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!