Kerry Burke '84 has moved well beyond smashing Hostess cupcakes with a hockey stick.
The dessert destruction occurred during the talent section of the 1984 Mr. Bowdoin pageant, when Burke also remarked on Bowdoin sports and tuition. As a city reporter with the New York Daily News for the last four years, Burke now devotes his time and energy to the stories of New York.
"I cover murder and mayhem," he said in an interview with the Orient. "If it's got blood and dirt on it, it's my story."
His dedication led to a significant role on the Bravo series, "Tabloid Wars." The show focuses on what Burke describes as the "life and death struggle" between the Daily News and its rival, the New York Post.
At first, Burke hesitated to appear on a television show about the paper. As a city reporter who handles news as soon as it breaks, "anonymity in my job is an asset."
However, Burke acknowledged that the press should be transparent and people should understand what goes into media production.
"I traded anonymity for legitimacy," he said. "I go to people on the worst day of their lives and say, 'Tell me everything.' It would be hypocritical to not do it when people asked me to tell my story."
That trade paid off for Burke. In "Tabloid Wars," his stories run the gamut from Robert DeNiro's nanny, a kleptomaniac, to a heroin junkie couple that scalded its toddlers to death. Other stories include a shooting involving two cops and a perpetrator who then jumped out of a 14th floor window, and a racial riot on Howard Beach, where a similar racial attack happened 20 years earlier.
"I don't like covering celebrities, but it's still news because it captures New York's attention," Burke said.
"New York is a city of extremes. Its diversity is unprecedented, with harrowing and beautiful stories."
Burke, a Boston inner city native, fell in love with New York because of these stories.
"Being in New York is like playing for the championship Celtics," he said. "If you want to play in the big leagues, you go to New York."
He attended Bowdoin on scholarship, calling it his first formal education. He then received his graduate degree at Columbia School of Journalism.
Burke credits Bowdoin with providing him with a liberal arts education that "applies to everything," but heading to a major metropolitan area and throwing himself headfirst into journalism gave him an opportunity to learn the industry by doing the job firsthand.
"My shift is 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., but it never works out that way," he said. "It starts as early as the news breaks and I'm usually out until 2 a.m."
Burke's drive also focuses on the "high stakes and exacting standards" involved with working for the Daily News.
"If you get something wrong, it's people's lives. There could be riots. We play it straight and don't want to take people down. We sacrifice large parts of stories because we can't nail it down."
With regard to "Tabloid Wars," Burke admits that he doesn't watch the show. He does, however, have good reason: "It's not about me. It's about the stories of the city."