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Essence of Success

Written by Holden Slattery



In a church basement in Washington, D.C., Cynthia Gordy is part of a small group of reporters at a lunch buffet for the homeless. She types a blog entry on her Blackberry while waiting for the food to be served. The 60 homeless people curiously watch her and the other reporters, who don’t normally show up for these lunches.

Then, a volunteer raises a panel into the kitchen, where First Lady Michelle Obama stands behind a counter. Wearing a white-collared shirt, pink cardigan, and black apron, the smiling First Lady holds a spoon over mushroom risotto and broccoli. The lunch crowd is surprised and star-struck.

Gordy jots their reactions into her notebook. She’s the first Washington correspondent for Essence, a national magazine geared toward African American women who are independent and career-minded with high aspirations. The job allows her to use the writing skills she developed at Pitt and her longtime passion for addressing issues in the Black community. She took an unpaid internship with Essence in New York City during her junior year, but her Pitt credentials were so strong, the magazine paid her. Then, after graduation, she began working for the magazine as an editorial assistant and became news editor in 2008.

This year, she moved to Washington to cover President Obama’s administration, his family, and Congress. Gordy (A&S ’03) writes daily entries in her blog, Obama Watch, on Essence’s Web site. In addition, she writes feature stories for the magazine’s print edition.

After the First Lady serves lunch, Gordy interviews two attendees and posts another blog entry. Soon, she’ll go to the White House for a press briefing about a health care reform summit. There, President Obama will explain plans that, if implemented, will affect the health of the nation. Gordy needs to make sure her readers know what those plans might mean for them.

The Pitt graduate’s dedication to reporting is earning her prestigious honors. This year, Gordy was named the Emerging Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.