Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beyond the Byline: Getting to know Rebecca Kivak

You see our names here on Skirts and Scuffs and you may even follow us on Twitter. Sure, you know we are NASCAR fans and writers, but who are we really? What makes us tick? What was that moment we knew this was our NASCAR?

In this new column. Beyond the Byline, the creator of Skirts and Scuffs, Katy Lindamood (hey, that’s me) will go beyond the byline and behind the tweets in an attempt to learn more about some of the amazing women making Skirts and Scuffs a success.

Today we sit down with Skirts and Scuffs Associate Editor, Tweet Crew Member, and Twitter enthusiast Rebecca Kivak. We hope you enjoy this series and grow to love Rebecca as much as we do.

Here goes!

Phoenix photos personal camera 050

Rebecca, tell us a little about your background. Where did you go to school? Do you have a degree? What do you do for a living?

I’m an alumni of Penn State University. I graduated with a double major in English and Economics in 2004. Unfortunately, the further I got in my Economics major, the less I liked it! But I’ve always loved writing and editing, and that lead to me to work at a local newspaper. I was first hired as an obituaries writer, then had the opportunity to write a few stories and learn page design. About two and a half years ago I was promoted to a copy editor/page designer. I read stories for clarity and accuracy, create headlines and design local news pages (I do not work in sports).

You are a copy editor by trade. Do you have any advice for women wanting to get into that field? Are there are a lot of opportunities with the current economic climate with many newspapers and websites closing down?

For young women who seek a career as a copy editor, I would suggest joining your school newspaper and seeking out copyediting internships. Keep a portfolio of stories you have edited and pages you have designed. If you have done reporting, keep those clips too – clips are very important, and the more you have, the better to show a potential employer. If you write stories or do interviews for blogs, keep copies of those too. I’d also suggest learning Adobe Photoshop and page design programs like Adobe InDesign (that will be replacing traditional programs like Quark).

With the current climate, a lot of newspapers are cutting staff and folding, so I’m going to be honest: it is hard to get a job in the industry right now. As more readers seek their news from the Internet, any kind of website skills you can acquire is a plus, as most newspapers have companion sites and post breaking news, as well as multimedia to accompany stories. Some newspapers have also become Internet-only. The future of journalism lies with the Internet, so any kind of web skills you have can only help you.

Rebecca, our readers are dying to know about your recent experience in Phoenix regarding the Tweet Crew Team. Tell us about your trip and some of the amazing things you got to take part in.

Phoenix photos personal camera 095 The trip to Phoenix International Raceway was amazing. Randy Martin, Nancy E. Mills (both of whom I have profiled for Skirts and Scuffs) and I were chosen to be on the first official Tweet Crew, sponsored by Best Western and Michael Waltrip Racing. We followed MWR driver David Reutimann at PIR, had behind-the-scenes access in the pit and garage areas and tweeted about everything we experienced. We got to stand on the 00 hauler during Cup qualifying and hang out inside the hauler that day and on race day. David is a sweetheart and I’m glad we got to hang out with him. He was suffering from allergies that weekend, which I can relate to. We got to meet Michael Waltrip and appear in a press conference with him and David announcing the Tweet Crew before the race. Everyone from MWR who we met was great to us.
Phoenix photos personal camera 090

We also got to attend the drivers’ meeting, which I never thought I’d get to sit in on. Before the meeting I spoke a little bit with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski, and afterward I spoke with Jeff Gordon (I shook his hand) and Mark Martin. During the race I was positioned on top of the 00 pit box, then later I sat with the 56 (Martin Truex Jr.’s) crew and later on I was near turn 4, tweeting updates. Unfortunately the phones we were tweeting on died, so every so often they had to be recharged and we had to tweet on our own phones. I tried to send texts to Twitter from my Razr, but had trouble sending some through (not sure if there was a reception issue). I want to thank all those who stuck with the Tweet Crew during those times.

Phoenix photos personal camera 096 The hardest part was trying to tweet what was going on at the race. Even though I was there, you miss a lot of it because your view of the track is limited to what’s in front of your pit box and what you can see as you try to look out over the rest of the track. I could listen to the MWR teams’ scanners, look at the scoring on the laptops on the pit boxes and listen to PRN on the scanner, but it was difficult to know what was going on with other drivers besides Reutimann or what was happening on the track. I already had a lot of respect for the media who cover the races, but it was amplified after seeing firsthand what they have to do and how hard it is. I also have an even greater appreciation for the pit crews, drivers and other NASCAR officials after seeing what they do firsthand. They’re so good at doing something so difficult.

It's pretty obvious you are a NASCAR fan, but you haven't always been one, right? How did you get into the sport? When was your AHA! Moment? You know, the moment you thought “this is my sport?”

I got into NASCAR in 2006. My dad had been a fan when I was younger, and I used to say I liked whoever drove the McDonald’s car, because, well, I really liked McDonald’s, lol. I knew Jimmy Spencer drove it at one time, and I knew he was from my area (he’s from Berwick, about 30 minutes away from where I live in Wilkes-Barre). But it wasn’t until 2006 that I actually watched a race. While my boyfriend and I were at a friend’s house, he asked to change the channel to the NASCAR race. We’d been going out for over a year, and even though I knew he was a NASCAR fan, he’d never watched a race in front of me before. This was my first opportunity to see a race, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It was the May 2006 Richmond race, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the winner. With the exception of football, I’ve never liked sports very much, so I was shocked that I got into this race. The following Saturday, I was my boyfriend’s house when I took his remote and started hunting for the NASCAR race. I found it on FX – it was the Darlington race. Greg Biffle won. I knew I was hooked when I realized I actually wanted to find the next NASCAR race and watch it. It’s been a weekly tradition ever since!

How did you come to be a blogger for Skirts and Scuffs? Are there any other NASCAR sites you work with or any other projects you have in the works?

It started with Twitter. I joined Twitter to talk about NASCAR and find more NASCAR fans to talk with. While I like Twitter’s concept of tweeting in 140 characters, sometimes I felt that I had more to say about an issue in the sport that went way over the 140-character limit. I was considering starting my own blog to write about NASCAR when a NASCAR fan/writer who I talked to a lot, Katy Lindamood (yup you!) came on Twitter one day and said she had an idea for a NASCAR blog for female writers only. I’ve always been one to try and break stereotypes about women, as well as encourage women to bond together over, well, whatever we wanted. Joining with fellow female NASCAR fans to write about the sport sounded great to me, so I contacted Katy. You know the story from there!

I also am a contributor for a site called NASCAR Tweetups (nascartweetups.com), which assists NASCAR fans who meet on Twitter to plan meeting up with other fans in person. In addition, I recently became a contributor for Element of Speed (elementofspeed.com) and am working on posting my first story for the site.

We know you are an active Twitter user. How do you think that Twitter has affected the NASCAR fan base? Is it hurting it or helping it? Are there any negatives in your opinion? Any particular driver you wish had an account? Is there one who you think should NEVER get an account?

pir meetup I think Twitter has been a good thing for the NASCAR fan base because it’s allowed many of us to get to know each other from across the country when otherwise we probably wouldn’t have. The best example I can give of this is when I went to Phoenix. Fellow Skirts and Scuffs writer Genna met me at the airport! And I met at least 10 more fans or reporters who I had known from Twitter, including another Skirts and Scuffs writer, Farrah, at Phoenix. If not for Twitter, I wouldn’t have known a single soul in Phoenix. One of the most amazing results from Twitter is that fans have a chance to interact with NASCAR drivers, reporters, crew members and other insiders directly. Kevin Harvick can ask what networks we think give the best coverage of races, and I can actually answer him and tell him what I think. Twitter has also given NASCAR fans a forum to sound off about the sport, a place to offer praise or give complaints. NASCAR has an official presence on Twitter, so they can hear directly from the fans if a new rule works or not.

There are negatives to Twitter. For instance, many users can engage in a respectful debate about an issue in the sport, but some can be disrespectful and personally attack others for not sharing their views. I like to think of Twitter as a place to air opinions, not to impose them on others. We each have our own views, and I think healthy debate is a good thing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming on Twitter if you like a certain driver in the sport but others constantly rag on that driver. There can be a lot of negativity fans express over certain drivers or when fans don’t agree with a call made by NASCAR. While I’m for everyone giving their opinion, sometimes the negativity can be a lot to take. In that case, it’s better just to log off while others get it out of their system.

As for drivers on Twitter, I would like most, if not all drivers to get an account on there so they can connect with their fans. The driver I most want to see on Twitter is Dale Earnhardt Jr. But he’s also the one who maybe should never have an account. He’s the most popular driver in the sport and has a lot of demands on him the way it is. But I think even if he tweeted just a few times a week, that would be enough. He’s open with the media and with fans, so if Twitter would just be an extension of that, I think it could work for him. But if it’s something that would be annoying for him to keep up with, then he probably won’t do it.

**Follow Rebecca for updates at @becbeat555

Are you looking to turn your NASCAR writing and editing jobs into a full-time career in the future? Maybe something in public relations or working with a major website? Or are you just happy to let it take you where it leads?

I’m certainly open to my NASCAR writing and editing gigs leading to a full-time career in the future. It would be a great way to combine my interest in the sport with a job. While I enjoy my work and like my co-workers at the newspaper, it’s an uncertain time in the industry, as well as the economy, and it’s smart to keep other avenues open. I know a lot of people who have worked either as reporters or editors who have gone on to do public relations, so I can see myself taking a similar path someday. If an opportunity arose doing PR or with a major website, I would definitely consider it. I’m open to whatever the future may hold.

When you aren't being an editing genius or penning your own work what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies? What do you do to relax? How do your spend your “me” time?

LOL, you’re very kind. I read a lot. Right now I’m into the “Twilight” saga and the “Vampire Diaries” series. I like reading books about vampires. I’m not sure what that says about me, lol. I also like watching movies and seeing them in the theater. I try to spend time with friends, family and my boyfriend when I can. The people in my life are important to me. I work in the evenings, which makes it hard to get together with everyone, so I try to make the most of the afternoons and days I have off.

Do you have a role model? Personally or professionally?

My mom is a strong woman who doesn’t get the credit she deserves, in my opinion. She was a teacher, but stayed home to raise me. Being a homemaker is not an easy job, not by any stretch of the imagination, and I admire her and all homemakers, whether mothers or fathers, who are taking care of kids and a household.

In NASCAR, I admire Amy Walsh, account manager at Hendrick Motorsports for the 48 team. She’s also from Northeastern Pennsylvania and went on to work for several teams in NASCAR. Now she’s working for Hendrick Motorsports, the powerhouse of the teams. It’s inspiring to see someone from my area go so far in NASCAR. I also look up to female NASCAR reporters like Wendy Venturini, Nicole Briscoe and Becca Gladden, to name a few. They are smart women who know the sport inside and out. Frankly I also consider Danica Patrick a role model. I admire how self-assured she is knowing that so many eyes are on her. Yet she goes out there on the racetrack or a talk show, does her thing and then goes out and does it again, despite the cameras and the criticism. She runs with the boys on the track and she is used to it; it’s what she does. She knew running in NASCAR would be out of her comfort zone, but here she is, doing it anyway. All of that requires an amount of fearlessness I wish I had.

Describe yourself in one sentence. What's the one thing you want people to know about you?
I’m grateful for the people in my life, and I’m open to new experiences.

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I would like to thank Rebecca for taking the time to answer these questions and for all the hard work she does behind the scenes of Skirts and Scuffs.

I look forward to continuing this series in the coming weeks and hope you will come back for the next Beyond the Byline post. If you have a particular contributor you would like to hear from, just let me know via Twitter or email (admin@skirtsandscuffs.com).


Photos used with permission: Top - Rebecca poses on top of the 00 hauler at Phoenix International Raceway. Photo 2 – the view from on top of the 00 pit box. Photo 3 – David Reutimann awaits the start of the race. Photo 4 – Pit Crew Members prepare for the race. (Courtesy of Rebecca Kivak) Photo 5 – Farrah Kaye, Genna Short, and Rebecca Kivak meet up in Phoenix. (Courtesy of Farrah Kaye)

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