I am an award winning writer, business owner, and media consultant.
I have always loved writing. When I was a little girl I’d lay flat on my stomach, and kick my legs behind me, as I filled notebooks with my daily drama. Everything from which boy borrowed my gel pens, to my dreams, of some day being a ballerina, or a lawyer, or an actress or finally...Oprah Winfrey.
As a Oprah show devotee, I saw her job as the ultimate position of power. She could invite whatever person she wanted to speak with to her show, and then ask them any question in the world. It was my absolute dream. I eagerly dove into a biography about Oprah from the library (my favorite place in the world) and learned that before she landed her epic television show, she was a news anchor. Naturally, that would be my next step too.
I remember hours of phone calls with my childhood best friend, who I’d regale with invented reports of hot dog truck collisions — “This is Jackie Tempera from the field and I have to report the street is absolutely flooding with mustard!” — and other nonsense. But it was fun. And it made me feel important. As a quiet little girl growing up in a big Italain family — this was important to me.
My parents, who have owned and operated restaurants in New York and New Jersey since the 1980s, were perplexed by their oldest child, interested a field that was so foriegn to them. We never had a newspaper subscription, and I can’t recall watching the news at home. But my mother found a vocational school focused on communications and there I went!
I excelled in high school, quickly finding home in the journalism department with my new favorite person Mrs. Mulshine, the journalism teacher. She told me that journalism was an art, but unlike sculpting or painting it was something you could work hard to be good at. No one was born a natural reporter, there were steps and lingo to learn before you could shine. I soaked them up, devouring every newspaper in sight from our school’s Inkblot to The Star Ledger, a weekly beach paper where I landed my first official gig, and my beloved New York Times Sunday issue. I don’t know if it’s normal for a 14 year old girl to ask for a NYT subscription for her birthday, but I never said I was normal.
When I was entering my senior year it came time for the next Editor-in-Chief of our paper to be selected. I turned in my application immediately, much to the surprise of some of my classmates. I remember a “friend” telling me I was too silly, too loud, too gossipy, to be at the helm of the Inkblot. I was crushed and feared she was right. I looked down at my perfectly curated outfit — it was Spirit Week and I made an excellent Posh Spice — burning with shame. Could I care about fashion, my crush’s favorite color (green), and also lead a group of 40+ students to produce a quarterly newspaper?
Mrs. Mulshine thought I could. She was the first to tell me my classmates were being sexist, a word that seemed like it probably went out of style around the same time as my grandmother’s old pearl necklace I used to wear to high school every day. But unfortunately, misogyny would continue to mark the rest of my career in newspapers — from my high school class room to upper echelon at The Providence Journal.
After graduating high school I went to Emerson College for journalism, and immediately I was sucked back into the school newspaper machine. I remember signing up the first week, and sweating in the ice cold air conditioned room as the upper classmen editors spoke dramatically about the requirements to stay on staff. The girl next to me rolled her eyes and whispered “they’re so weird it’s not that intense.” I looked in the eyes and said “I like intense.”
I was quickly pulled in as an assistant news editor and took my job incredibly seriously. I missed my first proper college parties to spend time in the back of a campus police officer’s car for a “day in the life of a campus cop series.” I spent my 21st birthday in the dingy basement of the school’s activity building editing the news. When family and friends called and asked my plans for the night, they weren’t surprised. I took my job seriously, even if it meant pushing off my tequila shots to the weekend.
My junior year in college I landed a competitive internship at the Boston Globe and left school for a semester to work on the Metro desk. I answered whoever called into the newsroom —from 90 year old ladies complaining they couldn’t find their newspaper in all of the snow on Cape Cod, to the many conspiracy theorists who called every hour. (My favorite was a woman who called every night at 8 to tell me her dog was spying on her and reporting back to the local police department).
TO BE CONTINUED....
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