SF State Students Star On MTV Reality Show
December 9, 2006 3:22 PM
From juvenile hall to the halls of legendary music magazine, Rolling Stone, SF State student Russell Morse has come a long way.
With a checkered academic and personal history, Morse has emerged as one of the brightest journalists on MTV's new magazine series "I'm From Rolling Stone."
In this reality show premiering in January, six writers – including two from SF State – were selected from more than 3,000 applicants to compete for a coveted staff position at the famous magazine based in New York City.
"I'm the asshole of the show," Morse joked.
The 25-year-old San Francisco native, who is pegged by the show as "talented, explosive, and self-sabotaging," started writing in a juvenile hall writing and conversation course.
The program, which allowed him to document his experience in the juvenile justice system, catapulted his career and enabled him to find work in the industry.
While writing for New American Media in San Francisco, Morse's editor sent him on a rather unusual assignment: to apply for an MTV reality show.
"I had to answer questions like, 'When's the last time I lost my temper?' or 'Am I a slut?'," Morse said.
His "bad boy behavior" definitely lent itself to good television, as Morse took the unconventional approach to interviews by challenging subjects to races and arm wrestling matches.
Some of his most memorable interviews include Method Man and George Clinton, whom he considers, "a pretty serious notch on my belt."
"It's the most invasive, exhausting, bizarre existential experiment," Morse said of being on a reality show.
But for SF State alumna Krishtine De Leon, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"It changed my life," De Leon said. "I had planned to move to New York for journalism since high school. It's my dream."
De Leon saw a posting for the show on Myspace.com a week before the application deadline.
"It was a sign to me," De Leon said.
De Leon was turned on to music journalism after taking a class taught by SF State journalism professor John Burks, and has since developed a passion for covering hip hop artists and issues.
"It was important to connect my background to my journalist career since I grew up with the struggle," De Leon said. "Most people see hip hop in terms of its detrimental factor to youth, but I want to show another dimension … its unifying effect in the community."
Some of her favorite interviews include Young Jeezy, Cassie, Sleepy Brown and DMX.
But nothing compared to when Snoop Dogg recognized her work from Ruckus Magazine, a hip-hop culture publication based in the Bay Area, where De Leon served as editor.
"I grew up listening to Snoop on the West Coast," De Leon said. "For him to recognize my work, it was a big deal, very satisfying."
An average day in the life of an "I'm From Rolling Stone" cast member included waking up early, scouring the Internet for music news, attending an 11 a.m. editorial meeting, and making phone calls to publicists for interviews.
"Rolling Stone has access like no other," De Leon said. "All I had to say was that I was from Rolling Stone, and I'd get a call back."
"I'm From Rolling Stone" aims to be a different kind of reality show.
"People will be impressed with how smart and groundbreaking it is," De Leon said. "It focused more on work and less on personal life. We’re not just pretty, superficial people – we're smart, working journalists."
But according to Morse, it's all the same.
"It's just like ‘Temptation Island’ or ‘The Real World,’" Morse said. "I tricked myself into thinking I'd have any dignity left."
"I'm From Rolling Stone" premieres on MTV, Jan. 7 at 10 p.m.
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