Bonjour Royal Friends!

Welcome to my ‘tongue-in-chic’ happiness lifestyle blog from a funny princess point of view!

I’m thrilled to share my newest featured guest for my series, “Enchanting Discoveries…People, Places, Things.”  We’re in the thick of the extended holiday season and this interview about journalist Jennifer Amato is a true gift. You won’t want to miss the story of how this Brooklyn girl made good in her journalistic quest, what Derek Jeter had to do with it, yes…. Derek Jeter!… catch her fabulous advice for success in any field and tons more life lessons from a journalist’s point of view.  Read on and enjoy!

PvB: Let’s start with a little background about you. Tell us about your life before journalism.

JA: I was born in Brooklyn, NY. I graduated from Manalapan High School in 2000 and from SCILS/Rutgers College (Rutgers University) in New Brunswick in 2004. I have two younger sisters and now have two nephews I adore. I enjoy traveling and consider myself to be a foodie. I always dreamed of living and working in NYC but since the pandemic am very happy I live in the suburbs.

PvB: What is your current job title, what are your responsibilities, and where did you work before that?

JA: Since June I have worked for New Jersey Family ( as the assistant digital editor. I handle web content related to fun family activities as well as topics that are important to parents and lifestyle. I also write for our eight print magazines and am involved in the proofing process. The company is based out of North Jersey, but we all work remotely.

Prior, I worked for Greater Media Newspapers, which became Newspaper Media Group (NMG) in 2016, for 17 years. I was a reporter, staff writer, managing editor, manager of layout and pagination, sometime photographer, and company liaison for a series of Central New Jersey newspapers. I primarily covered Middlesex County, specifically North Brunswick and South Brunswick, but expanded to parts of Mercer, Monmouth, Somerset, and Burlington counties. I managed a staff of reporters, interns, and freelancers. I also was a backup paginator for the Hudson County sector of the company. I dabbled a little in Broadcast News when we put short on-air segments on the web. Plus, I was the managing editor and contributing writer for the new magazine publications NMG introduced, and I still freelance for those magazines today.

Additionally, I have been freelancing for Best Version Media for the past seven years as the content coordinator of their Robbinsville and Hamilton Square magazines. This year, I added Princeton and East Windsor to the list.  

Outside of journalism I am an independent coach for OptaVia. I have worked retail over the years, most recently at Sephora. I started off as a technician at an optometrist’s office in East Brunswick. And during the pandemic I did medical billing analysis for a doctors’ office.

 PvB: Where were your born?

JA: You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. I lived in Marine Park until four days before my 10th birthday.

PvB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JA: When I was young, my sisters and I would play “school.” I would set up my stuffed animals as a class and pretend to write on my bureau with lessons for the day. I thought for sure I would be a teacher. It wasn’t until high school that I developed an interest in writing and thought about becoming a newspaper reporter.

PvB:  How did you get interested in writing and journalism? Did something specific or someone inspire you?

JA: This is my yearly shout-out to Derek Jeter! A HUGE Yankees fan, I figured the way to meet Jeter would be to interview him in the locker room as a sports reporter, so that’s what contributed to my decision to become a journalist. Though I have met him twice in my life, neither time was in a locker room, and both times were at public events. I’m still waiting for my chance!

         My goal was actually to be a bilingual photojournalist. I minored in Spanish in college (I was obsessed with Spanish and Hispanic culture at the time) but because I took three semesters of Italian after finishing my minor my language skills were jumbled. I also “thought” I had photography skills but I’ve learned over the years that my use of a camera is mostly luck.

PvB: What’s one of the most interesting stories you’ve covered in your career and why?

JA: I have written so many interesting, important, exciting, impactful stories that it’s hard to narrow it down. One of my first stories was interviewing an astrologer because four of the council people had birthdays within a day or two of each other. I was so inspired by high schoolers volunteering that I joined my local food bank, and I was so moved by an annual organ donation ceremony I attended that I changed my status to organ donor. Though heartbreaking, I’ve covered many stories about people (especially kids) with illness (including yours) but who use their struggles to help others. I have always loved covering the police department, and though many stories were about beautiful police-community partnerships (fun fact – my great-grandfather was NYPD), the toughest story I’ve written in my career is about allegations of ticket quotas and racial discrimination. I’ve covered veterans’ affairs and wrote about families who served in wars together. And I wrote about mental health and suicide so often that I was asked to join a suicide prevention task force. Most recently, for NJ Family, I interviewed NBC reporter and substitute anchor Jen Maxfield (I’m a former NBC intern) about 10 stories she covered and updated, and she commented and shared my post about the article!

PvB: What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

JA: It would be selfish to say my accomplishments are measured by awards, but I did receive honors for a series I wrote on Alzheimer’s disease, and I also was recognized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – New Jersey chapter for my stories on mental health. However, what I consider to be more of an accomplishment is that (as far as I know) sources trust me and consider me a good journalist but also a good friend. I always remain fair and unbiased and truly keep off-the-record conversations off the record (some journalists say you are never off the record). To this day I maintain great relationships with everyone from elected officials to kids I interviewed when they were in grade school.

PvB: What’s your favorite thing about your career?

JA: There is a lot of excitement in journalism. Of course, there are subjects I dreaded and some assignments I wished I could have passed on (mainly budgets and elections), but when it came to writing and reporting, every day is different and has a great level of energy. Plus, because I was quite shy growing up, being a reporter forced me to be talkative and inquisitive and social, so I now enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories and letting them share a piece of their life with me. It’s truly an honor when someone can open up to you even though you’re “the media.” Right now, writing for magazines and the web, I love how much fun I have covering awesome activities and events in New Jersey I never knew about. My calendar is packed with new places I want to see. The exposure I’ve had to new ideas, thoughts, circumstances, and situations has been an awesome part of my career.

PvB: What do you think is a key attribute for success in general and journalism in particular?

JA: I truly think success starts with good networking and continues with your ability to put your heart and soul into a project. Passion is underrated. And I think luck and blessings have a lot to do with it, too. But you need to “stay hungry” as my dad (and Les Brown) say – you need to have that fire burning inside you and the drive to do your best every day. It sounds cliché but once you become complacent or feel burnt out, everything starts to dip.

         To be a successful journalist you must be trustworthy, true to your word, creative, a good listener, a quick writer and organized enough to multitask. The saying goes, you can teach a reporter how to write but it’s difficult to teach a writer how to report. So, you need to be able to learn on your feet and accept constructive criticism to improve your skills. The most successful people learn from others.

PvB: What inspires you in everyday life?

JA: I read a book earlier this year by Kyle Gray that says you should look at everything as a miracle. Sure, the lifesaving rescue or the turnaround of a diagnosis are miracles, but so is the fact that you wake up in the morning or your favorite song comes on the radio when you need it the most or you get a compliment on your outfit. Anything that enhances your life should be considered a miracle and you should be thankful for it all. So, I am inspired by everything around me – anything that breathes life into the day and makes me happy I find to be inspirational.

PvB: Could you give us a little info on where the ideas for your articles come from? 

JA: For New Jersey Family, I am grateful for the support of my editors Dina and Ronnie because they are coaching me as I get accustomed to the position, so a lot of article ideas come from them. As I learn and grow, I do suggest ideas of my own based on the time of the year (for example, I’m currently writing about New Year’s Eve celebrations and where to go snowshoeing). I also receive a lot of emails that spark the creative flow. For the newspaper and magazine articles I receive emails, talk to contacts, read other media sites (and I used to attend township meetings). Everyone has a story to tell so basically, all you have to do is ask.

PvB: What’s the most difficult part of the writing process? Is anything ever your writing Kryptonite?

JA: Luckily, I rarely find writing to be difficult. I am finding now, with NJ Family, that I write way too long, so editing my own work and cutting down the word count has been a struggle. Sometimes, too, finding the most interesting angle can be tough because what I find intriguing may not appeal to the average reader so I have to step out of my head and think about why someone would want to read my work after one paragraph.

PvB:  I know that you have won several professional awards. Can you  tell us what they are and maybe a little bit about them?

JA:  I received awards from the New Jersey Press Association for the astrology and Alzheimer’s awards I mentioned earlier. I was extremely honored to be gifted the American Legion Department of New Jersey Journalism Award for my work with South Brunswick’s veterans. (I also appeared on WRSU’s Veterans Corner talk show which is such an honor because my grandfather was a World War II veteran and I have other family who served in the military). Also mentioned previously was my award from NAMI which was presented virtually in the summer of 2020, so receiving a mental health award during the biggest mental health challenge most of us faced was very poignant.

PvB: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?

JA: I majored in journalism at Rutgers, but I didn’t write for The Daily Targum newspaper, and I felt most of my experience was on-the-job training once I got to Greater Media. I wish I had taken on extra projects much earlier than I did so I would have felt more comfortable at the onset of my career. I definitely should have written for the school newspaper. Plus, I wish I had more tech skills like with photography or Photoshop.

PvB:  If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you have chosen?

JA: I was partially through a minor in psychology, but I decided not to do the lab work. I think I would have (and now I know I should have) completed my minor and become a psychologist.

PvB: Do you have any hobbies and/or activities you like to do for fun?

JA: I love yoga and meditation and anything to do with self development. This year I went back to reading, mostly memoirs because I love to read people’s life stories as much as I like to write them – plus, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book. I love trashy reality TV when I need to turn my brain off. I also dabbled in some artwork and cooking during the pandemic, but I am no Van Gogh or Julia Child, that’s for sure. I also love to eat – which is a main reason why I’m on OptaVia – but one of my favorite activities pre-pandemic was going on food tours or to food festivals, especially in Manhattan.

PvB:  Can you give any advice to others who are thinking about a career in journalism?

JA: First off, and I hate to say it, but if you think you are getting into a journalism career for the money, quit now. If you have a true desire to tell a story, tell the truth and work hard to make sure the story is fair and balanced, this path is for you, and we need you. Every type of media has come under scrutiny the past few years so we need people who can keep their opinions out of their writing.

         Like I said to my younger self, get involved in as many different projects as you can. Don’t stick to one genre or one type of media. The more you can expand your skills the more satisfaction you’ll have, plus the more attractive you’ll be to future employers. 

           You also have to make sure you know how to meet a deadline.

PvB:  Any obstacles you had to overcome to get where you are today? 

JA: Unfortunately, there has been such a downturn in the industry and the economy that most of my obstacles were based around staffing shortages. I used to be the sole reporter for one newspaper covering one town. When I left NMG I was writing for multiple towns and managing 16 newspapers on four deadline days. Every. Week. I couldn’t give my stories the time and attention they deserved so a lot of material was regurgitated from press releases.

         Personally, my jobs have all been through networking connections so I can’t complain about any obstacles there.

PvB:  What causes are you passionate about? 

JA: My favorite subjects to write about are veterans and the military, police stories and mental and physical health. I want to write stories that reach others. I want someone to read my work and become familiar with something or someone they weren’t previously aware of. I want a homeless veteran to find a housing organization or I want a parent to learn where to get their child treated for RSV or I want a teen to learn about a new mental health crisis line so they don’t hurt themselves. I’ve been lucky enough to write about those topics at the newspapers, in the magazines and for NJ Family.

         I do admit, though, if I could write about travel or food I would be in heaven.

PvB:  Do you have a favorite travel destination?

JA: I know where my ashes will be spread (even though I don’t know if I want to be cremated!). I spent my birthday a few years ago in Hawaii and the Marriott Wailea on Maui is my dream destination. I literally think about it every day. A close second is Sedona, Arizona – the energy there is incredible because of the vortex. A trip to Disney World (definitely more fun as an adult) is never out of the question. And Italy is No. 1 on my bucket list!

PvB: Any fun factoids/interesting facts about you you’d like us to know?

JA: I can wiggle my ear. I bake the best crumb cake. I am waiting for Derek Jeter to get divorced so I can be Mrs. Jeter No. 2 (like that??).

PvB: “Fun Stuff” questions I like to ask: a.What’s your favorite color? b. What’s your favorite food? c. If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?

JA: A. Rose gold  B. Chocolate                                                                                                                                                                                   C. Either a zebra (love the animal) or a butterfly (because of the symbo of transformation)                                                 

Where to find Jen: Website coming soon.

Until then:

And there you have it! I am so grateful to Jen that she took the time to give us a window on her life and journey as a respected and well-established journalist who writes with heart, and soul, and that big brain of hers never forgets the joy factor!

HEY FABULOUS YOU! Before you leave, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE.  You’ll get periodic posts for your happiness, optimism, and positivity PLUS updates on the fun & frolic that happens here! Woohoo! CLICK HERE




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24 Powerful Motivational Quotes to Pump up Positivity


Put a tiara in your closet!

Subscribe now and get a FREE REPORT: 24 Powerful Motivational Quotes to Pump up Positivity!

Bonjour! I’m Princess Diane Von Brainisfried™

Motivational Speaker.  Certified Life Coach.  Award-Winning Writer.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  Offering seminars and coaching using humor to inspire happiness.

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