As the internet evolved, music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music became the “new industry gatekeepers.” This shift caught the attention of Todd C. Frankel, an enterprise reporter on The Washington Post’s financial desk, who wondered how this was impacting bands on the cusp of breaking out into the mainstream. Frankel knew he had to find an artist to illuminate this idea. That’s when the band The Orwells entered the picture.
The Chicago suburb based band seemed like a perfect fit for Frankel’s story since they sold CD’s before music was streamed and were now trying to adapt to a changing industry. He doesn’t often write about music since he typically covers anything that catches his eye.
Before Frankel met The Orwells in California, he interviewed the five bandmates over the phone since he didn’t want to waste time spent with the band. Once he made it to California, he spent a week with The Orwells and their management.
“So then you’re just hanging out and trying to convince them to not be worried about the guy who’s sitting in the corner with a note pad who’s watching them and trying to soak it all in,” Frankel said.
About 95 percent of the material accumulated during that week ended up on the cutting room floor. It was hard since he didn’t know what he would use until later. Frankel also has difficulties any time he writes a story related to the internet since it’s hard to show how this broad force can affect people in their day-to-day lives.
Once he made it past these challenges, it took him about three to four months to finish the story due to the heavy amount of reporting. Even though it wasn’t a story meant to sell records, the band reacted well to it since publicity is publicity. Many people in the music business also liked the story since it highlighted an issue that had not often been addressed.
Even though Frankel is now a successful journalist, he didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduating with an English degree from the University of Delaware in 1997. Since he loved writing, he decided to pursue journalism and received a fellowship at the Poynter Institute in Florida. Here he learned the basics of journalism since he hadn’t interned at any newspapers during college.
“There’s some people you know who’ve worked on their school newspaper since they were 10, and they started a newspaper in their neighborhood, but that wasn’t me,” Frankel said.
His first job at a newspaper was in Henderson, Kentucky where he covered cops and courts for The Gleaner. Since he was from Washington, D.C., his editor didn’t know what to make of this “city boy” who was now living in a tiny town in western Kentucky. He spent his time listening to a police scanner and writing three to four stories a day.
Frankel then wrote for papers in Charleston, West Virginia and Everett, Washington before working at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 10 years. He has now been at The Washington Post for four years.
His advice to young journalists is simple, but something that can be underappreciated: write a lot.
“It still all comes down to words and writing, but now there is learning how to code, shoot video and take your own photos, and that’s all fine,” Frankel said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to just writing, and people still respond that. I feel like that gets lost sometimes in learning how to do all of these different things to help your career, but a well told story still resonates.”