Film critic Adam Graham returns to CMU to share his career with students
Adam Graham attributes his 17-year-long career with The Detroit News to his time developing at Central Michigan University.
On March 18 and 19, the long-time reporter visited CMU to speak with journalism students and the Central Michigan Life staff to talk about his career as an entertainment reporter, primarily working for the Detroit News. He spoke in front of many journalism classes during his time on campus about how he reviews movies and covers concerts.
West Land junior Jackson Hallauer heard Graham speak during his 8 a.m. JRN 203 class and said hearing Graham talk was inspirational to hear as a broadcast major. While he didn’t really consider entertainment reporting before, now he said it’s an option he would take.
“(Graham) gave me more of a drive to continue perusing something in that field of entertainment,” Hallauer said.
CMU is not unfamiliar to Graham. He came here as a student in 1996, when he joined CM Life as a film critic on his first day at school. He was assigned to review a movie over the weekend and from there, he was a part of the paper for the rest of his time at CMU.
Graham said his time at CMU and CM Life allowed him to carve a path to where he is now, and that his education about journalism came from CM Life.
“I didn’t do well in (journalism classes),” Graham said. “(CM Life) is the education. It’s learning about deadlines, working for an editor and actually writing for a newspaper.”
While he’s worked or interned for other publications like the Grand Rapids Press and The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Graham’s career has been primarily at The Detroit News, where he has been working since 2002. During the majority of his time there, he was their pop music critic, meaning he covered all the big local music talents in Michigan. That includes Eminem, Jack White, Kid Rock and Big Sean. Graham covered any big concerts that rolled through town.
Graham has interviewed many of the biggest music stars in the past 15 years, including Beyoncé, Billy Corgan, Ice Cube and Taylor Swift. But to him, he said the biggest interview he has ever done was with Eminem.
Despite Eminem being a Detroit-based musician, Graham said an interview took years to get. Eminem had The Detroit News blacklisted based on an incident in the early 2000s when a reporter was following him and his daughter during trick-or-treating. The Detroit News was not able to land an interview with him until 2014 when they contacted Graham about doing an interview. During that time, Graham was constantly checking in to see if Eminem would grant him an interview.
“I inherited a bad relationship with Eminem,” Graham said. “I spent years trying to knock that wall down.”
Graham said it’s very important to him to have a conversation with a source and make it feel natural, instead of just doing a straight interview. He also said he finds talking to “regular” people more difficult than talking to big artists and actors.
Graham spoke about some of the big events he covered throughout his career, including big music festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza, along with Superbowl XL in Ford Field. But, he said his favorite event that he covered for The Detroit News was WrestleMania 23, for which his preview of the event was traveling with the WWE and the wrestlers for a few days.
In 2016, he transitioned to primarily being the paper’s film critic- his dream job. Last year, Graham said he watched over 250 movies for the paper. This gives him weird work hours. He begins his day at 1 p.m. and usually doesn’t make it home until around 9:30 p.m. since many of the movies he watches for the paper start at 7 p.m.