Senior Political Columnist for NJ Press Media.
How would you describe what you do?
I write a column syndicated in the Gannett-owned newspapers in New Jersey which also runs on the papers’ web sites. I also write a blog read in all 50 states and about 70 countries as well as Twitter feeds @bobingle99. I am a New York Times Best Seller author and have two books out now, “The Soprano State” and “Chris Christie: The Inside Story Of His Rise To Power.” I am frequently a guest on national radio and TV programs. I also do two radio programs of my own weekly.
What does your work entail?
I gather information that I think the readers or listeners would like to know about and present it in a way that is easy to understand and is enjoyable. The idea is to tell people frankly and clearly about what’s going on with their money and in their name so they can make informed decisions.
What’s a typical work week like?
My days usually start around 6 am when I start reading the overnight correspondence and checking news organizations for what has happened in the hours since I last checked, usually around 11:30 pm. This is a 7-day week task. Some of the information is bound for the columns and additional insight is sought from people close to the situation. The idea is to give a well balanced view of what’s really happening. Other times the information becomes blogs or Tweets. There are also meetings with sources in general and press conferences. The reading task just to keep up is enormous and it never ends. There are more requests for speeches and appearances and book-signings than I can accept.
How did you get started?
In college I needed money for school and a second local daily newspaper was starting up and offered me a job. Did not plan to make it a career, I was planning to be in marketing/advertising. Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.” I left graduate school on a Saturday and went to work for The Associated Press the next day, expecting it to be about two years with what was considered the Marine Corps of journalism. After 12 years I left that to write a column for The Atlanta Constitution, my hometown paper. Up until then all my work was strictly objective with no subjective editorial comment. Eventually I came to New Jersey where I am based in the Statehouse in Trenton.
What do you like about what you do?
I like being where the action is, being able to tell it like it is no matter who is involved. There are no sacred cows, no one tells me what to write. l am gratified when college students studying journalism say that they have been reading me all their lives and I influenced their career choice. I have met international leaders and been on the front of world events. I have traveled around the globe. My fingertips touched history.
What do you dislike?
The job is 7-day a week and many times 18-hour days. There is just no way to predict what will happen. You have to be able to change plans quickly and sometimes are pressed into service on holidays or vacations.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am paid a salary. For people interested in the business, that will vary from place to place and company to company. No one starts out as a columnist without paying dues by covering breaking news or sports. Columnists are usually chosen for their experience and their writing style – people may not like what you say but they like the way you say it. No one gets into journalism for money, it’s more of a calling. But there are far more rewards in life than financial ones.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
Hard to remember but I think it was $60 weekly and that was usually seven days and I went to college full time.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Major in something you like and get to know the subject. Learn as much as you can. Writing and reporting is one of those things that gets better the more you do it. So work for a school paper, community papers, whatever to get the experience, even for free. And read a lot. I know no good writers who aren’t voracious readers. You have to be able to research, reading is key. Know how to communicate with people.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Getting it accurate. It stays around for a long time. Things are never black and white.
What is most rewarding?
Knowing you helped people understand what is going on.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Read a lot and don’t bother if you don’t have a natural curiosity about things or are afraid of offending people. A journalism comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. It can be a lonely life sometimes.
How much time off do you get/take?
That varies from company to company and with experience. I get about 20 days off a year. Take it but many time work while I am “off.”
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
They think someone tells me what I have to say.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Keep on trucking. Maybe a few more books.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
It can be rewarding in some many ways but it is hard work, no glamour. Hard work. Lots of shoe leather.