Since Carmella Boykin ’21 was hired by The Washington Post as an associate TikTok producer, she has spent some part of every workday making faces in the mirror.
“I’m just making faces of like: Oh! Ah! Eck! Ow! Like, can my mouth go, like, down?” Boykin says, demonstrating her Rolodex of reactions. “Then I go to shoot [a TikTok] and then I change outfits a bunch of times like, ‘Oh what should North Korea dress like?’ That’s something you would never think you would have to figure out.”
When asked if she had ever thought she would be doing that when she came to Newhouse to study broadcast and digital journalism, she beamed.
“That was the dream, but I never thought it would actually happen,” Boykin says. “The fact that I am here: I’m so geeked about it. [I can’t] convey how excited I am to be able to do this as a job.”
The Washington Post hired Boykin in December, and now she spends a decent portion of her day finding the best TikTok sounds, dancing and acting in front of a camera, and editing her Tiktoks so the beat hits just right over the joke.
But it’s more than just fun. The TikToks Boykin produces are strategically designed to get the news across in the most thoughtful way possible. She pitches, writes and edits them all with a careful eye toward getting the news across clearly while still being entertaining.
“It comes with a lot of responsibility, because the faces that you see aren’t the only people who are working on the TikToks,” Boykin says. “The people who are on camera have to be able to make sure that everything is accurate and correct and not coming from a certain slant.”
Boykin only started making TikToks last June, six months before she began working at The Post. She credits her time at Syracuse for her ability to quickly master the platform.
“I don’t think I would be in this position without Syracuse,” says Boykin, who was one of the co-founders of the digital department for CitrusTV. “It really primed my brain for being able to think going forward: What are the kinds of things that I’m going to consume and what are the kinds of things that I watch and how can I be part of the group that’s making those things?”
Aileen Gallagher, associate professor of magazine, news and digital journalism, both taught and mentored Boykin and remembers having deep conversations with her about how to carve her own path in the journalism industry. Gallagher says Boykin was always thinking about how to find opportunities and use them to help her get to where she wanted to be professionally.
“Carmella took advantage of almost everything that one could take advantage of at Newhouse or at SU,” Gallagher says. “She was a great student, but she also found faculty members [whose work she was interested in] and then built relationships with them.”
Boykin wanted to do work she could be herself with, and for her, that meant working in a social media journalism. She even jokingly admitted to aspiring to be Oprah for the digital world.
“I find, especially in school or when you’re doing serious pieces, you’re not supposed to insert your personality, which makes sense,” Boykin says. “So the fact that I’m able to insert my personality into pieces and also have it be journalism and inform people—that’s been the most rewarding part.”
Gallagher says Boykin’s natural charisma and humor, paired with her high standard of ethics, makes her a great representative for the Washington Post on TikTok, and for Newhouse.
“I just love talking about Carmella as an example of like: this is the future, and this is what you can do with a Newhouse education and a Newhouse experience,” Gallagher says. “She makes me reflect like: are we creating opportunities so that we can set the next student like Carmella on that right path?”
Elizabeth Kauma is a senior in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.