VJ Epstein, journalism lifer  

...merging calling and career

About me

I wake up every day looking to accomplish something that will allow me to make a contribution to society I can take pride in. If there's something difficult to do in a newsroom I want to be part of it.


Because I still remember when I first became interested in journalism.

There had been a shooting in my Bronx neighborhood. Back in the 1980s, when the city routinely posted more than 2,000 per year, versus the 600 or so of today. 

TV reporters still pushed microphones in people's faces and asked "how are you feeling?"

Like most people, I was disgusted by this behavior. My teen self couldn't wait for the TV news crews to begin showing up so I share my thoughts with them.

Then no one came.

The knowledge that my working class neighborhood didn't even merit a single reporter or camera crew was a sobering  revelation. One that told me were invisible to those who ran our society.

The experience was also a painful lesson in the importance of a free press staffed by people who know what it's like to scramble for bus fare and go to bed hungry.

The memory still stings. I try to return to it every time I put pen to notepad. If for no other reason than to avoid getting caught up in the trappings of power.

I've been getting paid to write and edit for more than 20 years now and am sinfully proud of the quality and volume of my work.

I've covered stories on every traditional newsroom beat during my career, from fashion to energy. As well as the areas between them, such as veterans affairs, organized labor and social services.

My ideal environment is a meritocracy. As it is for most talented, productive people. That's the climate I try to create for my people as a manager and the environment I thrive in as a reporter.

I've reached the point in my career where all of the different beats, newsmakers, and big stories I've covered have reached a kind of critical mass for me intellectually. As a result, I am no longer trying to prove I belong.

I'm now deep into the portion of my career in which I set the news agenda. It's tough to be out in front and that's often where I am, as I was when I organized and moderated a National Press Club panel on the housing bubble in 2005 at a time when most economists and economic journalists wouldn't even acknowledge onr existed.

I had to change the name of the panel from "National Housing Bubble" to "Possible National Housing Bubble just to make it possible for the national economists who participated to serve as panelists.

I didn't know C-Span planned to cover the event and the result is probably one of more boring bits of television in history. However, for those who know their economics this is serious stuff.

It's history. The kind of history a good journalist can facilitate when they're not playing it safe.

Click the pic below to listen in.