I am thrilled to announce today that we have added a new writer to Team Eclectablog. Jen Eyer has written a couple of dynamite guest posts (HERE and HERE) for the site and she’s clearly a great fit for our team.
Jen is the Vice President of Vanguard Public Affairs and has a long history in the world of journalism. She got her journalism degree from Michigan State University’s School of Journalism and has worked in for a variety of news outlets, most recently running the newsroom for MLive’s Ann Arbor News. She’s got mad social media skills and is a talented communicator. You can read her full bio HERE and more about her move to Vanguard HERE.
Please join me in welcoming Jen to Team Eclectablog!
Before we publish her first post, I asked Jen to share some things about herself.
Welcome to the team, Jen! Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, that sort of thing.
I grew up in the Lansing area and graduated from Grand Ledge High School in 1992. I spent my first year of college at the University of Michigan, then transferred to Michigan State for the journalism program. A couple of years after graduating from MSU, I moved to Ann Arbor, where I still reside today. So, outside of about a year that I spent living and working in Paris, France, I am a lifelong Michigander. I’m married to a wonderful guy and have two headstrong children who challenge me every day.
Give us a brief rundown of what you’ve been up to professionally for the past few years and what you’re doing now.
From 2000 to May of this year, I worked for MLive or related companies. I spent the past few years as the director of engagement for MLive Media Group, overseeing the company’s social media and reader comment strategies. I also led the statewide editorial board and wrote most of the MMG editorials, for which I received the honor of “Best Editorial Writer” in the top division in the state for 2014 and 2015.
Working for a media outlet can be somewhat challenging in terms of keeping your personal views out of reporting. Were you able to express you opinions in your positions at MLive or is this a new and liberating opportunity for you?
Expressing one’s opinions as a journalist is a very tricky business. For reporters, of course, it’s frowned upon. For editors and managers, it’s a little more loose, though you still don’t want to come across as agenda driven or partisan. I did state my opinion in a measured way from time to time on social media, but the writing I did for MLive in recent years was primarily editorials that represented the views of the entire 18-person board, not just my own. Despite that, there were some pieces I wrote that felt cathartic, in particular the one about Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in the Legislature putting Michigan on a path of intolerance and regression.
What brought you to writing about politics?
I’ve been a political junkie for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family that regularly discussed politics and current events around the dinner table — and we still do when we get together. My dad was an electrician and worked as a general foreman on a lot of big construction projects around Lansing — the Romney building, the Michigan Historical Museum, the Lansing airport, Jackson prison. These projects gave him a window into political decisions, and we’d talk about things like the downsizing of MIOSHA under Gov. John Engler and the specific ways that it made him less safe on the job.
In high school I did a program in D.C. for “young leaders,” and that led to an internship with Congressman Howard Wolpe. When I entered college, I planned to study political science, but then I fell in love with journalism and the idea of using my writing skills to inform, expose problems and effect positive change. Politics has always remained a passion, though, and that was really behind my decision to leave MLive and join Vanguard. I have the good fortune now of working directly for political candidates and organizations that I believe in, and I feel that can I make a difference in a more direct way. Continuing to write is icing on the cake.
What are some of the issues that you’re particularly passionate about? What sorts of topics will you be writing about?
Education is, without a doubt, my top issue. We have two children in Ann Arbor Public Schools, and I am a huge proponent of strengthening neighborhood public schools and of the right of all children to an equitable public education. Other issues that strike a chord with me include women’s health, civil rights, gun control, the environment, and the justice system.
What’s one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know or realize?
When I was 20, I up and went to live in Paris for the summer. Didn’t know a soul, didn’t have a place to stay or enough money to last more than two weeks. Just had my passport, a work visa, and two huge suitcases. When I went through customs, the official peppered me with questions about what I was doing there. I answered as best as I could, and then he sighed and said in French, “Paris is a big city for a little girl like you.”
Three months later, after having worked in a restaurant, traveled solo through France, Italy and Switzerland, and made many lifelong friends, I chatted with an airline worker as I boarded the plane home. She was surprised I wasn’t French.
Appearances can be deceiving.
P.S. Ironically, I posted this on Facebook one year ago today: