Punch Power Circle : Women of Distinction in D.C. Featuring Journalist, TIME Magazine Correspondent, and now Author Jay Newton-Small
“You should go on Jeopardy!” I exclaim reaching for yet another piece of garlic naan. Jay Newton-Small, with whom I’m grabbing dinner right after her Journalism & Women event where she spoke about her first book (of most likely several) “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works” and answered a plethora of audience questions, simply laughs at my comment and sips her wine. “All though,” she pauses, “journalists have had a decent track record on there.” Her smile makes me think she might consider it. But one day far, far, FAR into the future, for right now and for days, weeks, months, and years ahead of her, the TIME Senior Correspondent, journalist and now published author, has barely enough time to breathe, sleep and walk her dog. But as busy as this ambitious and tenacious (you have to be in this business – how else was she going to get her over 200 interviews for the book?) young woman is, she does make a concerted effort to see friends, even if it’s at her home as she’s cooking and watching a presidential debate or attending a weekend destination wedding.
Since getting to know her over the past year (but much more so in the past several months), I’ve learned a bit about Jay. She’s extremely sharp, brave, smart as a whip and can retain pretty much any fact, name, date, and story. She’s witty, highly sensitive and thoughtful, deeply rooted to her parents (“Broad Influence” is dedicated to her mother who died five years ago), exceptionally educated, worldly, charitable, an animal lover, and has fine taste in wines and food. Jay is a straight shooter, focused, a big thinker, a big do-er, obviously a talented writer, and an remarkable planner. I had to throw that last part in because when I asked her how she deals with packing for her multiple trips a month, she gave her secret. “I have bags already packed for this, and that and this. I just grab them and throw them in.” My packing plans pale in comparison, but then again, she has no choice. Jay has to be more than on top of her world, she has to be ahead of whatever might be thrown her way (a TV hit, a TIME article, a tweet, a reaction to a tweet – any of which need to be done STAT and on the fly).
Jay Newton-Small is our first of a monthly series where we spotlight a woman in our Punch Power Circle: Women of Distinction in D.C. Yes, there’s the professional Jay, the ambitious Jay, the Harvard Fellow Jay, the journalist and author Jay, but there’s also the fun, off-the-clock (is there ever that time?) Jay – the deli-loving former New Yorker who enjoys yoga, cooking, Taylor Swift, long walks with her rescue dog, girls’ nights IN, and who is a huge Ruth Bader Ginsberg fan.
Pamela’s Punch: Any important stories that didn’t even make it into the book?
Jay Newton-Small: My favorite story that didn’t make it into the book was one Elizabeth Dole told me. She was on vacation with her parents in Maine staying at a little B&B. A bathroom connected their two rooms. They went out to dinner and that night, Dole told her parents she wanted to go to law school. Women at that time treated college more like finishing school and most got married right after graduation. Dole’s parents were shocked but supportive. That night, Dole woke up to a noise coming from the bathroom. She was surprised to find her mother throwing up. Did she have food poisoning? No, she was worried literally sick that her daughter might never get married. Wow, how times have changed.
PP: Any favorite or difficult times writing the book?
JNS: I loved writing the book. I spent two months in Goa, India, where I’m on the board of Video Volunteers, an amazing civic journalism NGO. I worked with their writers and wrote on the beach and did a lot of yoga! I also spent five months at Harvard as a Spring 2015 Institute of Politics fellow. That was amazing! I had six undergraduate and two graduate research assistants—super smart kids who really blew my mind. I couldn’t have made my deadline without them!
We also had a “Fireside Chat” with Jay – What does she think about the quote “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women?”, who would she have at her fantasy dinner table, what’s her idea of a Girl’s Night Out?
PP: WHY should we read “Broad Influence”? And is it just for women? Because men should be reading this too – in fact WHO should be reading it?
JNS: There’s a lot of practical advice for women in the book. But I firmly believe men should read it, too! Women first came into the workforce during World War II because of economic necessity. It will be economic necessity that brings women fully into the workforce. By 2030, the baby boomer generation will be fully retired and America will be short 26 million workers. The only two ways to avoid this demographic cliff are to 1) bring in new immigration, hard to imagine with this Congress or 2) bring women up to full employment. We already have the training: women make up more than half of college degrees and more than 60% of graduate degrees. Studies show that having a critical mass of women makes companies more competitive, profitable and efficient. So, the next president, whomever he or she may be, will have to deal with this issue and help companies find ways to better recruit and retain female workers. It’s an economic imperative—not a luxury!
PP: From your own conversations on and off the record, what has been the general consensus and undercurrent feeling the political “establishment”, how the media has been handling the campaigns, debates, and candidate?
JNS: I was on a USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy/TIME panel with Chuck Todd a few weekends ago and I think he’s right to say that we the media were snobs about Trump and we missed the underlying movement he was harnessing.
PP: And what’s YOUR opinion?
JNS: I talked about this with Dana Milbank for his Washington Post Sunday column:
PP: You get to dip your toes and really dive into so many different fascinating people’s lives for your job. Tell us some of the Best of Times you’ve had, even one story.
JNS: One of my favorite stories ever was one I did out of Iran. It was about the art movement there, which had led to the failed 2009 green movement. Iran has cracked down on music, cinema—but not art, even though it nearly led to a revolution. I was curious why, so I delved into the Tehranian art scene. It was amazing. Turns out, there’s an exemption to the U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran for fine art. So even though almost all of the art being produced in Iran is subversive and anti-regime they literally couldn’t afford to stop it, it brought in too much money.
PP: How about the Worst?
JNS: Haiti was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I went with renowned war photojournalist Jim Nachtwey and it was one of the worst things he’d ever seen! There were 300,000+ dead centered in a five-square mile radius around downtown Port-au-Prince. The four UN mass grave cites filled up within a day. The Haitians started trucking out the bodies with garbage trucks to a place called Titanian, purportedly where Papa Doc and Baby Doc used to do their political assassinations. There, on a hill overlooking the Caribbean, the trucks dumped bodies – tens, if not hundreds of thousands of them. IT was like a scene from Hieronymus Bosch. I’ll never get that scene, and the desperate people picking through the bodies looking for loved ones, out of my minds.
PP: And of course the Weirdest?
JNS: I did a story about the mining culture in Western Australia. This is a place with a tiny population – less than two million people – that produces huge amounts of the worlds iron, gold, coal, oil, rare earth metals, etc. They’re had a worker shortage for a while so salaries are sky high – like $250,000 a year to drive a truck. Former blue collar workers turned millionaires are disparagingly called “Cashed Up Bogans” and Perth is like a playground for toys and other repositories of disposable income: legal whore houses, gambling, jet skis, the largest Harley Davidson dealership outside of the U.S., Rolls Royces—and the only place to drive them is miles and miles of desert. The scene is hilarious.
PP: You have to deal with social media interacting a lot more now with the book out. How has that been?
JNS: Man, it’s hard being a woman online. Hardly a day goes by where I’m not called a bimbo or a whore or someone comments on my appearance. I have tried to bring a measure of civility to the conversation by calling out certain trolls. A lot of folks say it’s not worth it. The other day, a friend, Dreamer champion Jose Antonio Vargas, tweeted a story I wrote. And wow, I didn’t think it could worse – but the vitriol following him around is ten times worse! All these guys telling him to go home and calling him horrible names. It’s unbelievable what people think is okay to type online. It makes me worry about our society.
PP: What do you do to keep yourself grounded and sane?
JNS: Not reading Twitter after TV appearances! No, seriously, taking long walks with my dog – nothing in the world is better for the soul than an ecstatic dog.
PP: Do you have any best practices for health, fitness, mediation, and education – we always have to keep our minds fresh! – especially with so much traveling and of course, air time ?
JNS: After my time in India, I try to do at least 40 minutes of yoga a day – it helps! I run daily, which gets out the stress. Even if it’s just three miles – 30 minutes—I feel like a new person. It’s worth getting up an hour earlier, even when you have a 6am call.
PP: What do you Love & Loathe about living in Washington?
JNS: Love: I moved here from New York. So many of my friends there are stuck in banking or legal jobs and they’re secret musicians, actors, writers. I love that in DC, most people are doing what they love. It makes for passionate and fascinating conversation.
Loathe: The utter lack of decent delis.
PP: If you could do anything, be anything, be anywhere (money is no object) what would you be doing now if you weren’t Jay Newton-Small, the TIME correspondent and author?
JNS: I’d be Jay Newton-small, TIME correspondent and author.
PP: Time for the Speed Round…(JNS answers in caps)
Beach or Dessert – BEACH
a night with Netflix or books – BOOKS
Google Calendar or paper calendar – GOOGLE
Drive yourself or Uber – UBER
Heels or Flats – HEELS
Nike or Lululemon – NIKE
Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga – TAYLOR SWIFT
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.