Newest Journalism Professor Focuses on Cultural Journalism

Will Hermes, who was born and raised in Queens, has written for The New York Times, Spin Magazine, and The Village Voice. But now he is the newest faculty member in the Journalism Program here at SUNY New Paltz and the writing skills that he has brought to big-name magazines are now on display for the college’s students.

The focus of much of Professor Hermes’ career has been on cultural journalism. “Music and art are mirrors of the culture,” he says. “Sometimes the image is idealized, and sometimes it’s warts-and-all.” Hermes adds, “I really look at it as an opportunity to write about the world by discussing how artists represent it.”

“I’ve always loved and been fascinated by music as both an art form and a social force,” says Professor Hermes. When that love for music is combined with his love for writing, Professor Hermes says “it was unavoidable that my writing would deal to a great extent with music.”

Professor Hermes often writes about music and culture. For example, in The New York Times on October 21, 2007, he wrote an article titled “Rock’s Balkanized Route to the Indies” that appeared in the Arts & Leisure section. He begins the article by describing a DeVotchKa concert at the Spiegeltent at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan last August, saying that the most striking thing about the show was “a quilt of sounds from the international section of the iTunes store” (

In the fall of 2007, Professor Hermes taught Journalism 1 and Copy Editing & Layout. Journalism 1 is an introductory class that familiarizes students with the evaluation, gathering, and writing of news. Students write both "hard" or "breaking" news stories and feature or human interest stories. Copy Editing and Layout is a course about editing of newspaper copy and page layout with intensive study of copy reading techniques.

In the spring 2007 semester, Professor Hermes will teach courses on Opinion Writing and Writing for the Arts. Opinion Writing is a course that looks at opinion writing in print and electronic media to see how it functions (or doesn’t) as journalism. Students will read opinion articles in order to learn how to write their own.

Writing for the Arts is a special class that will require students to read some of the best (and worst) art reviews in film, music, and other arts areas. The class will discuss why reviews in magazines and newspapers are increasingly short, shallow, and scarce and will consider issues that can undermine critical integrity.

Last July, Professor Hermes was awarded a fellowship by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He will be going on a retreat in January for visual artists, writers, and composers. “I plan to disappear into my study there with a pile of books, CDs, DVDs, and various research documents to work on The Big Bang,” says Professor Hermes.

The Big Bang is a book that Hermes is writing about the New York City music scene between 1973 and 1977. It was “a hardbitten time for the City but a hugely creative time in music across genres: punk rock, loft jazz, minimalist composition, salsa, disco, and the early stirrings of hip-hop culture,” Hermes explained. “I’m in the early stages of writing and researching, so it probably won’t be out for another couple of years at least. It’s a big project and I want to do it justice.”

“As a first-year full-time professor, it’s been challenging to find blocks of time to focus on this sort of project,” explains Professor Hermes, “so I’m really excited to get back into it for a couple of uninterrupted weeks.”

Professor Hermes hopes that his students “learn that writing well is something important and worthwhile, and that the best way to become a better writer is to write, and read, a lot. I also hope they become more critical consumers of the media, and come to realize that opinion has a place in journalism, so long as it’s informed opinion.”

Before coming to New Paltz, Professor Hermes taught in the New York City Public School system. He was a substitute English teacher for about a year and worked with SPARK, a peer-to-peer counseling program for high school students.

Professor Hermes earned his BA in Communications from SUNY Brockport in 1984, his MS in Education from Queens College in 1991, and his MA in Creative & Professional Writing in 1994 from the University of Minnesota.

Professor Hermes is currently living in New Paltz with his wife and 6-year-old daughter.