Prof. Joanne Kabak: Writer, Editor, Professor

Writer, Editor, Professor.

Joanne Kabak has spent the last 16 years guiding students through their journalism careers in a professional environment.

Serving as the faculty advisor for the Spectrum since 2008, Prof. Kabak collaborates with the editors to ensure the publication of each weekly issue, while simultaneously teaching the staff writers the principles of news reporting.

“I think there’s a joyfulness about Spectrum,” said Kabak. “I love working with students, it’s my favorite part of all this. Their energy and perspective, they teach me so much about what their interested in. There’s a connection with their own experience and learning.”

Joining Sacred Heart University (SHU) as an adjunct professor for CM-101 (Intro to Media Culture) classes in 2005, her classes have since encompassed media topics in the fields of journalism, ethics, and business.

Brendan Williams, the current Editor-in-Chief of the Spectrum has spent the last four years learning directly from Kabak. Working in a range of positions on the editorial board, he has gained firsthand experience in newspaper publication, grateful for how she has pushed him to become a better writer.

“I think her love for journalism is so evident in everything she does. She genuinely wants to see every student succeed and that’s something that we really see behind the scenes,” said Williams.

For Kabak, the news has always been a fascinating topic.

“I started wanting to be a journalist when I was like 12 years old, always loved the news and growing up in Massachusetts, outside of Boston, was passionate about the Kennedy’s and all the excitement of that era,” she said.

Kabak attended Barnard College for her undergraduate studies, majoring in History and Latin American studies. She received her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Columbia University, later receiving her journalism training at Norwalk Community College.

“Students today cannot imagine how little opportunity there was for women in journalism in past decades, I mean it just didn’t exist. So, while I was in college, I kind of got diverted from that and ended up doing administrative work for a while,” said Kabak.

She now sits on the Barnard College Leadership Council and serves as a member of the Barnard College Alumnae of Connecticut and the Norwalk Community College Communications Arts Advisory Board.

Kabak’s career in journalism kicked off through freelance and staff roles at the Stamford Advocate and Newsday, where she had the opportunity to interview high-profile names such as Joan Rivers and Steve Forbes.

“One of my favorite articles on Newsday was when I got to interview Joan Rivers. I was so nervous; it was a phone interview and I even got dressed for it just to have my mind in the right place,” said Kabak.

Rivers was an American entertainment icon, internationally known for her work as a comedian, actress, and talk-show host. She has received both an Emmy and Grammy award, widely renowned for her work as a pioneer of women in comedy and late-night television.

“It was just a really warm, fun conversation with this celebrity, going beyond whatever the topic of the article was,” said Kabak.

For the Stamford Advocate, Kabak led an interview of Steve Forbes, the publishing executive and politician who heads the Forbes media empire.

Kabak said, “I prepared, I read everything I could about Steve Forbes. He ended up being in a room with myself and one other reporter for a radio station who hadn’t done his research and was just there to ask a couple questions, but I sort of knew a lot about Steve Forbes at the time.”

To Kabak, this is one of the fundamental aspects of good reporting.

“You live in the moment in an interview, have your questions prepared, do your research. One of the best characteristics you can have is curiosity. Find out what’s going on, ask questions,” she said.

Numerous local and national newspapers have published her work on subjects from public relations and lifestyles to her own personal health column for Newsday. She has also collaborated with field experts on a number of book proposals, including as co-author on “The Woman’s Book of Money and Spiritual Vision.”

For the last two years, Kabak has served as chair of SHU’s adjunct council, a key component of university faculty governance.

“As this semester is ending, I’m ending my current term as chair of the adjunct council,” said Kabak. “Adjunct faculty bring incredible professional experience, there’s a voice for faculty to be included in the decisions, especially about academic issues.”

She has been interested in the news since a young age, following a diverse collection of outlets to stay informed on the state of the world. To her, a journalist’s obligation is to the truth.

It is the reporter’s job to shed light on the most important stories, and a critical part of a functioning democracy.

“I feel more confident about journalism perhaps than the state of the world itself. The current wars to me are unbelievable,” said Kabak. “The more authoritarianism spreads, the more we lose good reporting. Even our American journalism, is now cutting foreign bureaus, we have very little understanding of the world around us. There are a lot of things to worry about. But when I see my enrollment full, when I see every position applied for and filled on Spectrum, I know that younger people still value it, I just hope the jobs stay there.”

Mia Sansanelli, SCMA graduate student and former Editor-in-Chief praised Kabak’s ability to turn her expertise and passion for news writing into a learning opportunity for students.

“Prof. Kabak really had a big impact on my time at Sacred Heart,” said Sansanelli. “Her passion for student progress and for the ethics of journalism is really inspiring.”

Through her News Writing and Reporting course, students learn how to conduct interviews, utilize AP style, and ask better questions.

“My favorite part was just getting to learn from her expertise, and it helps you deal with feedback, it helps you want to be better a journalist. And she’s also just a really great person to be around, I miss working with her,” said Sansanelli.

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