A smoky room, loud machinery, and a horde of cursing adults doesn’t usually make for the best combination, but for Jim Pensiero, the newsroom felt like coming home. Despite this, Pensiero, who started working as a copyboy in a newsroom in Philadelphia when he was just fifteen years old, had no intention of pursuing journalism professionally. In fact, it wasn’t until after Pensiero graduated from the University of Oregon that he realized his short attention span and strong work ethic made him perfectly suited for a career in the news.
Pensiero immediately felt comfortable in the informal environment among the reporters, remarking that “it was the first place I’d ever been where the adults were irreverent, and I loved the atmosphere because every day they dealt with a whole new set of variables.”
The newsroom that Pensiero first experienced was a far cry from the technologically advanced, polished newsroom of today. Cigarette smoke permeated the air, and the room echoed with the sounds of the bells, whistles, and belts of the printing presses, but he “loved that environment because it was a noisy, complicated place. Every hour, on the hour, it was like making bread. Every hour, on the hour, they’d start the presses up and they’d make another newspaper.” Even so, Pensiero still finds his place in the media, although his recent retirement marks the end of his long stint in this profession. As he says, figuring out his strengths and weaknesses was an integral part of finding his best fit: “I said, you know, for somebody like me, I’m terrible at math, I’m terrible at science, I have a very short attention span. I think this is the place for me. And I still love newsrooms. They’re great.”
Although he has recently retired, Jim Pensiero’s career history and opinions were fascinating to hear firsthand. This man, with perspectives from the past and present, served as an enlightening Humanities event and left us with his sage words of wisdom.