For the love of journalism

By Liz, embracing fall and the onslaught of pumpkin spice everything!

I’ve always been fascinated by the mob.

I mean the Italian mob from the old days – the pasta-eating, fraudulent waste-management, knee-breaking type of mob. (As an Italian, I feel like I can say that.)

Of course The Sopranos was one of my favorite shows. My father was mortified that I would watch something that, in his mind, portrayed Italians so poorly. I just thought, hey, this is a part of our heritage. Let’s embrace it. And who doesn’t love Tony Soprano, despite his clear and many flaws?

During the last season of the show, I was working as a reporter for a daily paper in Connecticut. My editor knew how much I – and much of the population that read the paper – loved it and decided to capitalize on it. He asked if I would write a column after every episode as we counted down to the end of the series. 

I was thrilled to do it. Even more thrilled when I got to interview two of the stars – Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Bacala, and Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore – for a follow-up piece. Alas, I never got to talk the James Gandolfini, but they were good close seconds. 

It was one of my favorite moments of my journalism career.

Honestly, though? There were many favorite moments of that career. And most of them didn’t have to do with TV stars. 

There were the everyday people, like the unofficial “mayor” of our city, a local man who sat on his front stoop downtown every day and offered kind, wise words to everyone who passed. When he died, the whole city mourned this man who, to some, seemed like just someone experiencing homelessness – but in reality he brought his whole, rich past to that stoop. 

There was the town historian who had a fondness for the “real story” of Benedict Arnold and fought for his redemption. 

There was the developer who survived The Station fire in Rhode Island and saved multiple people that night. 

There was crime. There were stories of political divides. Arguments about development in the city. Fear of change. The stories of many lives. 

Being a reporter changed my life in so many ways. It made me a better listener. A better interviewer. A better writer AND a better storyteller. I got life skills that I still use today. I believe that curiosity and the ability to ask the right questions are some of the most valuable things I could ever learn.

Journalism has changed a lot over the last 15 years. I’m glad I got out when I did, and I so respect the people who are still in it, and in it for the right reasons.

And I’ll be always grateful for the time I spent running around town with that little reporter’s notebook, documenting those moments in time.

Readers, do you have a job or an experience on which you’ll always look back fondly? Tell me in the comments!

33 Thoughts

  1. I have many fond, exciting, and terrifying memories of my early career as an EMT, which is probably obvious since I’ve written as series using that part of my life as a setting. But I also have fond memories of my years as a yoga instructor. I had some of the best students.

  2. What great memories, Liz. I really enjoyed my job as a technical writer at a film editing software company (Avid). We had to corral wonky facts and write them into procedures as clear and usable as a good recipe. Here’s a tidbit for you: we had big all-company picnic out in the parking lot every summer. One year this guy seemed to be a guest of honor and everybody wanted their picture taken with him. I asked somebody who he was, and even when they said “James Gandolfini” I still didn’t know who he was, because I don’t watch much TV! One year Norma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s longtime editor, came to talk to us, which was fabulous.

    1. But probably my best job was in the gender-bending role of working at a gas station pumping gas, changing tires, and working up to tune-ups in my early twenties fifty years ago. The dropped jaws from most of the male customers were classic. Huge props to the owner and the lead mechanic for giving me the chance and teaching me what they knew.

  3. Well, it wasn’t technically a job since I didn’t get paid, but I’ll always look back fondly on the 25 years I spent as a youth league basketball coach.

    Cate, you mentioned you did an interview with a survivor from the Station nightclub fire. I’m friends with someone who was there. We are concert buddies these days and we both write about music for KNAC.COM. It was interesting to watch how he took in the exits and all the surroundings when we went up to Boston to see a show at a club that looked like it had seen better days.

    Sadly, I did know someone who didn’t make it out so every time the anniversary of the fire is marked, I remember her.

  4. LIZ: I know several former journalists who are now mystery fiction authors. Writing on a deadline is another key skill that was transferred over.

    Me, I mostly enjoyed my job as a climate change researcher for the federal government. For 20+ years, I had a lot of freedom to do the research I was interested in, and to create the teams to do the work. But there were several downsides: lots of bureaucracy, administrative tasks & competing deadlines. And our fiscal year ran from April-March, so late March was always a period of frenetic activity to finish the research on time to get our funding!

  5. Having been a full time homemaker and wife 99% of my adult life, I don’t have much experience in the “outside” world. Usually what paying jobs I held were to either have extra income for Christmas expenses or when a disaster occurred that only an influx of money would help. However, the one “job” that I had that left a very lasting memory and that give me many life lessons was being a full time caregiver to my Mom. She came to live with us after cancer surgery and with the onset of Alzheimer. She lived with us for a little over 5 years. There were lots of adjusting when she moved it, but we learned that there’s always room for one more. With the progression of the Alzheimer demanding the full 24/7 attention, I learned what “real” friendship is. It’s amazing how people change when you aren’t able to go and do or aren’t able to help them. I also learned to express love and cherish those you do love while you can. It’s heartbreaking to wish you could have told them things – especially when they are right in front of you but don’t realize your even there. As hard as it was at times, I won’t take for the time that Mom was in our home (the home of all three of us). I often look back to that time with fond memories of the laughs and fun times before the dreaded disease took such a firm hold. I even remember the sad times hoping that Mom now knows how much we loved her and kept our promise that she would never go to the nursing home. Lesson learned that we take both the good and bad from our past and add them to our way of moving forward into the present.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. Thank you for your time spent as a reporter, Liz. We need food, independent journalism!
    As for me, I really enjoyed the time I spent as a compliance manager at a nonprofit profit that served youth with behavioral health challenges and their families. Working with wonderful social workers in a mission driven environment was so rewarding. Alas, I was laid off due to budget cuts on account of COVID. Great memories, nonetheless!

  7. I was working at a Connecticut radio station when you were at a CT newspaper — I probably read your stuff! My special job: first on-air gig, in a tiny Vermont town. I was the entire news department and I did EVERYTHING — from anchoring morning news to covering fires to hosting election forums. It taught me everything I know about being a pro, an adult, and part of a community. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania — but I learned how to BE in Vermont.

    1. And it eventually led to your fantastic LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD Jaye Jordan mystery novel! So yaay for your special job! And I’m still holding out hope for Vermont Radio Mysteries Book 2!

    2. Your special job working in radio in Vermont ended up eventually leading to LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD, the first and fabulous Vermont Radio Mystery book, so I say YAY for your special job.

      And yes, I’m still hoping there will be a Jaye Jordan Book 2 someday.

    3. Wow, Kathleen – which one? For a while, a couple of us reporters did radio interviews on trending topics. The Lee Elci show, I believe. I had to go on after every town council meeting. I love that you were the entire news dept!

  8. I toyed with the idea of going into sports journalism in college, but ultimately didn’t. Oh well. But I sure enjoyed it in college.

    It wasn’t a phenomenal job, but I’ll always look back at the time I spent at the Small Business Administration pre-marriage with fondness. Not because of the work, but because I was in the disaster-assistance department, so I got to go to Puerto Rico and the USVI in 1995 on Uncle Sam’s dime. LOL

  9. I’m a former reporter for The Hartford Courant and I can’t tell you how much I loved that job–and how often what I learned impacts my work.

  10. I live in Connecticut and loved the Hartford Courant reporters and columnists back in the day.
    My favorite job was as an office manager for a recruiting firm. I loved the work and it was second nature to me to keep everything organized and flowing. I really miss it. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  11. Working management advisory services at a then big six accounting firm. MAS, for those who don’t know, perform market feasibility studies. My niche was hotels. I loved it. What’s not to like about a job that combines travel and writing! Alas, I was laid off when the bottom feel out of the economy in the mid 1980s, but it was a great gig while it lasted. Did I land on my feet? Well, I ended up in my second favorite job after the MAS job fell through. Hired by Miami City Ballet as administrative assistant to Edward Villella during the start-up years of the ballet. Ended up as acting company manager (more travel with the troupe) and finally developed their group sales department. Yep, I’ve been job lucky!

  12. This is great, Liz! And I don’t think I’ve ever heard that story. I was always fascinated by the mob — even as a young girl in Iowa who didn’t know many Italians. I did a speech on the Mob in my 8th or 9th grade speech class. My teacher told me I picked unusually topics for a girl. One of my interesting jobs was setting up a library in an aluminum factory. But I loved doing marketing for a financial planning company.

  13. Good comments. Newspapers are harder to find but reporting still finds a place and it trained great researchers and writers. It trained good reporters to be better. I like your article. Nice job!

  14. I worked as a temp for many years in Boston. I loved it! I got to the “inside” of so many companies and what they do. I watched replacement knees, tooth implants, the colonoscope all being developed. I learned how antique furniture is reproduced, and school policies are made. What goes on “upstairs” in banks, and how lawyers really work. I got an additional degree in common knowledge and expertise just by going to work everyday and getting paid for it.

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