Getting to know Newsday Albany chief James T. Madore

By Chris R. Vaccaro

James T. Madore, Newsday’s Albany bureau chief and an SPJ member since 1988, got his start in journalism during middle school when he created a newspaper for tourists in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire. Dan’s Paper-esque, Madore’s Stoddard Crier was a hit for several years.

He grew up in Illinois and majored in history and political science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Originally, Madore intended to be a lawyer, but after a miserable experience with the LSAT and a conversation with his mother, he was back on the journalism track. They both agreed he’d be better off going to a school with a highly respected master’s program so that he’d be able to get a higher-paying job.

So it was on to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

He grabbed an internship at the Buffalo News and spent a summer working for the city desk, covering everything from fires to courts and even a story at a nudist colony that had a health scare.

After graduating, he worked at the Watertown Daily Times for a year as a business reporter, served a seven-year stint as a business reporter at the Buffalo News, and then joined Newsday in 1996 when the paper expanded its business section. He spent four years writing about retail.

As a media writer, he was part of the investigative team that covered Newsday’s circulation scandal in 2004.

He covered Suffolk County government before going up to Albany in 2007.

A Q&A with James T. Madore

What was it like covering the Newsday circulation scandal in 2004?

We could use our skills as journalists to get to the bottom of what happened. Our Editor in Chief Howard Schneider said we have to get to the bottom and tell our readers what happened. The reason we had to was because our credibility was at stake. We write some very tough critical articles about other institutions, so we have to be just as tough on ourselves.

How’s Albany been for you as a reporter?

It’s very interesting and also very challenging. The last three years have been extraordinary. There is really almost a crisis a day. The other thing that’s important is bringing the message home to Long Island. I walk an interesting line. I write stories that are very much about Long Island and about the state.

How hard is it to relate the state issues to Long Island and its readership?

You try to write about the big issues that affect the state, but not to forget the issues that really affect the people that you’re writing for. Kevin Parker, a Senator from Brooklyn, thinks the entire Senate is made of white supremacists. That is something that I need to write about. But I’d rather write a jobs story where 35,000 jobs on Long Island are going to in jeopardy. What’s going to affect more people?

How difficult is it being the only full-time writer from Newsday in Albany?

I work very closely with my editor Benjamin Weller (government and politics editor). I propose different stories we can do. We talk about how we’re going to do things and how to make sure we get the most state coverage in the paper and on Newsday.com. You look at the whole package of the newspaper and the website, so at the end of the day readers feel like they know what happened in Albany. Sometimes we’ll do a story that no one else will do because it affects our readers. You don’t always follow what everyone else is doing.

How have you dealt with the digital vs. print work method?

First thing I think about is the Web. We want to get it up on Newsday.com as quickly as possible. What’s on Newsday.com is not what’s going to be in the newspaper. When writing for the web it’s very important to get the information out there quickly. Write a quick story on my Blackberry, shoot it to Newsday.com, get reaction and then update it.

My focus has to be on the governor, Legislature, comptroller and attorney general. [The] comptroller is from Long Island, Tom DiNapoli. He’s the only statewide elected official from Long Island.

Any thoughts on where coverage is headed?

We have to provide people with context what’s happening today happened 20 years ago. What came before, what’s going on today and what might happen tomorrow? If we don’t provide perspective, we’re cheating our readers. We’re not giving them the background they need to make a decision. I provide the information to the reader. I do not tell them how to think. They don’t have time to watch and read everything about state government. They have other things they need to do in their lives. They rely on me for a fair, objective report about their state government. My role is to give them information in a way that is accurate, fair and objective.

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