New York Times Columnist Joe Nocera Speaks Out

Renowned op-ed columnist shares views on journalism and topics of the day

Photo: Mike Peters

Joe Nocera

Joe Nocera, veteran journalist and op-ed columnist for The New York Times, spoke about his work and journalism at Montclair State University on November 6 as the featured speaker for the School of Communication and Media’s Colloquium Series.

Best known for his columns on business, finance and college sports, Nocera writes about a wide range of topics and touched on many of them during the 90-minute program. Introduced and interviewed by School of Communication and Media Director Merrill Brown, Nocera shared his views and insights on topics such as the 2008 market crash, insider trading, college sports and the NCAA, journalism today and why he doesn’t use Twitter.

“I don’t need it. I have a full life without it,” said Nocera about Twitter and other social media. He went on to point out that although he relies almost exclusively on email to interact with readers, he is also a veteran journalist with an established career. Up-and-coming journalists, he said, can’t get away with ignoring social media and other technologies. “Young journalists need to have a wider variety of skills. They need to do video and multimedia – it’s not just tweeting.”

Since deciding to become a journalist in his junior year of college, Nocera has been a writer and editor for numerous publications including The Washington Monthly, Newsweek, Esquire, GQ, Fortune and The New York Times Magazine. He is a multiple award-winner, a 2007 Pulitzer finalist and the author of three books, including Good Guys and Bad Guys: Behind the Scenes with the Saints and Scoundrels of American Business (and Everything in Between).

Of special interest to many in the colloquium audience were Nocera’s views on college sports and the NCAA, a topic he has devoted 20 columns to. A well-known critic of the NCAA, Nocera expanded on what he believes is wrong with the organization: the treatment of the athletes. He believes the NCAA exploits athletes financially and also abuses their rights.

“Athletes have much fewer rights than anyone here in this room has,” he told the audience, citing examples such as athletes having their Twitter accounts monitored and having restrictions placed on where they can go and what they can do during their free time. Nocera said that since a college athletes’ “job” is to play their sport, everything else – including their education – takes a back seat to it. They take courses only to be able to continue to play, or as Nocera put it: “they major in ‘eligibility.’ ”

Once their playing days are over, many former athletes are poorly prepared to enter the workforce. “I get phone calls all the time from kids who are back in their disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said Nocera. “They played their four years of college, didn’t have a pro career and now don’t know what to do with their life.”

Nocera also shared his thoughts about the future of journalism and what it’s like to write for The New York Times, as well as guns and electronic cigarettes during the wide-ranging talk and Q&A session that followed. His talk was sprinkled with anecdotes, advice and commentary about his chosen profession from an insider's viewpoint, such as this insight concerning letters from the Post Office: "Nobody reads their 'snail mail' in journalism anymore because the only people who write 'snail mail' are people in jail. They have no choice."

The School of Communication and Media Colloquium Series provides a forum for students, faculty and special guests to share their work and address current issues in news, public policy, government and society. Past guests have included Brooke Hammerling, founder of Brew Media Relations; Kahane Cooperman, the co-executive producer of The Daily Show; and documentary filmmaker Ben Kalina.

For information on past and upcoming Colloquium Series events, visit 2013-14 Events Schedule.