When journalists across the nation were eagerly hoping to be the first to report exactly where e-commerce giant, Amazon.com, would set up its second headquarters, it was Katie Honan ’07CPS who broke the story for The Wall Street Journal that the biggest Internet retailer in the world was coming to Long Island City in Queens, NY.
“If something is happening in Queens, no one is going to beat me on that story,” said Ms. Honan, who grew up in the Rockaway section of the borough.
On the eve of Amazon making its decision public, Ms. Honan scooped all of her competitors when she, along with two colleagues, authored an article for the Journal detailing how the company would divide its second headquarters evenly between New York’s Long Island City and Crystal City in Arlington, VA.
Her passion for Queens influenced her college decision and informed her career path in later years.
As a senior at Stella Maris High School on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, there was never a doubt about where she was headed next. “St. John’s had everything,” she said. “It was large, diverse, had a great reputation, and was right here in Queens, where I had lived my entire life.” Ms. Honan noted that her father is also a graduate of the University, and being a legacy impacted her choice. “For me, St. John’s was going to be my school, too.”
As an undergraduate studying Television and Film in the College of Professional Studies, Ms. Honan playfully admits to having “never left the fourth floor of Marillac.” St. Louise de Marillac Hall—one of the academic buildings at the heart of the Queens, NY, campus—houses cocurricular organizations and clubs designed to enhance the student experience and learning in a variety of fields. Ms. Honan was a member of the Television Club and she also spent considerable time at the student-run campus radio station (WSJU 590 AM). “I did not know if I wanted to work in radio, yet I learned so much at the station,” she said. “It was also where I had the most fun.”
One thing Ms. Honan did know throughout her years as a student at St. John’s was that she wanted to write. The University Writing Center provided a space that was conducive to mastering the craft of skilled writing, and ultimately, Ms. Honan spent a semester working as a consultant at the Center.
Upon graduation in 2007, Ms. Honan explored the world of film and television production, working on sets throughout New York City. She earned a Master of Arts degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York in 2010.
Her longstanding passion for writing, combined with a desire to contribute to local news, ultimately landed her at WNBC-TV in New York City, where she was the station's first social media editor. There, she also won two local Emmy awards, one national Emmy award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award for team coverage of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Ms. Honan believes local news is one of the healthiest forms of journalism in the country. “What really brought this idea into focus for me was the importance of the local news coverage during and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” she said. “My family was deeply affected, and my entire life in Rockaway was upended. I knew then I wanted to pursue hyperlocal news.”
With that goal firmly planted in her mind, in 2013, Ms. Honan went to work at DNAinfo, the now-defunct online newspaper that focused on neighborhood news in New York, NY, and Chicago, IL. “We were the best,” said Ms. Honan of the lean team of reporters at the young news outlet. “We provided reporting that was not being done anywhere else.”
When the reporters at DNAinfo’s New York branch voted to unionize in 2017, the news site was shut down a week later by its chief executive officer. “It was not about money,” Ms. Honan said. “We wanted a say in important issues such as diversity hiring. It was also about saying to management, ‘We are serious journalists.’”
Within months, Ms. Honan secured a position at The Wall Street Journal as the City Hall reporter for the Greater New York section of the paper. Today, she has a desk at both the Journal’s midtown offices and in “Room Nine” at City Hall—the press room where reporters from The New York Times, New York Post, Politico, New York Daily News, and other news organizations report on major issues affecting the city’s 8.6 million residents.
Ms. Honan believes her St. John’s experience prepared her to become a good reporter. “There is a universal quality shared by St. John’s students and alumni,” she said. “We are incredibly hardworking.”
There is a “diligence factor” in journalism, noted Ms. Honan. “Good reporting comes down to how many people you reach out to, how many documents you pore over, and how far you are willing to push yourself. You cannot stop at 99 phone calls, because maybe you will find the source you need on the 100th call you make.”
Ms. Honan stressed that being a hard worker is “the most important characteristic I developed as a student at St. John’s—and I carry that with me to this day.”