Michelle Jerson Q&A (BA, Speech Arts, December '98)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I have many fond memories of Hofstra. However, two people who really made an impact are Rabbi Meir Mittleman, the rabbi and everyone's genuine and caring friend from Hofstra Hillel, and Dr. Lisa Merrill, professor of rhetoric in what was then the Department of Speech Communications (currently the Department of Rhetoric). "Rabs" as students affectionately call him, always has had such an amazing way of making everyone feel welcome. I made some lifelong friends from Hillel. I'll always remember the musical performances we put on and the confidence it instilled in me. He was always there for me when I needed someone to confide in, and to this day, he still calls to check in and see how I'm doing.
I started at Hofstra as a theater major, but then met Dr. Merrill who made me see that the Speech Communications Department was a better fit for my passions. She taught me a great deal through a mixture of communication classes, including dramatic interpretation, which allowed me to incorporate my theater background with skills that would stay with me long after Hofstra. I credit her for leading me down my career path of radio and television. She was always a strong supporter and an incredibly talented and inspirational professor.
- What was your first job after graduating Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating was reporting traffic for Shadow Broadcast Services in New York. I reported the traffic for 1010 WINS, Bloomberg Radio, WFAN and a bunch of other stations in the tri-state area. Although I had interned at radio stations while at Hofstra, I never expected to get a job right out of college or knew 100 percent if I wanted to go into radio. However, Terry Sheridan, now a reporter for WINS, took a chance on me after hearing my demo. He handed me over to Pete Tauriello who trained me with no guarantees I'd be hired. I took advantage of training by a pro, and low and behold, I ended up working there for four years. I learned never say no to opportunities and that persistence and hard work can lead you down paths you never thought possible!
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My career has been spent in a variety of roles, but mostly I've worked as a talk radio host and television traffic reporter. I was hosting a relationship and lifestyle talk show for many years and had a fun year reporting for Howard Stern's news team on Sirius Satellite Radio. I parlayed my radio traffic reporting into freelancing as a television traffic anchor on stations, including WCBS-TV and NY1 News in NYC and several stations in Philadelphia. Along the way, I developed a passion for travel and currently combine my two loves of radio and travel as host of a new lifestyle talk show on AM 970 The Answer, which covers travel, wellness, dining and the arts. I also write travel articles for Mashable, Foxnews.com, The Daily Meal, The Examiner and my own website, Passport Romance.
I came to work in the field through the encouragement and belief of mentors, radio consultants and programmers. Hofstra alumnus Michael Harrison runs the largest talk radio conference each year along with his publication, Talkers, and has been instrumental in giving me the opportunity to network and meet so many influencers in my field. He has also been a great friend and ear for me over the years.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Do as much as you can while in school. Take full advantage of Hofstra's vast array of knowledgeable professors, utilize the top-notch facilities, and get involved in as many programs as you can. Explore your interests. Plus, take advantage of your close proximity to New York City and start interning as much as you can. Those connections will be quite valuable after you graduate. Many people come to NY with dreams of starting a career here. You are already here. Take advantage of that and network, network, network!
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
I've been so lucky to have many rewarding and exciting experiences. I try to pursue only projects that get me fired up and excited. I would have to say the most rewarding part of my career has been hosting the relationship talk show on New Jersey 101.5FM. On the radio dial these days, much of talk radio consists of conservative white men talking politics. However, I was given an opportunity to host a show that touched people's lives everyday no matter their political viewpoints. People would confide and share with my audience and me a big part of their personal lives. Even though I was the host and was supposed to stay strong no matter what, their stories made me laugh and cry. It was incredible to hear how I had impacted their lives when I was just going in and doing my job every night in a room with only myself and the microphone. My listeners helped me get through a lot of my own relationship ups and downs over the years as well.
While all the shows had an impact, there was one in particular I'll always remember. I was talking about opening adoption records in New Jersey because Governor Christie had to vote on whether to give adoptees access to their past. I asked if anyone has been searching for a parent or family member. A young man called up and told me his story. I then received an email from a woman who said her aunt heard the show and believed she could be his sister. I united them over email, and they both called into my show, thrilled to have found each other and a whole new family.
- What sparked your interest in broadcasting?
I interned a ton in college. I started at an actor's management office, a Broadway press office, RCA records, and a few radio stations. While I enjoyed my internships with the radio stations, my passion was still with the theater. Then in my senior year, I interned for Andre Ferro at WLIR. He let me sit in with him on the evening show and would open my mic to chat with him on air during some the breaks. I loved it. I then worked a semester at WRHU, Hofstra's radio station, and I was hooked.
- What inspired you to start a travel blog and where is your favorite place that you've traveled to?
Whenever someone would ask me to name my dream job, I would say hosting a talk radio show or a travel program. At one point I was hired by Travelzoo.com to be their radio and television correspondent. With that, I talked about so many incredible destinations. I then realized I wanted to do more than just talk about them. I wanted to visit them and share my experiences first hand. I started the travel blog Passport Romance while I was hosting the relationship talk show, as a way to share another part of my life and the world with my listeners.
When it comes to a favorite place, it is so hard to choose, as every destination is amazing in its own right. As a scuba diver, my favorite dive spot has been Palau. The underwater life is incredible. You can stay in one spot and see so much all around you. I saw species of fish I had never seen anywhere else. For culture and food, I really enjoyed Japan. I visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. Despite the language difference, the people were incredibly friendly and helpful, the sushi amazing, and the temples beautiful.
Michelle Jerson has had a long and successful career as a talk radio host, travel reporter and traffic reporter. She currently hosts “Michelle Jerson’s Passport: Taste, Travel, and Live Well!” on New York’s AM970 The Answer, reports traffic for NY 1 News, and contributes travel articles to Mashable, The Daily Meal, The Examiner, and FoxNews.com.
Michelle is the founder and writer for PassportRomance.com, and was the spokesperson for Travelzoo.com, representing the brand on local and national television news shows in studio and via satellite media tours.
In radio, Michelle hosted a nightly call-in relationship and lifestyle talk radio show on New Jersey 101.5 FM, IQ 106.9 Philadelphia, and 106.7 WJFK in Washington, D.C. As a reporter, she was an original member of Howard Stern’s news team on SiriusXM and has been an integral part of many morning shows. Before breaking into talk radio, Michelle co-hosted a top 40/rock morning show on B98.5 in New Jersey and was a DJ on two country stations, including New York and New Jersey’s New Country Y107 and Long Island’s 94.3 WMJC.
As an in-studio television traffic reporter, Michelle has worked for WCBS-TV and NY1 News in New York and FOX 29, NBC 10, CBS 3, and UPN 57 in Philadelphia. She has also reported traffic for most of the tri-state area radio stations, including 1010 WINS, Bloomberg and WFAN.