I’ve been a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers and newsletters, and a freelance writer for magazines, small advertising agencies and others.
Most recently I was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, NJ. In addition to working on projects, covering towns and covering the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, I was a member of the Enterprise Team. The Enterprise Team was mainly responsible for writing weekend stories that take a deeper look at stories that have appeared in the paper.
The Press believes strongly in advocacy journalism, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go there. I was able to be part of some pretty cool projects that hopefully will bring about some positive change.
Going to the Press in February 2004 was sort of a homecoming for me. I was born in the area, my birth was announced in this paper and I even delivered it when I was a kid. And the high school teacher who got me interested in journalism was a reporter there. I always thought that one day I’d come back and work there, and I did.
Prior to that job, I was a reporter for the Courier News in Bridgewater, NJ.
When I first started at the CN, I had been out of newspapers for about 10 years. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d even get a tryout. All my clips were from the late 1980s. But they surprised me and invited me in for an interview. Then, several days later, they surprised me even more by offering me a job.
At the time I applied for the job, I was working at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. While the work there was interesting, I eventually realized that my heart was still in journalism. I graduated from what was at the time an activist college and got pretty involved in college life and outside issues. After graduation, many of my friends got jobs that allowed them to pursue their interests in fighting for social justice, or, as in the words of our Dean, they were agents of social change.
For a while, I felt like I was headed down that path, too, starting my career at some local weekly newspapers and eventually becoming editor of one. In the late 80s I decided to freelance. That lasted several years, until the NJIT position opened up. I worked there for about eight years.
So when I became aware of the newspaper opening, I jumped right on it. As it happened, I found out about it just before I took a two-week vacation. I interviewed, was offered and accepted the job during those two weeks. I had the pleasure of returning to work at NJIT and giving notice.
My first assignment was to cover four towns. I did well, if I say so myself. My weekly training taught me how to cover a town, and I hadn’t forgotten anything.
My reporting has had some impact, so allow me some bragging rights. My reporting:
- Led to the creation of a program in New Jersey through which every fire department and fire academy in the state was provided a free thermal imaging camera.
- Led to a judge’s finding that a several Central New Jersey officials had so corrupted a national housing developer’s application to build a senior living complex, that he threw out 10 years’ worth of approvals.
- Led to the discovery that some municipal Sewerage Authority officials used public money to fund junkets to places such as Disneyland.
- Led to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts directing that state Superior, Supreme and Tax Court judge fill out the same financial disclosure forms that every other elected and appointed official in the state has to, promoting more transparency in the judiciary. This was under the cloud of impending legislation that would have done the same.
- Helped expose massive under-reporting of the costs associated with closing Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round.
- Pushed the state to create a Web-based, searchable database of nursing homes and their owners, for the first time providing those looking for a nursing home the ability to easily check out a home’s ownership and overall record.
- Led the state, via legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie, to reaffirm its commitment to businesses owned by military veterans through a mandate to seek out those business owners and have the more aggressively compete for state contracts. That was as close to a state contract set-aside bill as the governor would sign.
My corporate life ended in August, 2013, when cost reductions by Gannett led to the elimination of hundreds of jobs across the country, including mine. I was back on my feet several weeks later, with the launch of the Franklin Reporter & Advocate online. A few years after that, the FR&A Monthly Digest printed newspaper was launched. Both are going strong.
I said I returned to journalism to fulfill that challenge given my college dean to me and my classmates to become agents of social change. I think I’ve done that to some degree, but I know there’s more to be done.