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Alumni of the Month

May 2015
Jaci Clement 1989

Q & A:

1) What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?

Peter Koper was my favorite professor, and he taught my favorite class. The class mostly consisted of him reading aloud random facts from an article in The New York Times, and we had to use those facts to write news stories on the spot. He'd give us about two minutes to write the lead (maybe five minutes to complete a story). If we misspelled a name or didn't clarify a fact, we failed the class. It was the best training to prepare me for working inside a newsroom. Outside of class, if I was anywhere near the Communication Department, he would track me down and ask what I'd written that day. His rule was you had to write something, anything, every day. If you didn't, he'd follow you around, nipping at your heels like a Jack Russell Terrier until he made you miserable. It was simply easier to do the writing.

My fondest memory of Hofstra happened at my commencement. Halfway through the outdoor ceremony, the heavens opened up and nearly drowned us in a torrential downpour. It was raining so hard our speaker's entire speech consisted of two words: "Good luck." President Shuart asked if we wanted to end the program early, but my classmates insisted we finish the full ceremony. When I walked across the stage to be recognized, I, like everyone else, shook the president's hand. He congratulated me, and then added, "You were my favorite editor." It was an exceptionally touching moment for me and what was happening in my life at the time.

2) What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?

I started working in journalism before I graduated, writing news stories for local newspapers and stringing for the education section of The New York Times. After I graduated, I landed a job as a publicist for an international eyewear company. Despite being on the other side of the fence in terms of publicity vs. news, my journalism training had taught me how to question, follow up and verify facts. In an office setting, those skills are incredibly valuable.

3) What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?

I'm a communications specialist, with a comprehensive background in all facets of the field. When I was young, I loved to read. One day after school my father told me he didn't care what kind of career I would choose, only that he wanted me to be good at it. To be good, he said, I would need to understand business. Then he handed me a copy of The Wall Street Journal and asked me to read it. At the time, I was in the fourth grade. Every night, after I finished my homework, I read the Journal. It made me want to be a writer. Around the same time, I wrote something that was published in my daily newspaper. It was really cool to see my name as a byline.

4) What advice would you give Hofstra students?

Follow your heart. Life on this planet is filled with people who think they know what's best for you. Take advice from people you admire and inspire you to become a better person.

5) In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?

Microcosmic. It's an environment that prepares you for life. Sometimes you'll have great moments in college, sometimes you won't. It's how you handle the highs and the lows that will determine your success as well as your happiness.

6) What advice would you give to teachers and parents that are concerned with how much access today's youth have to negative media?

Children should never be left unsupervised. Adults often like to leave a TV on as background noise, but they don't realize children are actively absorbing whatever is being shown. The Internet makes it possible to expose kids to lots of things their parents never had to deal with, so it is important that parents educate themselves on how to use parental controls that are built in to technology. But, beyond that, parents need to have a healthy media diet – because children will mimic their parents' habits. So, as a general rule of thumb: Get your news and information from a variety of sources, read more than you watch. and make a conscious effort to pay attention to news first, opinion and commentary last. That way, you make up your own mind instead of letting the media deciding what you think.

7) How do you keep up with the media when information and its availability are constantly changing?

It's important to read newspapers every day, whether in print or online. The biggest problem people come to me with, especially college students, is that they don't understand what the news is trying to tell them. Part of the issue is that many news formats today focus on sound bites or 140 characters. People need to read newspapers, where stories are longer and put into context. TV, Twitter and the like are great for giving you updates on how a story is developing, but you'll never understand the news if you simply rely on those sources.

8) What advice do you have for people regarding the use of social media and what information is trustworthy?

The reality is that the bulk of what social media brings you is reactionary commentary. So it's vital that people can distinguish between what's a fact and what's an opinion. That sounds simple, but one out of every two college graduates fails this test. As far as trustworthiness, all information should be regarded as only part of the story – because that's exactly what it is. One story doesn't tell you the whole story. That's why you need to mix up your media sources, and pay close attention to the facts first. Social media has many strengths but, like every information tool, it needs to be used properly.

9) How has your Hofstra degree prepared you for the climb you made in your professional career?

I use the skills I learned in my journalism and communication classes every day, but I really believe the greatest asset of my college education is the liberal arts foundation that Hofstra gave to me. Learning how to do something is one thing, but understanding its impact and being able to put it into perspective is what takes an ordinary task and turns it into something special. For that, I thank Hofstra.

Jaci Clement

Jaci Clement earned her first byline in a daily newspaper when she was in the fourth grade. She's been working for and with media ever since.

Today, Jaci is executive director of the Fair Media Council, a New York metropolitan area not-for-profit media watch organization that educates and advocates for quality local news coverage as vital to maintaining the community's quality of life. In this role, she speaks frequently throughout the United States to business, community, and student organizations about media issues and also writes extensively on the topic.

Having worked on both the editorial and business side of the newspaper industry for Times Mirror Co. and Minneapolis-based Dolan Media, her media expertise is well-recognized. In 2007 she was an invited participant in a project to shape the newsroom of the future sponsored by the Media Giraffe Project, a research initiative housed within the University of Massachusetts Amherst journalism program. Her interest and beliefs in net neutrality and the need for a strong national broadband program led her to participate in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, to support the Obama administration's U.S. initiative to create a comprehensive broadband infrastructure. Her association with PENCIL enabled her to work with fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at PS 24 in Flushing, Queens, to introduce students to concepts of news literacy as necessary to the development of critical thinking skills and, ultimately, as the key to creating world-class citizens.

She holds the title of executive communicator, the highest rank of distinction bestowed by the Association of Women in Communications. In 2005 Jaci received the Distinguished Service Award from the Advancement for Commerce, Industry and Technology (ACIT). The Long Island Association has presented her with its Media Advocate of the Year Award, and she is a regular contributor to Long Island Business News. She is a sought-after commentator on news media and social media issues, and is a contributor to the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Social Media.

Jaci's professional affiliations have included membership in the Association of Women in Communication and International Radio and Television Society Foundation Inc. She is a member of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Media Ethics magazine advisory board and is an honorary member of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York's Annual Luncheon. She was a regular guest on PBS affiliate WLIW's 21 Forum and an adjunct professor of journalism at Hofstra University. She was a director of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, a Long Island-based financial institution with more than $3 billion in assets, and is currently a member of the board of directors of The Early Years Institute.