Lisa Marie Pane graduated from Northeastern’s School of Journalism in 1985. Since then, she’s worked across the United States as a reporter and editor, managing large stories and operations. Currently, Lisa is currently a National crime and justice reporter for The Associated Press, while also working as a photographer.
We chatted with Lisa about what drew her to journalism, what Northeastern was like back then, and the current state of the industry.
What spurred your interest in journalism?
I discovered a love of writing and interviewing while a high school student. In my senior year, we were given more options on classes to take, so I took a journalism class because it allowed me to get out early on Wednesdays. Not exactly a great reason to pick a class, but it apparently was fate! As part of the class, we worked on the school newspaper, and it allowed this massive introvert to find her calling.
What was your co-op experience like when you were a student here?
The co-op program was an absolute godsend. Not only did it allow me to help pay for my education but it gave me invaluable experience. I spent all of my co-ops at The Boston Globe, and each co-op there was rewarding, so different and educational. I was lucky too that during quarters when I was taking classes, I was able to work part-time at the Globe. When I graduated, it was around the time of one of the first upheavals in the industry, and it gave me a leg up in finding a job to have those experiences on my resume.
Do you have any recommendations for current students on how to make the most of their time here?
As much as I loved working at the Globe, it meant I didn’t try other newsrooms – a radio station or TV station for example. So I would only recommend that students don’t feel they have to stick with any one employer. Use the co-op experience to check out different places. The same holds true for classes: Don’t be afraid to explore different subjects. If you do end up in journalism, having knowledge about a broad range of things will only benefit you.
You’re currently a crime and justice reporter with The Associated Press, what is your process when you’re approaching a story?
It’s a fascinating beat and two of the most divisive topics around: guns and law enforcement. I’m blessed working for the AP which places a premium on producing balanced coverage. So my first process with each story is identifying knowledgeable sources, researching topics to weed out facts from opinion, identifying potential data to report the facts about issues.
You’ve had experience working as a reporter around the country and covering numerous subjects, but you’ve also had experience as an editor, overseeing and managing large operations and massive stories. Can you walk us through some of your experience in the industry?
I joined the AP in 1991 to cover politics in Connecticut after spending a couple of years at a small newspaper in Vermont and then a large metro in Connecticut. It was a fascinating time to cover politics in CT and during my very first week with AP, CT enacted its very first state income tax. After 5 years, I left to join Reuters in NY to cover equities. In 1998, I briefly left journalism to work as the press and policy director to the Connecticut attorney general. But by 2000, I found myself missing journalism and had a chance to return to AP. I worked in the Boston bureau as the night supervisor, then went to Providence as the correspondent. In 2002, I returned to Boston as the news editor, overseeing such coverage as the legalization of same-sex marriage, clergy sex abuse, and of course the Red Sox first in a string of World Series victories and the Patriots’ first Super Bowl wins. Even as a huge Yankees and Giants fan, those were fun stories to be involved with!
I then spent a year at the AP headquarters working on what was then called the Supervisory Desk before moving to Atlanta in 2008 to be part of a team that created the first of four regional editing hubs. In 2010, I was promoted to South Regional Editor. During my time in Atlanta, I oversaw such coverage as the Gulf Oil Spill, the Trayvon Martin shooting, countless political scandals, and a host of natural disasters. In 2016, I had the opportunity to return to reporting and jumped at the chance to cover the crime and justice beat as a national journalist. I started the beat from Atlanta and, in the summer of 2018, relocated to Boise, Idaho. Both Georgia and Idaho are fascinating places to be based for this beat!
Are there pieces you’ve written that really stand out to you as favorites or ones you’re most proud of?
The stories you write when you first start are the ones that really stick out in your memory, I’ve found, even if they weren’t necessarily of global importance. I wrote an obit while a co-op student at the Globe about a woman who had self-published a cookbook of bluefish recipes; she had died of Lupus and her family was so appreciative of the care I took writing her obit. Their reaction helped underscore the value of local journalism and how it truly resonates with people.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work, and how do you handle it?
The biggest challenge is getting people to talk when they don’t want to. That’s especially true with my current beat. To handle it, I allow my work to speak for me; in this age, people are obviously Googling your work. All they have to do is check out my past work and see that I’m not approaching it with a specific agenda.
Has your work as a journalist changed as the industry has evolved?
Oh man, of course! We are constantly seeking ways to be first with stories, to be distinctive and to be thorough. When I started, we were just emerging from the typewriter era into computers. The Internet was not on anyone’s radar. These days, I must produce several iterations of a story, produce Tweets, figure out ways to illustrate a story. We have to multifaceted and nimble and flexible.
You also work as a photographer, what made it something you wanted to pursue?
Photography has been a part of my life since I was a kid watching my grandmother hand-tint her own prints. At NU, I took a photography course and first learned to make and print my own photographs. With my first job at the Brattleboro Reformer, we were all counted on to make and develop our own photographs for our stories. I let it drop until the past several years when I rediscovered a love of photography. I eventually gravitated to headshot and portrait photography, and have studied under Peter Hurley, the premier headshot photographer in the world. I love meeting new people, finding ways to get them to relax in front of the camera and then capturing them in a way that exudes confidence and approachability. With my AP job, I’m considered a “multiplatform” journalist. While my primary format is text, I also produce still photos for many of my stories.
Do you have advice for those who might want to get started in the field of photography?
Never stop studying the craft! I cringe when I look at some of my earlier work, but if I hadn’t pushed myself to learn more about lighting, composition and engaging with the people in front of my camera, I wouldn’t have continued to grow. Although I’m now a Peter Hurley associate, I continue to push myself to learn and grow.
Be sure to take a look at Lisa’s photography on her website: http://www.lmpanephotography.com
What suggestions do you have for journalism students entering the industry today?
Try to get to know “real” people. Don’t just surround yourself with other journalists. We need to be more aware of and familiar with the communities we cover. Some of the best journalists I ever met while co-op’ing at the Globe had never graduated from college. But they knew news, they knew the city and its players, and they could connect with their readers.