The first reporting job Shawn Moynihan ’91SVC ever held sparked a passion for journalism that took him to great heights and interesting places. A native of Staten Island, NY, Mr. Moynihan attended the University’s Staten Island campus, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Reactions magazine, a trade publication devoted to the global insurance and reinsurance industries.
For as long as he could remember, Mr. Moynihan had his sights set on attending St. John’s, having grown up in the shadow of the campus. A prophetic moment occurred in his junior year when a family member helped Mr. Moynihan secure a position at the Staten Island Advance as an assistant to the city editor. There, he was able to observe the inner workings of a daily local newspaper. He worked part-time during the academic year and full-time in the summer. “Basically, when I was not in school, I was in the newsroom,” he said.
“As a Communication Arts major, I figured I would get some kind of job in media,” he recalled. However, writing professionally soon became his overarching goal. It was in the newsroom where Mr. Moynihan happened upon a copy of The Word: An Associated Press Guide to Good News Writing by René J. Cappon. “It is an amazing book that tells you everything you need to know about writing news and features,” he said. “It completely resonated with me. Everything clicked.”
He petitioned for, and soon received, his first assignment for the Advance. He was tasked to do a story about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Animal Walk,” an event where local press were invited to follow circus animals as they disembarked from trains and traveled to a venue to perform. “I covered the story—and actually rode an elephant,” Mr. Moynihan recalled. “Writing the story came so naturally. It was fun, and I thought, ‘People get paid to do this?’”
After 11 years, Mr. Moynihan felt he had accomplished all he could at the paper. Looking for a new challenge, he moved to Philadelphia, PA, and secured a position with AOL as copy chief for their Digital Cities project. Two years later, he returned to New York and accepted a position as managing editor of Editor & Publisher, a long-standing trade magazine covering the North American newspaper industry.
Since then, Mr. Moynihan has held a variety of editorial jobs and has embraced each new opportunity with a sense of adventure. Most recently, he was at National Underwriter Property & Casualty (NU), the premier trade magazine for the property and casualty insurance industry. He spent six years there, including four as editor-in-chief. “That was an amazing run,” he stressed. “I like to think I left NU in a good place—we built new relationships in the market, and created new editorial products. We won several awards, and we did a lot of work of which I am really proud.”
An engaging and award-winning storyteller, Mr. Moynihan has earned 11 Jesse H. Neal Awards (equivalent to the Pulitzer for the business press); five Azbee awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors; two Folio: awards, for Best Column/Blog and Section Design; and a SABEW award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.
At the time he was interviewed for this article, Mr. Moynihan was only weeks into his job at Reactions. “Coming here has presented a whole new set of challenges editorially, and that is what motivates me. In journalism, you are constantly learning something new all the time, and that, to me, is exciting.”
Mr. Moynihan cites Deborah Greh, Ed.D., Professor, Mass Communication, as an influential faculty mentor whom he still remains in contact with, especially when he returns to the Staten Island campus to share career advice with current St. John’s students. “Pursue internships. That is how you get a job in any industry,” he advises. “Start really early. Try to at least get a sense of what industry you might want to work in, so you can discover if you love it, or if it is not for you. Make contacts and meet people. You want to prove your value as a worker, and as a person.”
He added, “If you are the type of person who has a good attitude, says yes, and shows up, that is so much more valuable than just possessing a knowledge base on a particular subject. It inspires people to put trust in you. That goes a long way.”