WORKS FOR ME
Returning home to Manhattan after college, I ignored prevailing advice that the only way to get a journalism job would be to forsake New York City for a smaller town. I’d graduated from the University of Wisconsin, then taken a year-and-a-half to roam the world solo — from the Himalayas to the Nile. Time for the frenetic urban life I craved. So, I went to work for fashion publications instead, and set out on intrepid reporting assignments like asking men in Rockefeller Center how much they spend on their underwear. Talking to strangers feels natural to me. So does gathering facts and finding fresh angles that make a great story.
I prefer issues to products. Even at Women’s Wear Daily, my articles described rent pressures in New York’s Garment District or the spread of sweatshops in Chinatown.
After covering real estate for the Wall Street Journal, I hopped the media fence to PR and Corporate Communications. Directing communications strategy and content, I’ve represented hospitals, schools and high-profile government officials. Typically, I’m speaking for others — marketing their strengths, or providing sensitive statements and guidance when bad things happen to good companies.
What stands out? Watching surgeons transplant half of a healthy man’s liver to save his sick friend. Navigating the media and politics after a police shooting of a young father in a public housing hallway.
GOOD PR BEGINS AT HOME
Lately, I’ve been making time for my own stories too. And it’s fun. It’s a chance to share - in words and images - idiosyncratic stuff I’ve always liked, and some more serious ideas too.
My two sons, raised just outside the city in the South Orange, New Jersey community we loved, are thriving as they start out on their own NYC lives. I’ve moved from my mid-century modern home and somehow a decade has gone by since the death of my husband. He was an architect and modern furniture designer who left behind teenagers, and the legacy of his talent, when his blood cancer treatment failed. More about that here in my New York Times “Rites of Passage” essay.
DEEP SOUTH (BROOKLYN)
I’ve returned to city life, once more. This time to a new home in Brooklyn. I’m here with my partner who must have been drawn to my “Mid-century Modern” headline on OK Cupid. Years later, I remain “Joan McM” in his phone contacts, He leads NYC bicycle tours and I’m on for the ride.
An unlikely new resident of our South Brooklyn neighborhood, Bay Ridge, I like the action — bread trucks in the morning, private garbage haulers at night. Lingering stereotypes and local politics have been tossed in a social blender; Italian, Irish and Greek families, here for decades near their parish churches, are living alongside newer enclaves of Arabs and Asians, and me. My outsider perspective on this cultural mash-up feels oddly comfortable. In fact it’s inspiring!