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USM alumnus Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times to speak at April 13 event

The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger figures he's come full circle from his days as the editor of the student-run Free Press, where he did seemingly every job.

"You got a tiny little sampling of all aspects of the business," said Genzlinger, who earned a history degree from the University of Maine Portland-Gorham in 1977. "By the time I graduated, I had the rough idea of how a newspaper was put together. That served me well all the way through."

It serves him today as one of four TV critics at the grandest of all US newspapers, he said. Even there, industry changes are forcing fewer people to do more with less.

"They're now training us writers to be our own copy editors and our own photo editors," Genzlinger said. "It's all coming back around."

So is Genzlinger.

On April 13, the critic will appear at USM's Glickman Library on the Portland Campus for a discussion of his career, today's newspaper business and where it seems to be headed. The event is planned for 4 p.m. at the University Events Room on the library's seventh floor. It will be hosted by Professor of Media Studies David Pierson.

To attend the free event, please RSVP at the USM Alumni page here.

For Genzlinger, it will be a chance to come home.

He first came to Maine as a middle schooler, moving to Cape Elizabeth from suburban Philadelphia. As the youngest of seven children, Genzlinger attended USM (then called 'POGO') because it was affordable. He quickly joined the Free Press.

"Writing came naturally," he said. He learned about the business in his final two years, first as a co-editor and then as editor. "The whole thing was your responsibility, including the ad sales and arranging of the printing contract. You were also managing people -- and by 'managing' you were trying to cajole people to write stuff for you for nothing. And you were overseeing production, literally pasting the whole thing together."

His first professional job was as the Franklin County bureau chief for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, a job he held for four years, covering all types of news in Farmington and throughout the county. He left the Sentinel to earn a master's degree in journalism at Penn State. After graduating from that program, in 1983 he joined the Hartford Courant as assistant copy desk chief. In his five years at the Courant he wrote numerous articles for Northeast, its Sunday magazine.

In 1989 he joined The Washington Post as a copy editor on the Metro desk, also contributing articles to its Outlook and Style sections. In 1994 he moved to the New York Times, where he has been ever since.

At the Times, he has been an editor on the National Desk, the Op-Ed Page and the Culture Desk. During his time as an editor he also accumulated hundreds of bylines, including reviewing theater, film and television and writing the Jersey Column and the City Critic column. In 2011 the Times made him a full-time critic, concentrating on television but also encompassing theater and film. He has had more than 3,000 bylines in the paper.

Genzlinger has carved his own place among the Times' reviewers.

"My niche at the Times is to explore the outer fringes of television," he said. "I write about the animated stuff on Adult Swim, stuff with weird and sick humor. I'm the only person at the paper who seems to get those shows."

In fact, he watches less TV than people imagine. He often disappoints people who want to chat with him about their favorite show.

"Inevitably, they name a show I don't watch," he said. "I don't watch all 200 shows there are on TV today. I don't write about Game of Thrones or the other big ticket shows. That's not generally my area.

Rather, among the paper's TV critics, he's the only one who also writes about movies and theater.

"I usually review 100 movies and a couple of dozen plays," he said.

All of these stories come amid a changing news industry, something Genzlinger plans to talk about at USM.

The New York Times continually analyzes its online traffic and it's changing how success is measured, he said.

"People are obsessed with who's reading our stories, what they're reading them on and so on," he said.

"The spectrum is stunning," Genzlinger said. "The Trump story of the day will have 20 million clicks by the end of the day. Whereas, if I review some arthouse film that's playing only in one New York theater, that'll have 500 clicks by the end of the day.

"Now that we can see, specifically, how many people are reading each story, how does that change what we cover?" he said.

"It raises some interesting journalistic questions," said Genzlinger, who hopes to discuss possible answers at the April 13 event.

Besides his work for the New York Times and other newspapers, Genzlinger's writing has appeared in Down East Magazine, Maine Times, Harper's, Food & Wine and other publications.