Between You and MEdia…Jack Tomczuk of Metro Philly

In this edition of Between You and MEdia, we chat with Jack Tomczuk of Metro Philly.

How did you get started as a journalist?

Growing up in Philadelphia, reading the local papers and watching the news, I knew I always wanted to be a journalist. I read the papers constantly as a kid, even on the way to school!

When I was younger, I was more interested in sports, but over time, I became interested in news, and decided that I wanted to major in journalism. So I went to Temple and did that! 

While I was in college, I did some internships, and eventually got a job at the Press of Atlantic City. After a few years, I decided to move back up to Philadelphia to work for the Northeast Times weekly newspaper. And now, I am at the Metro, which I love. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue journalism? Who continues to inspire you as a journalist?

I have always been inspired by sports reporters and columns. When I was growing up, there was a Philadelphia Inquirer box across the street from my house, and I could put in 25 or 50 cents. I would read those columns, and I particularly liked one written by Bob Ford.

I later interviewed him as part of a project in college, so that was cool so he was one of the people who kind of inspired me. I was also inspired by reading the investigative reports in The New York Times, and the Washington Post and seeing some of the things they uncovered and how their words could have an amazing impact. 

How do you handle so many pitches?

I do get a lot of pitches! I often receive stories that aren’t aligned with what I cover or sometimes the event or program is not my coverage area. Every morning I go through my email and delete what isn’t relevant. But it is a lot of fun to read pitches and think about story ideas. 

What are your favorite types of stories to write? 

I like covering the breaking news and big stories. I remember when I was at the Northeast Times when City Councilman Bobby Heron got indicted. I got to rush down to the courthouse. There was definitely a rush of adrenaline.

On the flip side, I also like to write feature stories and share something good that is happening in the community or someone making a difference, or a business or nonprofit that’s making a difference, and then showcasing them and bringing their story to life. I like meeting people and celebrating neighborhoods. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Well, I like to watch sports-the Sixers and the Eagles and I like to hang out with my fiance and my family. I like the outdoors. I used to live closer to Pennypack Park and would walk around there all of the time. 

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself?

When I was in college, I got a scholarship to participate in a study abroad program for Temple and we went to South Africa for the summer. We listened to a speaker who was a priest, and, afterwards I asked him if he knew Desmond Tutu. He did! I got hooked up and was able to interview him, even though he hadn’t done interviews in recent years. I was able to ask him a few questions at a coffee shop. That was one of the highlights of my career, especially because it was in another country and I was only a college student. It is amazing to reflect on the fact that I got to interview a Nobel Peace Prize winner, so that was pretty cool.

What do you want people to know about you or your work?

I want people to know that I’m always trying hard and I want to be a resource for Philadelphians. I want to make sure they’re informed about everything, and that I try to do it in basic terms. With the Metro, we offer shorter articles, but those that are filled with information that is shared in a  fair and accurate way. So that’s that’s pretty much what I would want them to know.

I feel like newspapers like the Metro are particularly helpful. Do you agree?

Right, yes, particularly in relation to COVID! It’s been a ride, and like there’s so many different things people need to know, like guidance and mask wearing. We want to reiterate the truth and continue to reiterate it because there’s so many falsehoods.

Do you have any thoughts on the impact of the media on reporting false news?

It is not always the media. I think a lot of the incorrect information is on social media. People say what they want online and they make up rumors and spread falsehoods. And on social media, anyone can say anything. You never know where the info is coming from 

It’s important to reiterate that so much of what reporters do is on the service side and that is often the heart of why you became a journalist, or why journalists are doing what they’re doing. I want to give people the resources and information about safety, schools, vaccines – it changes so much and I want to be a resource. Not everybody can follow every development, the way I do or the way some can. Although, my mom is more of a news hound than I am. She’s always calling me: “Did you see this or did you see that?” She’s a great resource!

Between You and MEdia…Miguel Martinez-Valle

In this edition of Between You and MEdia, we chat with Miguel Martinez-Valle, reporter with NBC10 and Telemundo62

How did you get started as a journalist

My journalism journey started when I read the middle school announcements over the loud speakers. From there I developed a love for broadcasting taking TV and journalism l classes in HS and college. Eventually leading to careers in English and Spanish in Las Vegas and now Philadelphia. 

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired?

My inspiration has always been journalists like Jose Díaz Balart and Jorge Ramos. Powerful and brave journalists who fight for their community. Díaz Balart specifically inspired me to pursue doing both English and Spanish language media.

How do you work with PR professionals?

I work with PR professionals a few times a month when I am pitched a topical story or need help reaching a certain business.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? 

I would say probably 5-15 pitches a day.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? 

I would say if it’s a good pitch one reminder follow up is enough. Sometimes with a busy news day things get lost so with one follow up you can get someone’s attention.

How do you prefer to be pitched? What is the best way to make a pitch stand out?  

I like pitches that get to the hook right away. The shorter the better. Especially if I’m trying to find a story I don’t have a lot of time to read paragraphs. Just need what the pitch is and basic details.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you? 

My advice would be to only pitch when it’s topical and relevant. Avoid over pitching. And definitely avoid pitching when there’s an overwhelming story taking priority on the news.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work?

Outside of work I really enjoy dining out. I love trying our Philadelphia restaurants, have really enjoyed seeing the creative outdoor set-ups, and am a notorious lover of brunch.

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself?

I was born in Mexico and lived there until age 5. But I am a terrible dancer.

Best way to contact you?

I can be reached via email at Miguel.Martínez-valle@nbcuni.com

Between You and MEdia…with Jenna Meissner

In this edition of Between You and MEdia, we chat with Jenna Meissner, PHL17 Morning News’ Traffic Anchor.

Years in the industry? 5 years

How did you get started as a journalist? I studied broadcast journalism at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication. I interned at PHL17 in May 2015 and the rest is history.

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired? As a young girl, I watched the local news with my mom every night before dinner time. I remember watching the reporters and thinking it would be really cool to do that one day. The people I’ve met over the years and their stories keep me inspired. There’s so many amazing things happening right here in the community and I’m honored to give these voices a platform.

What’s your favorite aspect of your job? I’ve always been a people person. I love the interaction that comes with being on set and talking with my coworkers. PHL17 Morning News is definitely not your traditional newscast. We’ll tell you the stories you need to know, but we have SO much fun doing so. I love going to work and knowing I’m definitely going to laugh today.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve worked? As traffic anchor, I rarely get to leave the studio so anytime I’m able to get out into the field is exciting. I really enjoy our “PHL17 Down The Shore” segments throughout the summer where I get to highlight local businesses and activities down at the Jersey shore. I also enjoyed my “Community Heroes” series where I highlighted first responders making a difference in their community.

How do you work with PR professionals? We are constantly looking for guests for our show. Whether it be booking a chef for our outdoor grill set or setting up an interview to discuss an upcoming fundraiser, I rely on PR professionals to find the best of the best meaning strong interviewees and visuals.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you? Graphics always catch my attention. If there’s an attached image, video, etc. I’m more likely to look at that than read a long email. The shorter the email with the most important information, the better.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work? Outside of work, I spend a lot of time with my growing family. I have one niece and three nephews I try to see every week. I’m recently engaged so planning a wedding has taken up a lot of my free time (send help!!!!)

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself? I was a professional dancer trained in ballet, tap, jazz and modern for 20 years of my life.

Between You and MEdia… with Michelle Caffrey

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!


The Philadelphia Business Journal is the region’s go to source for business news. The weekly print publication is paired with a digital newsroom that publishes stories daily and offers exclusive content to subscribers. Hear from PBJ reporter, Michelle Caffrey, on how she works with PR professionals to turn pitches into published stories in this interview by PPRA member and past president, Adam Dorvin.

How did you get started as a journalist? I’ve been obsessed with reading and writing since I could physically do it, so I wound up writing for my middle school newspaper, the ‘teen section’ of my local newspaper, my high school newspaper and college newspaper. My first full-time gig in journalism was covering the wild local political scene in Washington Township, Gloucester County for the then-named Gloucester County Times, now the South Jersey Times. I don’t miss sitting in school board meetings until midnight, but that town still holds a special place in my heart.

Michelle Caffrey Headshot

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired? Watching reporters on TV on 9/11 made an enormous impression on my 12-year-old mind. I was terrified, and realized how crucial their role was in communicating important facts to the public. Now, I’m constantly inspired by the amazing work other journalists are churning out, especially those at local papers fighting never-ending cuts and layoffs to keep those in power accountable. Black and brown reporters who work incredibly hard, against systems designed to oppress them, to hold truth to power also deserve immense respect and inspire me every day.

How do you work with PR professionals? Often and respectfully. Reporters need PR professionals and PR professionals need reporters, there’s no way around it. At the end of the day, we’re both just trying to do our jobs the best we can. There’s always going to be conflict, since sometimes our goals are mutually exclusive, but I always try to hear people out, see their perspective, explain where I’m coming from and go from there. A little bit of mutual, professional respect goes far.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?  Since we’re a regional pub, make the Philly connection clear to me right away. If I don’t see a local dateline or area code in the contact info at first glance, I usually hit delete since a lot of national pitches end up in my inbox. Highlight the hook high-up as well. They hide at the end of a press release a lot. A straight-up personal email will also catch my attention much more than a generic release.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? Depends on the day or week — please give me more things to write about during the dead week between Christmas and New Years, please — but between a dozen and three dozen. Some are relevant, but a lot aren’t, just because the Business Journal has a fairly narrow focus on stories that are important to the Philadelphia-area business community.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? If we’ve been working together for years, and you know it’s a story I’d normally write (a well-known tech startup raising a big Series B round, for example,) feel free to keep bugging me, since there are a lot of times when I just miss an email or call when things are busy. If it’s a story that’s kind of on the fence of my normal coverage, I’d say two or three, max, check-ins and move on. Honestly, that goes whether or not we’ve worked together before, because the only way to build a relationship is to start one.

Also, if I turn a pitch down, please don’t try and convince me otherwise and sell the story anyway (unless there’s good info you’ve withheld, but why would you do that?) The number one reason I don’t respond to pitches that aren’t a good fit is because I don’t want to have to get into a whole debate and turn it down a second or third time.

How do you prefer to be pitched? What is the best way to make a pitch stand out?
Definitely an email. There’s so much noise out there it’s helpful to just have one place for pitches, and email is the easiest way to keep track of them. If we don’t have an established relationship though, I don’t love phone follow-ups. Usually if someone is calling me it’s because I didn’t answer an initial email, because it’s not a good fit for us, and a polite decline on the phone turns into one of those debates. I don’t always have the bandwidth to get into it. Oh and if I do pick up the story, please don’t ask me every day asking when it’s going to run, unless you’re giving me a heads up another outlet could scoop me. Things are always shifting and plans are always changing in a newsroom, usually a story is going to run when it’s going to run.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work?
In the summer I try to spend as much time with my family in Cape May as possible, but in general, my healthy coping mechanisms are running, yoga and reading. My unhealthy ones are bourbon and reality TV. It’s all about balance, right?

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself?
I spent seven years working as a dental assistant on and off before getting my first full-time gig as a reporter. I like to think it helped me learn how to get people who are anxious or under stress to open up, pun kind-of intended.

Best way to contact: mcaffrey@bizjournals.com

Between You and MEdia… with HughE Dillon

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!


For more than 10 years, photographer HughE Dillon has made Philadelphians feel like celebrities with his event photos. From fundraisers to birthday parties to movie shoots, HughE has covered it all for his blog Philly Chit Chat and for outlets across the city as a contributor. Learn how HughE turned his passion for photography into a full-time job in this interview by PPRA member Alexa Johnson.

How did you get started as a “Society Photographer?”
I saw the publicity my blog generated in 2007 as I wrote about celebrities I photographed in Philly as well as in NYC, and various things I saw in Philadelphia while walking around. I thought ‘I bet this kind of media would be great to shine a light on charity events.’ At the time, magazines weren’t online yet, and only published once a month. The Inquirer published their society column every Sunday but it seemed to me they were only focusing on major society charity events with the same people. I wanted to create something that would highlight everyone, from the person who paid $10 to attend a charity event at a bar, to someone who paid $10,000, and as many folks from all walks of life as possible.

During the years 2007 through 2010, I covered the events for fun and content for my blog. Then I was laid off from my paralegal job in December 2010. With the support of my husband, I decided to try and monetize my blog. I announced to my readers that I had lost my job and now would become a party photographer, where people would hire me to shoot events and I would create content for my blog and place “one shots” from the parties in the newspaper as I had started to work with Michael Klein and Dan Gross by this time. It was an immediate success. People hired me, companies advertised on my blog and I didn’t have to look for another paralegal job. A few months after starting my business, Fox 29 and Philly Mag approached me to create content for their outlets in July 2011. A few years later, I got my own columns in Philly.com and Metro Philly where they paid me for the content.headshot1

Who/what inspired you to pursue a career in media/photography and what keeps you inspired?

I was a fan of longtime Inquirer society columnist Ruth Seltzer and then David Iams. Philly Daily News’ Stu Bykofsky, Harriet Lessey, Dan Gross. The NY Social Diary and NYC society photographer Patrick McMullen (I always tweet at him that he’s my mentor in my head. He never responds, LOL).

What’s your most favorite event you’ve photographed?
Every single Diner en Blanc event has been very special. All the Big Brother Big Sisters Fashion Touchdown fundraiser where the Eagles players and their wives walk the catwalk with the latest fashions. I also loved shooting Virgin America’s First Philadelphia flight party in 2012 at the Palamor Hotel with guests like DJ Jazzy Jeff who spun for guests like Glenn Howerton, Amber Rose, Penn Badgley, Zoe Kravitz, The Roots, M. Night Shyamalan and lots of fun people from Philly.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to work with you? How do you work best together?

As for PR professionals, I need them to understand that I created a nontraditional media business model where I shoot party photos, but the PR/Event/Business pays me to do so, and not the media outlet. The media doesn’t pay me. Clients should also keep in mind: I only need 90 minutes to two hours to shoot an event; and I always suggest the client keep their own house photographer because my photos are not returned to the client for at least 90 days.  My media outlets want the “exclusive” content first and each of them gets their own set of photos. The media outlets have the final say on editorial an d what runs.

As of 2020 I have 8 daily columns: Philly Style Magazine, Philly Voice, Philly Business Journal, Mainline Media News, Philly Mag, CBS3Philly, Fox 29 and Philly Chit Chat; occasionally my photos are placed in NBC10, Mainline Today and Jewish Exponent.

How many pitches a week do you receive?
About 400. During the months of September to December, and March to June I have to be hired to guarantee I cover your event. The other months (Jan, Feb, July & Aug) I’m less busy now so I might cover an event that isn’t a client and will put in a media outlet. For most pitches I try to promote them on one of my social media outlets, even if they’re not clients.

How do you step away from the 24-hour news cycle? What do you do outside of work?
I like to birdwatch, although I have no idea what the bird’s names are, I usually just tweet out “Oh, I saw a nice red one today, here’s a photo.”

Best way to contact: Hughe@phillychitchat.com