chief is an extremely busy job and a serious responsibility. Nothing could have really prepared me for it. It’s the hardest experience I’ve ever had. And any journalist has to be prepared to pay the consequences for mistakes, too. If you get a story wrong, it’s on every newsstand, and a version of your mistake lives online forever. But I also learned that when mistakes happen, it’s an opportunity to learn and to improve how you do things, to fix flaws in the system.
Do you and the other student reporters and editors have complete editorial freedom over The Loyolan?
Yes. We call the shots on content. Tom is our advisor in the truest sense of the word. He helps us talk through things, but we make the final decisions and he respects our choices. He’s a tough person to work for, but he makes you a million times stronger and better at what you do.
As editor-in-chief, did you write stories yourself or were you involved only in choosing and shaping stories written by others?
It was both. The two managing editors and I wrote a board editorial every week, and if there was a major story I’d cover it—like breaking news or stories that require many interviews and a high degree of research and accuracy. So for instance, I covered the DNC Presidential Debate at LMU on December 19, and I covered our new basketball pavilion.
Can you share some highlights from the debate coverage?
It was incredible! I’m a politics junkie so it was a dream come true for me. I wrote lots of breaking news about the labor dispute during the week before the debate, and our coverage was being followed by other publications—Politico journalists were sharing my stories on Twitter, for instance. On debate day, I and others from the paper got to sit in the spin room at the Burns Recreation Center to watch the action, and then we did interviews and filed our stories like all the other media onsite did.
We interviewed four candidates—Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, and Nina Turner, the co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. Klobuchar was so kind, and all of them were very generous with their time. We also interviewed California Governor Gavin Newsom, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Tom Perez, the chair of the DNC.
Another highlight: I stood behind Elizabeth Warren for 15 minutes while she was being interviewed by CBS. That was mind-blowing. I’ve done phone banking for her, and I’m sad that her Presidential run is over. She ran a great campaign and is a great candidate.
How has your major—film, TV, and media studies—influenced your work at the paper?
My classwork changed my outlook on the world, not just film or television. You learn how to look critically at issues and how they are portrayed, and you learn to look below the surface of events or activities or choices to decipher what’s really going on. That’s a vital skill for journalists.
What are your plans after graduation?
I want to stay in L.A. I want to enjoy the beauty of this city and enjoy life and hopefully do some traveling also—to Europe, and to Paris, one of my favorite cities. My work at The Loyolan has been great fun, but I’m not interested in pursuing a journalism career. Right now I’m looking at film archiving as a field of potential interest. In summer 2019 I interned at a non-profit started by an LMU alumna called The Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive (MARMIA) in Baltimore. It was great fun, and I want to continue exploring this area to see if it’s a viable career for me. I’m not necessarily looking to have a major leadership position in my first job, though—not right away. My goal is to get a job I care about, but not one that overwhelms me.
Why do you say that?
I like doing more than I think I am capable of, and I like to push myself. But I haven’t relaxed in 21 years. I’m taking 20 upper-division credits right now and I just finished one of the hardest jobs I’ll ever have. I feel burned out. I’ve realized I have to hold back from pushing myself too hard, so I can maintain my health and sanity, and to just be in the moment and enjoy the present and enjoy my life. It doesn’t feel good or right to worry about the next thing all the time, which is how I’ve been.
This past week, like most universities across the country, LMU moved all its classes online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. How has the first week of online instruction been?
The transition to an online classroom has been chaotic and difficult, honestly. I don’t say this in a disparaging way—it’s clearly nobody’s fault. But it requires a totally different type of work ethic than a traditional classroom setting, something my classmates and I are trying to develop. I’m happy LMU decided to choose online teaching over canceling classes, but getting used to this weird new reality is going to take time.
What advice would do you have to incoming LMU students?
Adversity is inevitable, and it’s not an endpoint—it’s just something to recover from and to learn from. You will gain the most by getting back up after you fail or make mistakes. I feel like people my age have a lot of trouble with this idea. I don’t want to be like, “oh, it’s because we’ve had it easy,” because I don’t think that’s it. I think my generation has a culture of shutting down at minor challenges—I do it myself. And it means that when major problems come along, as they will, we have a tendency to stop dead in our tracks and not know how to move forward. Working hard to keep going in the face of adversity is really difficult, but really important.
I’d also say to find mentors and advisors whom you can talk to not only about your classes, but also other issues. Carla Marcantonio, the chair of my major, has been great—she’s so smart and she’s helped me a lot in my education as a person and as a student. Tom, the paper’s advisor, has been a wonderful source of support also, as has Patrick Furlong ’06 from the Center for Service and Action. I went to China with him in May 2019 as part of the Lingdao student leadership program. He’s one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met—and one of the kindest. Talking to him is like having a conversation with Oprah.
Any other thoughts about LMU right before you graduate?
I had five other college applications filled out but I never hit the send button on them after I visited LMU. I applied early decision and got in and have never once looked back. Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made. The Jesuit mission of the school influences how we learn and the way we think about what we learn, but I have never felt pressured to conform to a particular belief system or way of thinking. In fact, it’s LMU’s approach toward intellectualism and education that enticed me to become a theology minor. In short, going to LMU has been a total blessing—and I say this as an atheist.