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Shearer ’09 on TikTok Journalism

Matt Shearer, in sweatshirt, gives thumbs up to camera as group of students sits and waves in background
Matt Shearer ’09, front, visits Common Collective to talk about TikTok and journalism. Photo/Ashley Osmecki ’23

Story by Megan Richards ’06

Matt Shearer ’09 visited Common Collective on Tuesday, March 30, to talk TikTok, changes in journalism, and authenticity.

Shearer was in the Audio/Radio program when he attended Emerson, and now works for WBZNews Radio. The station decided to take their stories to TikTok during the pandemic, and knew just the person to ask.

“Creativity and journalism can have a really beautiful meeting in the middle,” said Shearer. “They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Shearer is known for his off-beat, out-of-left-field news TikToks, which have gained him a following of over 130,000. He often approaches people on the streets of Boston to include in his videos, but aims to highlight different areas of New England. As a Massachusetts native himself, he seeks to showcase to his followers the colorful characters that reside in the commonwealth.

“You learn a lot in the classroom, but you learn the most by being out there and doing stuff.”

This style of news reporting, often referred to as “man on the street”, can be daunting at first, Shearer described. But showcasing a variety of different sources and diversifying his videos is a priority of his.

“Talk to all different types of people. Different ages, different ethnicities…different perspectives. Talk to as many people as possible.”

His insight into social media and the shifting journalism landscape was particularly appreciated by members of the Common Collective, a collaborative organization that encourages students from different majors and backgrounds to come together and help each other with content creation. Shearer was able to give advice about content creation to members of the Common Collective.

“Everyone wants to know how to beat the algorithm and get views,” he said. “The way to do it is to [consistently] put out good stuff. Be authentic, be unique.”

Ashley Osmecki ‘23, co-president of the Common Collective, said Shearer’s experience in content creation is why the organization thought Shearer would be a great resource for members.

“A lot of what we do at Common Collective is teaching storytelling and how to utilize and refine digital skills for communication,” she said. “Matt Shearer makes the perfect guest speaker because of his talented storytelling skills and his vibrant presence.”

According to EmConnect, the Common Collective acts as “a bridge between the School of Communications and the School of the Arts.”

Kat Thomas ’25, a member of the Common Collective and Journalism major, said Shearer’s words of advice are applicable to both their major and their work within the Common Collective.

“I really like hearing about integrating creativity in the field of journalism,” they said. “It’s fun to see someone active in the field who pushes that boundary.”

Shearer, whose tongue-in-cheek style of reporting has earned him international coverage, said the growing popularity of TikTok will shape journalism in the coming future.

“Maybe the fact that there are no expectations about what can be posted on social media opens the door,” he said. “I think everyone is learning how to adapt journalism to social media in their own way. I think there are so many ways to tell a story.”

Cooper Sherman ‘23, Sports Communication major, said of Shearer,  “I love the interviews he does with people. I love Matt’s TikToks, they’re some of the best I see.”

Shearer reiterated throughout his talk how important it is for creators and journalists alike to showcase their personality and add their own flair to their work whenever possible. He credits his TikTok success solely to his authenticity and the special way in which he tells his own story.

He left attendees of the event and members of the Common Collective with this lesson:

“Keep making stuff and finding your own voice. People appreciate when something is different.”

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