“I feel like a Broadway play that’s won a Tony—after closing!” Daily News veteran editor JoAnne Wasserman said last week while accepting an award for mentoring from the Silurian Society. Ms. Wasserman was the Brooklyn borough chief until she was laid off this month as part of the News’s restructuring.
During her 27 years at the News, Ms. Wasserman had a no-nonsense, at times abrasive approach to toughening up interns and young journalists. For example, Ms. Wasserman recounted in her speech, she handed a flip-flop-clad intern the shoes off her own feet before an interview.
While it has always been difficult to find mentors in the newsroom, the Internet has made it even more difficult, she said.
“Today, with young people working at online publications, often alone at home, or in a Starbucks, new reporters don’t often interact with more seasoned colleagues, don’t get the chance to watch, learn, ask questions, imitate,” she said in her speech.
“Online journalism isolates reporters in a way my generation, which thrived in the wacky chaos of newsrooms like the Post’s, could not have imagined.”
Ms. Wasserman started as a copy girl on the “lobster shift” (an old newsroom expression for the graveyard shift), working as a waitress and making 50 cents a column inch freelancing for the now-defunct Chelsea Clinton News. Back then, Ms. Wasserman’s rent for a room in a classic six on the Upper West Side was $120 a month.
During Ms. Wasserman’s nearly three decades at the News, she worked on features, education and City Hall, and became borough chief for Brooklyn. She also met her husband, former News managing editor Stuart Marques.
Being married to a fellow journalist means that there is someone who is “very accepting and understanding of the need to check your phone” and go into work at all hours.
Given the state of the industry, would Ms. Wasserman still recommend that young people go into journalism?
“Yeah, because we need to make sure someone is still watching the store,” she told OTR. “But I worry about the economics of it.”