I was no stranger to the halls of 1103 Stewart Avenue, but I was in unfamiliar territory. Instead of just on-air jocks, sales people, and techies filling the offices, there were now journalists in the office. Writers. A whole different variety of people: They liked to keep to themselves, putting into words what songs sounded like instead of merely listening. Expressing themselves at any opportunity, solicited or not. They loved the AP Style Book (that delicious neon orange cover was irresistible) and could—and would—debate the misuse of the serial comma endlessly (the horror).
Somewhere between the high-energy radio personalities and the cranial writers was me. I worked for WLIR-FM part-time right after college (earned from a semester as an intern) and now I was brought on as the staff writer for The New Island Ear. I teetered the threshold between the radio and newspaper worlds. I loved my self-inflicted role of liaison, for better (Hey, any extra tickets from that giveaway?) or worse (I’m sorry—insert radio DJ name here—I can’t shamelessly plug your time slot in my column).
My home and allegiance was with the paper (that’s where my paycheck was coming from and Robbie Woliver, the editor-in-chief, was tough to avoid—which I learned was true of all editors). I filled the seat between Mike Nelson and Chris Twarowski in what our officemates referred to as “the fishbowl.” The tiny office (I really would like to know exactly how big that office was—didn’t seem more than 6 feet by 6 feet sometimes, especially when Robbie and Managing Editor Bill Jensen piled in) was our creative incubator. We were the new kids at the office who were going to kick ass and take names among Long Island media. And we did. And we had fun.
Robbie and Bill encouraged me with real-world lessons in journalism and uncanny words of wisdom. Mike and Chris always had my back (whether they wanted to or not). When we brought more staff on to the team, our dynamic was altered, but balance maintained, much attributed to the foundation the five of us nurtured in the fishbowl.
I was flung into situations that shaped my fearlessness. First, I was at a psychiatric center touring the living museum, when I realized my tour guide was talking to many non-existent people, not me. The fun and learning continued as we transitioned to the Long Island Press, which was when I found myself sitting across the table from an alleged sex offender cross-examining him on his past, his run for office and how they coexisted.
After two years of covering Long Island, I surrendered. For me, writing about news was like wearing socks at the beach—I wanted the full experience, no more of being a spectator. I needed to be submerged, needed the sand in my toes—the sand being the government arena. More than eight years later, I’m still going, and even found myself maturing, despite my best efforts to remain young indefinitely. I now work in a position in government that enables me to make New Yorkers safer and for me, there’s nothing else more rewarding (although winning first place in the Press Club of LI contest is pretty high up there).
From my days at Morey Publishing, I hold dear many lessons: It’s “toward” not “towards,” your lead should be the first thing you tell your editor when you return from assignment, and the serial comma will always be a choice, just be consistent.