Growing up in the hood teaches people many lessons about surviving in the world. For some, it motivates them to leave and pursue excellence like never before. In the case of SB Nation staff reporter Tyler Ricky Tynes, his experiences of growing up in the hood reminds him how far he has come each day on his grind in the media industry.
Tynes, 22, grew up in the hood of north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but refused to let the conditions of his environment serve as a crutch in whether or not he would be successful. For these conditions would only fuel him to do what he does today: help people of color.
Currently, Tynes works as a race and society staff reporter for SB Nation in Washington, DC, discussing how the two categories intersect sports.
Before working in this arena of sports, however, Tynes maneuvered his way through the industry by working for the Huffington Post and The Press of Atlantic City and doing freelance work that consisted of duties and tasks that no one else wanted to do.
“I had a desire once I got to college to never be in a position where I had to go back to North Philly,” Tynes said. “I did every piece of grunt work I possibly could until someone did not have a choice but to hire me.”
Growing up an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, the north Philly native left the city to attend King’s College, a small liberal arts college in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, earning a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication and media studies in May 2015.
According to Tynes, however, his journalism program or degree did not help him become the journalist he is today.
“You don’t need journalism school to be a good journalist. That’s the oldest lie in the book. You need experience. My first journalism professor told me I’d never make it to a national outlet or top five market, but I did both before my 19th birthday,” Tynes said.
Tynes did credit one of his professors from King’s College for serving as a mentor in his pursuit to be a journalist.
“Sue Henry is the reason I had faith in myself to do this job. She took me to the Sandusky Appellate Court Trials,” Tynes said. “She helped me get seven college journalism awards and played a big part of why my college experience was amazing.”
Despite Tynes’ disbelief that “j-schools help produce great journalists,” it was at King’s College where he knew he wanted to be a journalist.
“I met Sal Paolantonio from ESPN when I was a senior in high school and he told me I could have his job when I got older,” Tynes said. “Then, he [Paolantonio] forgot who I was when I saw him again at the Philadelphia Eagles camp in 2013.”
Throughout college, Tynes freelanced for numerous media companies including SB Nation, the company he works for now.
However, Tynes remembered his freelance opportunity for the Wilkes Barre Citizen’s Voice the most, saying this opportunity was not fun but it motivated him to be a better reporter.
“It was horrible. I found my way, somehow, to these obscure places in northeastern Pennsylvania every weekend. I got like $25 a story and I did not have a car,” Tynes said. “I had back mountain, coal-mining region white people stare at me every game as if I didn’t belong there. It was jobs like those that drove me to never want to have those jobs again.”
From his adventurous freelancing opportunities, Tynes landed his first job out of college, working as a breaking news reporter at The Press of Atlantic City in June 2015.
“My job here was code for: you’re only 21 years old, we don’t really value you more than most people in our newsroom. You’re going to sit at your desk for around nine hours per day and re-write press releases about foxes and rabies and other minute things that only our market cares about and isn’t really news,” Tynes said.
Tynes also said it was at this newspaper where he learned so much about the politics of the media industry and newspapers in general.
“My job started off great until I began helping black people in the city that the paper constantly ignored,” Tynes said. “I wrote too many articles that actually helped people but pissed off the mayors and police chiefs. My paper chose to side with the politics instead of morals. It was here that I learned that newspapers sucked and that they don’t really value diversity or youth.”
Determined to serve and advocate as a voice for people of color, Tynes left The Press of Atlantic City in December 2015 to work as a politics fellow at The Huffington Post where he covered the 2016 State of the Union, helped with coverage on the Flint Water Crisis, congressional reporting and stories centered around race and politics.
Unlike the The Press of Atlantic City, the Huffington Post believed in Tynes’ talent and taught him how to use different angles to tell stories.
“The Huffington Post told me to go do things no one else was doing and didn’t make me re-write press releases. Thanks Atlantic City,” Tynes said. “The HuffPost reminded me that there were still good newsrooms out there. I learned how to do political reporting and sharpened my angles as a reporter, which separates a lot of the best talent in the field from everyone else.”
After three months, Tynes started working as a race and society reporter for SB Nation in April 2016. Tynes, who had previously freelanced with SB Nation, said it was like coming back home.
“People like Elena Bergeron, Brian Floyd, Kevin Lockland, Michael Katz, Steven Godfrey and a slew of others, instantly made me feel at home again,” Tynes said. “Once I moved to DC to work for HuffPost, they bought me a cheesesteak. Anyone who knows me knows a properly made cheesesteak is the way to my heart.”
Now, with a job that he loves, Tynes looks to fulfill his ultimate goal of living his life how Drake raps on his albums.
To ensure this, however, Tynes remains in contact with his mentors for guidance and support about the industry.
Tynes’ mentors include Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Daily News, Denise James, a former star producer and Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com.
“Myron finds a way to always – always – put me in my place. He’s a big motivation. He got to ESPN before he was 30,” Tynes said. “Jenice was my journalism mom through college and I’ll never go through a move in my career without consulting her. Ms. James (because I will never call her Denise) was one of the driving forces that made Stuart Scott great when he was interning in North Carolina. She helped me realize I can be better than the arrogant, 20-year old Tyler would have believed.”
After working in numerous places in just a short span of his journalism career, Tynes offered some advice for college graduates who prepare to enter the media industry.
“You aren’t too good for any job. Find one. Take one, dig in and commit yourself to that job,” Tynes said. “Then, get the hell out of there for somewhere that’ll pay you to eat dinner out once a week. My first full-time gig was in a dying casino town for $36,000 a year. It was pretty great money all things considering. But that’s the reality of this field. Take what is offered.”
While he has a job that he loves, for Tynes, his future now will consist of being a voice to the voiceless but more importantly, being the voice from a place he so desperately has no desire to go back to: the hood of north Philly.