BY CONNOR MURPHY –
Tom Zambito sat on stage, face to face with Dr. Nick Hirshon. Zambito’s grey jacket and black shoes shined under the spotlight. Students and professors alike sat in the audience with feelings of anticipation.
“If you’re dealing with the FBI or me, the FBI is probably a bigger problem. They could put you in prison and I can’t,” said Zambito on Wednesday.
Zambito is an investigative journalist for the Journal News in Westchester County, New York, who has also done work with the Queen’s Tribune, Bergen Record, New York Daily News and the Star-Ledger.
The journalist appeared at the semester’s first “Hobart Hall Reality Check,” a lecture series sponsored by William Paterson’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Communication Department. The WPSPJ invites veteran journalists to come in and talk about their experiences.
“You know, during those trials, Junior Gotti, when he got me alone he would blow off steam, he would ask me if I worked for the Daily News or government,” said Zambito. “You know, here he is facing life in prison, that’s a lot of pressure, and to blow off steam at a reporter comes with the territory, so I never took it personal – his mother would yell at me now and again.”
Zambito had done investigative work in New York City, where he had to interact with several infamous names, such as Junior Gotti, son of John Gotti, the Italian-American gangster whom headed the Gambino crime family. But now, his main focus has been on transportation and energy.
Graduating from Boston College in 1985, Zambito never had aspirations to be a journalist until his senior year, where he took his first journalism class.
“I remember when the first interview I did, I had wrote every question out, you know, you need to because you need to prepare,” he said. “But now, it’s more of a conversation… Understand what their field is, and you also know what information you need.”
He also was able to offer a few tips for upcoming journalists, as well as all communication students regarding conversational skills.
“It’s a circular conversation, in other words, if you ask me a question and I don’t really answer it, you can come back and ask it again… it’s all a technique, and you get it after awhile,” he said.
“You can’t be guarded about who you are, if you’re asking someone questions, you have to be able to tell them a little about you so that they’re willing to talk to you.”
There will be three additional speakers this semester. Meryl Gottlieb, Social Video Editor at Business Insider on Feb. 7, Andrea Grymes, Reporter and Anchor at CBS 2 News on March 7, and Denis Gorman, Freelance Sportswriter on April 4. All of the events will be held in the Martini Room in Hobart Hall at 6 p.m. and are free to students, faculty, and staff.