In 15 years of journalism, the biggest tip I ever got was back at the beginning.
I was a freshman at Villanova’s student newspaper assigned to interview some Augustinian brought to campus to be the new vice president of academic affairs. While waiting in a sitting room of the monastery, a janitor came in and whispered to me, “He’s going to be the next university president.” I thought, “What does that guy know?” and wrote some boring story about the new VP’s background and goals. A year later, the president retired and Rev. Edmund Dobbin, that VP, was elevated to the top job.
The best part about being a journalist is getting tips (and, of course, knowing what to do with them). Yeah, there are many other cool things about being a journalist: the excuse to ask any question any time, the thrill of seeing your byline on the front page for the first time, the gratification of working with a reporter while editing his story, the access to all sorts of events and people, the adrenaline of banging out a story on deadline, the honor of being invited into people’s lives at their best and worst moments. I loved all those things. But the idea that people would tell me things — all kinds of things — was always the greatest joy from the job.
That’s what I’ll miss most as I leave journalism today, after 15 years of trying to learn how to report, write and edit. I was always humbled that sources trusted me with information. One appeal of my new job as the program manager at the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University is that I will still be in contact with some of those sources, although in a different capacity. (I’ve already tried to convince one source that he can now tell me even more info because I’ll no longer be a journalist.)
On a final note, my 5½ years at NJBIZ have been wonderful. I have been grateful to work at a company where the owners value journalism, and are financially savvy so the NJBIZ reporters and editors could keep doing what we do. And I have been very lucky to work with an amazing newsroom of people who were willing to go above and beyond every day. As the “outside” person who went on all the appointments, I was the one who got the compliments, but they were the ones who made me look good. They will be missed very much.