Student Finds His Village Voice as Journalist


FCLC Sophomore Michael Appler displays his cover story on The Village Voice. (JESSE CARLUCCI/The Observer)


Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous” tells the outlandish story of William Miller’s journey of covering a fictional rock-band’s tour for Rolling Stone. Due to his impressive skill, Miller’s 15-year-old stature is unbeknownst to his editor. The beloved story encompasses the dream that so many budding journalists aspire to achieve: to be recognized as a real, published writer. Much like Miller, Michael Appler, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC)  ’19, has carried out a similar narrative as a features writer for The Village Voice.

Appler met me at Rex Coffee. Laughing, he shared that the interview seat is a new territory for him. While he may be more comfortable conducting interviews himself, he eloquently detailed his relationship with The Village Voice to me. Appler laughed, “I don’t think The Voice has yet figured out that I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Appler’s journey to The Village Voice began in August 2016 at a cafe in Greenwich Village, where he happened to sit next to a woman who would serve as a pivotal character in his life. “She had a pony tail that jutted out… she was wearing leg warmers, this cardigan that was way way too small, and her laptop was just covered in Bernie Sanders [stickers],” he explained, “I was like, ‘I don’t know who this lady is, but I just have to interact with her.’” Appler soon discovered that she was creating a Bernie Sanders themed musical. “I can’t understate the irony of it all, because they are these people from Park Slope who are these extreme, leftist, progressive, sort of disconnected-from-the-world ’Bernie or Bust’ people, who wrote this musical for their idol, [and] rehearsed it in this $3 million brownstone.”

Fast-forward to November and Appler is tasked with finding a story for his first person journalism course with Professor Luisita Torregrosa, and the amusing woman from the cafe immediately came to his mind. “I was like, ‘I might see if this ridiculous thing that this woman told me about ever came to fruition,” and Appler reached out. After she agreed, Appler began crafting the story, conducting interviews with the woman, attending a rehearsal, and chatting with the actors. Appler was proud of his work and began considering the possibility of publishing it. He thought, “Well this sort of matches The Voice’s sensibility, my writing fits well with them,” and he cold-emailed the editor without any personal details or information. To Appler’s excitement the editor responded, expressing strong interest in his story. There was a caveat, however, as the story was missing the climax: the performance itself, which was to set to be performed one time only in Burlington, Vermont. “I said ‘OK, fine’ and I figured that was it… it was nice being able to at least talk with them, and I sort of moved on.”

“Then, two or three days later, I got a call from my now editor.” After much deliberation, The Village Voice had decided they wanted the story. “He said, ‘OK, we’re going to send you to Burlington. We already have the plane ticket [and] here’s your hotel reservation.” Just like that, Appler was on his way to writing an in-depth feature for The Village Voice.

When asked why he chose to not disclose any personal information in his initial pitch, he said, “That’s sort of like a strategy—which is don’t tell them who you are, just show them your writing, and if they like your writing, then who cares who you are.” Appler’s confidence in his writing and bold presence on the page was enough for The Village Voice. He added, “They treated me like (and assumed that I was…  and I guess I am now) a professional journalist.”

After already experiencing the delight of having his story picked up and of being flown to Burlington, Appler received news during the editing process that his piece had been chosen as the cover story. Appler quickly started learning the experience of a true journalist, gaining access to the lengthy, multi-faceted process of the print industry. “One thing you learn very quickly that’s really humbling is that… there is a lot that goes into publishing. There’s me writing, my editors editing, the layout people design the layout for the spread, there’s the artist who designs the artwork and there’s the copy desk,” he explained, “It’s not like I write something online and I click send and I close it… you are working in the business, which is really fun.” When Appler finally saw the end-result of his cover story, it was from an outsider’s perspective. “It was like seeing it not as the person who wrote it, but as anybody else who would pick it up, because there was so much that I hadn’t seen.”

That’s sort of like a strategy… don’t tell them who you are, just show them your writing, and if they like your writing, then who cares who you are.

Appler will continue to write feature pieces for The Village Voice and he tells me his next story focuses on, as he calls it, the “creative class in Brooklyn.” He smiles, “No one is unemployed in Brooklyn, everyone has a project.” Additionally, Appler will spend the summer interning for Vice.

“This has been a pretty evolutionary semester for me. I knew that I wanted to write and that I wanted to be a journalist, but I didn’t know what that meant or how to do it really.” Appler credits much of his success to Professor Torregrosa, who challenged him to find and define his voice. “I did a lot more hands- on work with my writing than I had in years past… you will never like anything that you write if you’re invested in it. It’s very excruciating, but it’s fun. I sort of developed myself more as a journalist, just figuring out what that meant, enough so that I was clearly over confident enough to send an editor an email.” He added, “It was pretty ambitious, but it worked out I guess.”