After dropping her young daughter for a play date, Jennifer Strong drove to a quiet spot and shut off her car.
She hopped in the backseat, reaching for her hoodie and gear.
Strong then pulled a blanket over her head, using the material to soundproof her recording. She brought the mic up to her mouth and began voicing a story.
The scene might look crazy to those passing by. To Strong, it’s a regular day at the office.
Strong is like many broadcast journalists who have mastered the art of recording in strange places. The smaller the area, the better the acoustics.
She’s crawled into hotel room closets, barred the occasional copy room door with her foot to keep others out, and recorded podcasts from the privacy of her attic.
“I find the logistics of radio fun and not daunting,” Strong says, recalling the recent circumstances she was presented with to interview a Central Intelligence Agency senior executive about CIA recruiting.
Cell phones – which are Strong’s preferred recording device – aren’t allowed in CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. And while her reporter kit has been to the Pentagon, it wasn’t cleared in time for the CIA meeting.
How the interview played out: a CIA public affairs rep recorded the senior executive in his car with one cell phone while Strong asked questions over a different cell phone. Unfortunately, you can hear the whir of the car’s air conditioning.
NO AVERAGE DAY
Strong is an independent journalist.
She just returned part-time to the Wall Street Journal, a newsroom she left in 2007.
The Journal radio division she previously worked with was disbanded more than a year ago. Today, a new podcast department has formed.
“When I was there, all those years ago, podcasting was not the cool, hip thing it is now,” Strong says.
No two days are similar.
One day recently, Strong did a little bit of everything: covering the FBI statement on Hillary Clinton, tracking the Clinton campaign and President Obama’s endorsement, while recording tech podcasts and money news. And when she clocked out for lunch, she sent interview requests to congressmen for a project for Public Radio International.
Strong graduated from Gardner-Webb University, a private school in Boiling Springs, NC. She was a communications major with an interdisciplinary minor in politics and religion.
“I figured that would cover a lot of my bases in figuring out the world,” Strong says. She received her graduate degree in foreign affairs journalism from American University in DC.
Strong’s freelancer resume features a host of impressive news agencies, including NPR, Marketplace, XM Satellite Radio, and Dow Jones Money Report. From WSJ Radio, she filed reports for many stations, including WCBS New York, and KABC Los Angeles.
She’s a member of the broadcast committee of the National Press Club and an anchor of its podcast, Update One.
By the time Strong reads this piece on herself, she’ll be on a plane to France to vacation with her three young children, ages 5, 6, and 9.
“I really focused on them,” Strong says, of walking away from journalism to start a family in 2007. “I stepped way back and didn’t even do part-time work.”
It proved to be a tough decision, especially with newsrooms laying off her friends sometimes three or four times.
Strong assumed it’d be hard to return to a news job.
But when she was ready to write again, she did. She also had the freedom to go after stories that she wanted.
“You have to have relationships, and there has to be a relationship of trust,” Strong says.
What also proved critical was her newsroom training. Strong says it’s very important to building a foundation as a journalist.
“The training you get from your peers as well as your editor and that hands-on practical experience day in and day out, that kind of judgement is very hard to get unless you’re surrounded by journalists,” she says.
Technology also makes news reporting easier than ever.
Strong records calls and edits audio, often from her phone. She has an app for transcription.
“I don’t need to be in a newsroom to have wire services or internet,” she says. “Tape is no longer a physical object. It’s digital and easy.”
Have an interesting story to share about your media or blogging career? The Beyond Bylines’ Career Crossroads series features stories and job advice for journalists and bloggers from journalists and bloggers. Tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.