Cyberchick has a nose for news

She may not be the youngest syndicated columnist ever, but Melanie Redmond (C'00) sure comes close.

She's only 20 (as of Feb. 12), but the English major already has nearly three years' experience as a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

Photo by Candace diCarlo

Her "Cyberchick" column about computing and the Internet now runs in 30 newspapers nationwide, and she writes a second column, "Site Bytes," exclusively for the Daily News' "Cyberia" section.

Her professional career began while at Masterman High, a public school for academically talented students, where she began writing for the school newspaper in 9th grade. The Daily News had launched a section aimed at a teenage audience, and Redmond was already writing reviews of movies and CDs there when her editor asked a meeting of section contributors if anyone knew about computers. "I was the only one who raised my hand," Redmond said.

Writing about computers has its advantages, she said. "You get instant feedback - people will let you know what they think, and if they disagree with you, you will hear from them in e-mail."

In addition to her columns, Redmond writes occasional features for the Daily News and the Knight-Ridder news wire.

Redmond credits the late Arthur Benjamin, who was advisor to the Masterman newspaper and the school's computer instructor, for sparking her interest in both. Benjamin had suggested that she apply for a career development workshop sponsored by The Philadelphia Inquirer her junior year. After that, she applied for the Urban Journalism Workshop, a Dow Jones-sponsored summer institute at the Daily News. Of the more than 200 people who applied that year, Redmond was one of 12 who were accepted.

But Benjamin wasn't the only writer encouraging the aspiring reporter. "I used to write postcards to Dave Barry [the syndicated Miami Herald humorist] saying, 'Guess what I've been doing?' and I'd sign them 'Your fellow journalist, Melanie Redmond,'" she said. "He'd write me back notes signed, 'Your fellow journalist, Dave Barry.'" She also credits Barry - at one remove - with introducing her to her current boyfriend: the two met in the humor section of a local bookstore while she was reading one of Barry's books. She even tried -unsuccessfully - to get Barry's band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, to perform at her graduation.

With her strong interest in journalism, you would think that Redmond would have joined the staff of the Daily Pennsylvanian. She might have, if her brief tryout as a general-assignment reporter had agreed with her. "It was never like you were part of the great DP family, while at the Daily News there was a strong sense of community," she said.

On campus, she edits The Vision, the African-American student newspaper.

Redmond would make any mother proud. But hers is not impressed - yet.

"My mom wants me to buy her a Mercedes after I graduate," she said. "I said, 'Can't you wait until I've paid back my student loan?' She said, 'No - I don't want to have to wait until I'm 50!'"

No matter. For Redmond, writing is a labor of love. "My parents would love it if I worked for The New York Times, but I'd be equally happy working for a paper no one's heard of," she said.

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Originally published on February 11, 1999