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Tehrene’s got talent

UNI senior heads to the Big Apple as online editor for teen magazine

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Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 10:28 am | Updated: 10:32 am, Mon Apr 8, 2013.

Tehrene Firman has yet to tweet about it, but in the meantime, here is the news in print.

The 23-year-old UNI student is now officially on her way to the Big Apple.

And not just on a trip to Yankee Stadium.

She will be the editor for J-14.com, the No. 1 teen celeb magazine in the country. In its print incarnation, the magazine, pronounced “just for teens,” is targeted at preteen girls, and has a circulation of over 200,000.

That Tehrene’s got talent is hardly newsworthy for those who know her, but that she gets to play in the big leagues — a goal she has had since childhood — is worth a note for the record. What has positioned the Nashua native for this adventure is her own hard work. What has nurtured it is her love for journalism.

As a budding reporter in sixth grade, Tehrene started making her own newspaper called the Nashua Tale, using her parents’ computer and covering what she believed to be the hot topics of her town. She told her peers how to avoid intrusive strangers or where they can hang out in the summer, which, in  Nashua, Iowa, is usually the beach at Cedar Lake.

So strongly did the 12-year-old reporter feel about the quality of her paper, and about the eagle logo she had created using Microsoft Word, then “a super big” novelty, that she took to the streets, knocking on neighbors’ doors. Selling subscriptions rather than working the lemonade stand, she got almost $10, peddling her work for 50 cents a page.

“The little old ladies around town just loved it,” she says.

One day, Tehrene dropped one of her copies into the mailbox of her hometown paper. At that time, she had no plans to become a viable competitor for the commercial paper, but her effort and her spirit landed her a spot on the community page, where she became a columnist.

As can be expected,Tehrene’s newspaper column was the talk of the town.

“Every week I was just the most excited person when I saw my name in the paper,” she says. “My parents were so proud. Everyone would come up to them and tell them how much they like reading it each week.”

Although Tehrene came up with her own business model, her parents, Dirk and Janise Firman, have a lot to do with their daughter’s drive.

As co-founders and owners of Trans Video Teleproductions, a company dedicated to the transfer of film reels to new technologies, they modeled work ethic and enterprise for her.

“I just saw how hard they worked at creating their own business and making it thrive,” she says. “I always just wanted to follow in their footsteps and create something on my own. I’ve always felt it [a drive], I don’t know why. They’ve always told me to push for what I believe in.”

In college, Tehrene wasted no time at the usual party scene, applying herself in class. She also pursued such opportunities as reporting for the campus paper, The Northern Iowan, eventually climbing to the features editor’s job, then contributing her work, often unpaid, to online magazines, until one day, just like when she was 12, she was ready to turn a new page.

This time, it was an online blog. In her junior year, she started her own magazine called Lovetwenty.com, where she manages 150 volunteer writers giving advice from love to relationships to style and beauty on how twentysomethings can navigate life.

Her magazine averages 500,000 hits a month, but makes no money.  

An unpaid internship in New York at Seventeen Magazine last summer was a dream come true for Tehrene. For someone accustomed to walking to campus from her apartment a block away, she did not mind the hour-long commute, the hustle and bustle in the hot subway every day from a place she shared with three other students in Brooklyn.

“I was so lucky to be able to work with the editor, Devin Tomb; she taught me so much,” she says.

Tehrene’s accomplishments have impressed all of her professors in the communication studies department, including this writer.

Pat Blank, one of her teachers, summed it best:

“She was ready from the moment she walked into the writing class,” says Blank. “I’m not surprised she got this wonderful opportunity, she just has star quality about it. She has natural ability and she knows how to use it for her best advantage. It’s one thing to have it, it’s another thing to know what to do with it.”

With the clock ticking down to graduation, just three weeks away, Tehrene is busy wrapping up college work, but her mind is at peace about the one issue that keeps in turmoil just about every college grad: a job.

“I have to worry about all the stuff that comes with moving on a tight deadline,” she says. “I know I’m going to be living in a really tiny apartment and just getting by on a beginner’s salary, but I will be the happiest I’ve ever been. My parents are so happy for me, but I’m their first daughter going off into the real world, so it will be a little scary for them.”

The Firmans need not worry. In New York, Tehrene will be escorted by her “best friend in the whole entire world,” Trixie, her 3-year-old shih tzu/Bichon Frise mix.

Their relationship is described best in this tweet from Oct. 17, 2012: “I love when Trixie catches me dancing. The look on her face is priceless... and definitely screams, “Really, mom?”

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