Lambda Pi Eta hosted Jen Maxfield on campus on Nov. 29 to discuss her career as a broadcast journalist, share stories from her Amazon Best Seller, “More After the Break: A Reporter Returns to Ten Unforgettable News Stories,” and answer student questions.
According to her website, Maxfield is an Emmy-award-winning reporter and substitute anchor for NBC New York and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism where she teaches Video 1 and On-Air Skills.
Before discussing her book, Maxfield outlined her career journey, beginning with her childhood. She said that she wrote for Echo, Tenafly High School’s student newspaper, but ultimately enrolled at Columbia University as a pre-med student. Despite her major, Maxfield said that she wrote for Columbia’s student newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spector, throughout college.
“I primarily did that because of how much I love to write, and I was a voracious reader and still am,” Maxfield said. “I didn’t know anybody growing up who was a professional journalist, and I didn’t quite understand how one would even get into that. I viewed it as something I liked to do in my free time but not necessarily something that I planned to do as a career.”
Maxfield explained that an internship at CNN supporting national correspondent Gary Tuckman during her junior year changed her career trajectory. She said that Tuckman let her write the first drafts of CNN radio stories and go to news conferences and question diplomats from other countries. Maxfield added that Tuckman taught her the notion of humanism in reporting as she witnessed him reach out to interviewees after stories aired just because he cared.
As a result of her internship, Maxfield said she went to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism after earning her undergraduate degree.
“Whether you’re looking at professional opportunities or internships, I hope that you find someone who was as wonderful as Gary to work with,” Maxfield said.
Despite her successful career, Maxfield said it took a lot of effort for her to break into the broadcast journalism field.
When looking for a job, Maxfield said that she sent out 65 resume tapes to smaller news markets across the country. Despite the large number sent out, Maxfield received zero responses.
Maxfield said she ultimately broke into the industry by driving to upstate New York, calling news directors, and meeting with them. Through this method, Maxfield was hired at Binghamton, NY’s ABC affiliate. She added that, from there, she moved to Syracuse and eventually made her way to New York City as the ABC affiliate needed a New Jersey reporter at the time.
Maxfield said that her past experiences with rejection ultimately helped her throughout life.
“Whether it was the fact I was applying to colleges, and I didn’t get into my top choices, or the 65 resume tapes, I think that that really prepared me for what goes on every day out in the field doing these new stories,” Maxfield said. “You start with a blank sheet of paper every day, and people won’t call you back, and some people won’t give you the right info, or slam the door in your face. If you can just get comfortable with that and not let it stop you from what you set out to do, if you can get more comfortable with that rejection, I do think it allows you to do things over the years that are more challenging.”
After describing her career trajectory, Maxfield shared two of the stories in her new book, one of which was about Yarelis Bonilla, who battled childhood cancer. Maxfield’s coverage of the story years earlier shed light on the fact that Bonilla’s sister Giselle was denied entry into the US twice when trying to donate bone marrow to help save Bonilla’s life.
Maxfield said that news coverage of the story shamed the US government into letting Giselle into the country, ultimately saving Bonilla’s life. She added that she recently visited the family, and Bonilla is alive and thriving, which may not have been the case if Maxfield did not share her story.
After discussing herself and her book, Maxfield took time to answer student questions in which she gave more insight into the journalism field and expanded upon her own experiences. Before bidding the students farewell, Maxfield signed complimentary copies of her book.
Maxfield’s “More After the Break: A Reporter Returns to Ten Unforgettable News Stories” can be purchased wherever books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.