What city do you call your hometown?
Grew up in north Jersey.
Did you want to be a journalist as a child or did that come later?
I’ve been an aspiring journalist since I was a senior in high school, and honestly, I still am. Although, when I was a child I always thought when I grew up I’d run away to a little house by the ocean and just write books- I guess there’s still time for that.
Was there a particular journalist you watched or read that served as a role model?
I’ve always had great admiration for Walter Cronkite, Nellie Bly and Oriana Fallaci. Also, Ernest Hemingway. He shared my love for poetry in addition to journalism.
In High School, did you ever write stories for your school paper? If so, what kind?
Yes. Feature stories, sports, profiles. I guess I’ve always liked to cover a spectrum of topics and writing formats.
They say writers, no matter what genre or field, were readers first. What was a favorite novel or book you enjoyed?
I really loved Brave New World. I filled the pages with highlighter and pen, marking all the lines that moved me in some way. It made me realize my fascination with science-fiction. See, I had been keeping journals since I learned how to hold a pen and it turned out a lot of the creative writing I did fell within that genre at a very young age. It inspired me to start piecing together ideas for a sci-fi novel. Maybe I’m even working on one now……
You were in broadcast journalism and wrote for James Madison University’s newspaper. How did this prepare you for your career later?
My broadcast journalism class gave me the technical skills I utilize now to operate the camera and control room for OAN’s two political talk shows. Writing for the school paper is where I learned the most. I learned how to write and edit under deadline pressures and manage my time while juggling leadership roles for multiple clubs, teaching group fitness class and maintaining a full class schedule. I covered so many different beats and I learned my love for long-form journalism. I realized how much I enjoy investing time with people at an event, or researching a topic in-depth, be it for my health and fitness column, for a theater review, a sports feature, student government news or a tech story related to physics or nanotechnology.
When you began your career as journalist, did you find it difficult to find a job?
Incredibly difficult. Maybe in part because I wasn’t willing to settle for just anything. I was hell bent on moving to D.C. and writing news stories for a well-respected publication. That being said, it took about a year of freelancing with little to no pay, while working at a gym and doing odd jobs to monetize, before I found anything. At one point I was also essentially living out of my car. I didn’t care. I was tunnel vision. I was constantly networking and getting coffees with people in my field and searching and applying for jobs in D.C. Then finally I got accepted into a fellowship at the Washington Examiner to write investigative stories on government waste, fraud and abusive. This opened up a world of opportunity, I met so many amazing people along the way and it eventually led me to One America News.
In between writing and producing, you are also a fitness instructor. Was that something you always wanted to do?
Yes. Growing up I played soccer, danced, did gymnastics, ran track and then went into college running track. With this vested interested in sports and a love for helping others, I knew I’d eventually want to combine the two as a fitness instructor. JMU has a really incredible group fitness training program so I went through a semester of training, tried out for the fitness team, didn’t make it the first time, tried out again when I got back from a semester abroad in London and then finally made the team. I spent countless hours practicing routines and taking various fitness classes so I could learn 12 different class formats from kickboxing to dance to cycle. I continued teaching post-grad and now teach various fitness classes at federal agencies, including body sculpt at the Senate.
When you had your first by-line, what was it like to see your name in black and white as the writer?
I stayed up till midnight just so I could be the first to read it online. I felt like, in some small microscopic way, I had made a contribution to the community.
Is there a particular story you wrote or contributed to that feels like your breakout as a journalist?
Not in particular. I’m not sure I’ve exactly had a breakout moment just yet. And that’s okay! Maybe I will feel that for a story I write in the future.
Early in your career, you spent time working in digital media. Was that at all different from reporting in a paper or broadcast?
Very different. I was working remotely so I didn’t get to interact with the people I was writing about or with the staff I eventually became Editor of, so I spent A LOT of time with my laptop at cafes and bars (bars so I could work late). I also had a gig doing digital advertising, so I got to put my creative spin on the content I was producing, and there’s no place for spin in a newsroom.
You co-wrote and produced a special on OAN about the Iran Deal. Tell us a little bit about that.
It was one reporter, one videographer and myself and we were pretty much the trio putting together a 30-minute special on the nuclear deal with Iran within just a few weeks, on top of our daily newsroom obligations and my administrative duties. My goals were to educate people on why there was so much controversy surrounding the deal, to provide a platform for both sides of the political isle to voice their opinions and to delve into the history between US and Iran to provide context. I was able to book highly intelligent government officials and ultimately helped produce a really balanced special with a great team.
You’re a journalist, producer, a fitness instructor, and still pursue various odd jobs and educational courses. How do you manage the various hats you wear?
It’s not so much wearing various hats. It’s just me, wanting to pursue the things I’m passionate about. Time management is the hard part. Or rather, not having enough hours in the day sometimes to do all the things I want to do!
Have you ever encountered push-back because you were a woman? If so, how did you overcome it?
I’ve definitely experienced pushback. I don’t typically chalk it up to the fact that I’m a female. If someone challenges me, for whatever reason, I just go that much harder.
Is there a particular woman whose life inspired you during your journey?
Definitely my mom. She has a beautiful, soft way about her. No matter what happens, she always finds the silver lining. A lot of people become callus or hardened by the world, but she is unaltered. She is simply the sweetest soul.
Do you have any advice for women who are seeking to become a journalist?
Read as much as you can, listen more than you speak and always maintain professionalism in how you carry yourself. Be unafraid to cover a beat you know next to nothing about and then study up on it as hard as you can. I’m the only female in my office and the only time I notice is when a guest comes in and points it out. Don’t let your gender or anything else you were born into dictate where you end up. You create your own destiny. Just be the best version of you and keep on shining.
Any thoughts you would like to share to women who are stepping into their future?
It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do in life or to not know exactly who you are- life is a process. Take time to learn about the world, to learn about yourself and to figure out how you can contribute to the greater good. Do everything in your power to chase your dreams, but be patient and be unafraid of failure. Because you’re going to fail. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably fuck up time and time again- and that’s okay. What matters most is that you keep moving forward. You pick up all the pieces and if you have to completely start all over again from scratch, do that. It’s never too late to start a new journey. Don’t adhere to societal pressures that imply you must reach certain benchmarks at various times in your life. It’s a bunch of garage. You can go back to school at age 52 to get a degree- like my mom did- if that’s what it takes to rekindle your long-lost passion. You make your own rules, you create the world in which you want to live. Challenge yourself to keep learning and growing, but don’t forget to breathe. Take a minute to sip from the present and just feel proud of everything you are, of everything you’ve done and of everything you feel deep down you’re capable of doing. When you’re entering a new chapter in your life it can be chaotic and full of uncertainty and it can even hurt at times- and that’s okay. You will get to where you want to be if you just keep that fire lit within you, know WHY you’re fighting for your goals; then, if you bang on enough doors, eventually, one, the right one, will open. But along the way, I urge you to be patient. Just breathe. It’s all going to be okay. After all, “The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” – Laz Buhrmann to a graduating class of 1997 (I recommend listening to the full speech. I got goosebumps the first time I heard it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQlJ3vOp6nI).