Murrysville native mixes doses of gossip and journalism
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When Courtney Hazlett graduated from Franklin Regional High School in 1995, she wanted to be a doctor.
More than a decade later, Hazlett is not a doctor, but she interviews those who play them on the big and small screens.
That's because the 31-year-old Murrysville native has parlayed her interest in writing and pop culture and the realization that she was "horrible" at chemistry into a career as an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. In addition to writing her "Scoop" column for the Web site, Hazlett, who has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, provides on-air commentary for broadcast programs such MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and NBC's "Today."
Armed with a philosophy degree from Tulane University, where she was a member of the sailing team, she decided on a whim to apply for a writing job at Boating magazine.
"When they asked me for clips, I turned in a philosophy paper," she said. "I got my foot in the door that way." She followed that job with turns at a few niche magazines before landing at smokinggun.com and then moving on to People and OK magazines.
"I literally planned my Saturday around what time People magazine came in the mail," she said, recalling her days growing up here. "I always think if everybody's talking about it, for some reason it must be important."
Well, tonight everybody will be buzzing about the Oscars, and Hazlett will be there -- her first time covering the event. Among the A-listers she's looking forward to rubbing elbows with is the dapper star of the Oscar-nominated film "Michael Clayton."
"I have a fascination with George Clooney," Hazlett says, adding that she's met the actor a couple of times. "I love him, love him, love him. ... He seems so old Hollywood, and I really like that."
She'd also like to catch up with "Juno" star Ellen Page and plans to attend an exhibition opening at Gagosian Gallery in Hollywood for Julian Schnabel. The director/artist is in the running for Best Director for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
In addition to her general excitement over covering the industry's biggest event, Hazlett is also interested in seeing how Los Angeles is rebounding after the writers' strike, which basically shut down the town and is said to have taken a $2.5 billion bite out of the city's economy.
"I have a lot of respect for how this stuff happens," she said. "There are so many people who make this machine work, and the majority of those people are the ones behind the scenes who never get credit."
While the world of celebrity gossip, with its myriad Web sites and blogs, can degenerate into something like mean girls on steroids, Hazlett said journalistic principles should always prevail.
"I trained in hard news at Columbia," she said. "I approach my sources the same way I'd approach my sources at city hall.
"It's real easy to go over to the dark side and just focus on the train wreck of the day, but that's not what I'm interested in."
First Published February 24, 2008 12:00 am