Look Up, Stories Are All Around

Being a journalist in today’s time may seem a little difficult to accomplish because of the decline of print and increase of television and internet coverage. One successful journalist though did the best he could to become the journalist he and everyone knew he could become. Stephen Bloom is a well known professor and author here at the University of Iowa and his effort shows how much hard work he has put forth throughout his life until now.

Bloom graduated with a B.A from Berkeley, the University of California in 1973. Journalism was the only thing Bloom was good at, he was bad at math, and journalism was the only thing he had any hope he could accomplish.

“Without Journalism, I would be homeless.” Explains Bloom.

Bloom tried to get out into the job field determined to put his skills to the test, but it was next to impossible to find a job. Everyone talks about how bad the job market is now; Bloom says that it was just as bad back then. In order to get a job, Bloom actually had to leave America and went to Brazil where he worked at a newspaper company. When he came back, journalists were losing their jobs and there was a plummet in journalism. Bloom worked for a few different companies as a reporter and got recognized for the immaculate work that he provided. The companies were The Sacramento Bee, The San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times and the Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Morning News was Bloom’s favorite job that he worked at because it was such a competitive atmosphere. There were two papers, one for the morning and afternoon; you can have any good idea and the editor will reply with, “Run it”. If a newspaper company sends one reporter and cameraman to a spot to get a story, the Dallas Morning News would send two reporters and cameramen. His work started to show up in a plethora of popular magazines and newspapers, highlighting his talent. Some well known sources that issued Bloom’s work were the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The first time Bloom’s work got published was when he was in college working at the campus newspaper. He worked at a part time job at an assembly line, pushing a button to lower fruit cocktails twice a minute. The job was so easy and boring that Bloom decided to write a story about it entitled, “The Cannery Connection”. Bloom was surprised one day though when he picked up the New York Times and there was his story, published in the newspaper. After that, his talent continued to expand.

Big Change, New Stories

Bloom was a big city kind of guy and in 1993 he made a drastic change to move to Iowa City, a considerable smaller choice to live. Along by his side was Bloom’s wife and son, his success soon began to develop here at the University. He wanted to do more long form writing, the stories in California were just getting too simplistic to do. Iowa was a new frontier for Bloom and everything was new to him. There were so many good story ideas in Iowa City for Bloom because he didn’t know anything about Iowa.

Writing books seem to be like a never ending process; it takes about a full five years. You have to come up with the idea, propose it, get an agent, convince the editor that the story is marketable, and do the reporting and writing.

“It can either be exhilarating, or suck the life right out of you.” Bloom stressed.

A novel that grasped a wide variety of people’s attention and especially got noticed by people who lived in small Iowa towns was written by Bloom in September 2008. The title was “The Oxford Project”, and Bloom had a co-author who was the photographer as well. This novel examines life in a rural Iowa community, Oxford, 20 years ago and Oxford now. Bloom had a very educational time examining the town and its community and people opened up to Bloom with no problem. Bloom believes that everyone has a story to tell, no matter if in New York or a small town. He did seem to have a closer relationship with the people in Oxford though, because it was such a small community and a lot more ground was covered in such a quick amount of time it seemed like. Bloom always enjoys talking to barbers, bakers or bartenders instead of mayors or politicians because he wants to know what really makes the town tick rather than talking to someone who cares mostly about themselves.  After the novel was finished, there was an art exhibition of the photographs and text, another successful moment for Bloom.

Bloom’s most recent book is entitled, “Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls”, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. This story chronicles the cultural, economic and political saga of pearls, the world’s first gem. It begins with Columbus’ third voyage to the New World and follows with narratives in numerous different countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. According to Bloom, nature’s oldest request is “Tell me a story”. He is always looking for a good story to tell people and there are good stories ideas everywhere. It may even be as simple as getting inspiration from a pearl necklace to make you travel over 30,000 miles in order to discover the secret behind them.

Hard Work Never Goes Unnoticed

Bloom has been a guest speaker at various different locations. He likes to cover as much as he can in his speeches in order to share with people his life story and how he got to where he is today but two words he always says are “Look up”. Bloom wants people to know that there’s drama swirling around and it needs to be noticed because a story could be held within. Bloom is a constant observer and that’s how he gets his story ideas and information. He has no recall for numbers, but Bloom will never forget a face because he is all about the visual effects. With all of Bloom’s accomplishments, it would only seem appropriate that he received some recognition and that’s exactly what he got only a couple short weeks ago. The University of Iowa honored Bloom with the Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer Program which honors the memory of one of Nevada’s finest writers, Bob Laxalt. Bloom is the seventh writer to be honored for this award.

From not knowing what lied ahead for him in the future during college, Bloom became a very successful author, journalist and professor who still impresses people with his skills today. Being a journalist in today’s time may seem to be a little difficult, but through Bloom’s eyes, it’s nothing that can’t be accomplished. Bloom doesn’t really have any hobbies, he likes to work out every morning but other than that, he is always working and says that being a writer is the best job around. Interview with Bloom.

“I have no stamp collection, I don’t make model airplanes…Writing consumes my life.” Explains Bloom.

Bloom did recently get in touch with his New York agent to pitch his story idea for his new book, “Three Seconds – A Story of Crime, Punishment, and Absolution in the American Heartland”. It will be five more years of the reporting and writing process for Bloom. He is also planning on teaching in London this summer. His class will be about British media, which he knows nothing about but hopes to learn. It’s a three week class for the University of Iowa students and Bloom is excited to experience it.


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