Written by: Madison Duboise
Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, a little self motivation or a little push to find your passion, for student journalist Malick Mercier his sign was the Disney VoluntEARS Mentoring Program that sparked his lifelong passion for journalism.
Mercier joined the program when he was a high school sophomore, his mentor just so happened to work at ABC along with one of his program mentors being a stage manager for a local news station WABC, which happened to be just a few blocks from Mercier’s high school.
The stage manager worked with Eyewitness News anchor, Sade Baderinwa, who hosts an annual program, Get Reel with Your Dreams. Mercier actually had the opportunity to attend sessions with Lisa Ferri, David Muir, the head writer at the time, and even Marci Gonzalez, a correspondent at ABC News through this connection.
Mercier stayed in touch with the stage manager who passed along the message of Mercier’s passion for news to Baderinwa, and from then on Mercier’s life was completely changed.
“Baderinwa found out about how interested I was in news, and in aviation, my other passion. It happened to be her nephew was similar, and was writing for a site called Airline Geeks. He got me setup and the rest is history,” Mercier said. “I was able to marry my passions and I was just so excited to dig in, I bought a karaoke mic and started going out with friends to do stories and eventually it ended up on Airline Geek’s YouTube and website. Being out in the field, and having an outlet got me hooked.”
Mercier later went on to Ithaca College in New York and received a Park Scholarship, a scholarship awarded to individuals who use the power of media to make a positive impact, which he believes is truly an honor.
“Having the full scholarship allows me the privilege of thinking of things that aren’t as cost-related as many students might have to, which is truly a blessing,” Mercier said. “Ithaca College has also given me experience through Ithaca College Television (ICTV) which allowed me to get on-camera experience for multiple news shows both on television and on digital platforms.”
Starting off majoring in just Journalism, Mercier is now double-majoring in both Journalism and Sociology. He hopes to use the degrees to show his viewers that they have yet another reason to trust him, and his reporting.
“I hope news outlets will see that I have an added education through Higher Ed that gives me a wealth of experiences through four years of schooling that will allow me to make their newsrooms a better place,” Mercier said. “I really just want to tell stories and be out in the field and I hope the degree opens more doors for me so I can make a difference in the world: the stories that are told, and the ways in which we tell them.”
Mercier even had the opportunity to cover the March for Our Lives as a student journalist on the official Instagram page. He worked with a producer at Instagram, Alina Grosman, as well as photographer, David Guttenfelder.
“I got to go up really high on this aerial work platform to get this insane view of the crowd and I will never forget hearing the voices of my peers across America protesting against gun violence, and getting to cover it,” Mercier said. “I think another special moment in my career was following the movement's Road to Change Tour to Chicago, IL which was the first stop. Seeing celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, and Chance the Rapper; and change makers like Emma Gonzalez alongside Chicago students energize the South Side of Chicago which is repeatedly ravaged by gun violence was a humbling sight. It was an honor to tell that story, especially because the march mobilized, marching through the streets which helped me get more voices and get through the hard story.”
Mercier uses his platform and hopes to continue to use it in even more ways than one, especially to advocate for innovation and openness in journalism as well as mental health awareness. Struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, he attempts to be vulnerable and make people aware of the issues in today’s society in hopes people have more empathy towards certain individuals and to hopefully help end the stigma around mental health problems.
“I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder in late 2018. I feel compelled to tell my story, especially if I am going to be asking people I interview to share their stories with me. I think being vulnerable is hard, but it can really help others,” Mercier said. “I feel like the stigma against mental health has hurt me personally, and so many others especially in underserved communities, so I feel like it’s important to help make the mental health conversation more accessible.”
Airline Geeks was not Mercier’s only endeavor into aviation. JetBlue, his beloved hometown airline, quickly became a large fascination for Mercier because of his love for aviation. Reporting on JetBlue allowed him to learn more about the company, as did a week long aviation career education camp they hosted that he attended as a high school student. Yet again this became another opportunity to combine his love for journalism as well as aviation.
“I got to fly my first plane, visit the airline’s hangar at JFK and headquarters in Queens, NY. I also had the chance to visit air traffic control offices. The camp brought me back as a counselor in training the following year and offered me room to speak to the students about how I married my passions for aviation and journalism,” Mercier said. “I will also say that many people don’t know JetBlue’s mission is to inspire humanity with the airline’s five core values being safety, caring, integrity, passion and fun. That inspires me everyday, and has taught me a lot.”
In the fall of 2018 Mercier began using his social media platform right after Instagram’s launch of IGTV, to start a show on Instagram because he saw it as a perfect storytelling medium. He really wanted to do more stories focused on his generation. His latest piece being on gaming disorder which was near and dear to his heart.
“Struggling with OCD, my interest was instantly piqued, especially because gaming is growing in our generation and people seem generally more concerned with what our newfound close proximity to technology is doing to us,” Mercier said. ”I flew to Seattle for it and drove to the rehab center, having never been there made it a real journey. It was really special to me to get to interview and highlight young people dealing with an issue that isn’t really talked about.”
With Mercier being a student journalists he is nothing but familiar with the age discrimination in the field. Being told he’s “too green” and shamed for having a reel in high school is almost a normal thing to him now, he struggles with dealing with news companies not wanting to work with younger, newer journalists. Also being an African American in the journalism industry, Mercier is consistently trying to break the barriers of racial discrimination not just in the workplace but in life as well.
“I think that in terms of race as I’ve fought to break deeper into the industry, I have felt this idea that if there is one young black person that is enough. When in reality that isn’t true, and one person cannot speak for an entire generation or race. I’ve tried to focus on the outlets that have allowed me the space to tell stories and focused on improving my craft there,” Mercier said. “I’ve also tried to do things on my own because I’m grateful to be in a place where I have people and followers that will listen to the stories I tell. I know that when I’m out of college the bigger outlets will take more notice than they already have.
Being a next-gen storyteller, Mercier is constantly using new tools and platforms to tell his generation’s stories. It also means being open and vulnerable, making my stories accessible to next-generation viewers, and showing the behind the scenes of the news gathering process.
“I really hope to tell stories differently, in ways that make people really think. I believe a journalist should also fulfill people and that’s something I want to do too. I think just being really present as a student journalist reallys just makes a huge difference. I am still figuring it all out, but I know that above all we have to be really honest,” Mercier said. “I also hope to think of more creative ways to fund news. Viewers are smart, they’re tired of bias, they’re tired of news being so controlled by advertiser dollars, and they’re tired of journalists who they feel don’t really care about them. I hope I can work to be their solution, to be the journalist we need during the good and bad times.”