‘Don’t know how she does it

Professor Ernabel Demillo

By Maricar CP Hampton

Former FOX-5 reporter Ernabel Demillo is doing a fine juggling act, teaching journalism and practicing it, running a sporting goods business and raising an energetic 8-year-old daughter who dashes from a sleepover to a spa party.

Wait, there’s more: She sits on the board of the Coalition for American Children Families and other national advocacy groups, and finds time for tennis and yoga. And she used to call herself a “stay-at-home mom?” Either the definition has changed or she multitasks like crazy.

After 10 years with FOX-5, Ernabel ditched her front-row seat to some of the biggest events in history to watch her daughter grow. Freeing up time in her daily life, she began to teach journalism at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City and just recently became a contributing reporter for CUNY TV’s science magazine program, “Science & U!”

In the following interview, Ernabel tells us why, after she left the newsroom, she’s never looked back.

TF: Have you totally left TV journalism to become a full-time journalism professor?
ED: Well this is a disclaimer. Actually I am still doing some reporting, part-time. So I haven’t left it a hundred percent.
I’m doing freelance reporting for the science magazine show called “Science & U!” It’s an educational show that is on once a month at Channel 75 CUNY TV. The story that I did recently is about the science of why we get annoyed. It’s a scientific look at why we are annoyed with things that bug us.

TF: What prompted the decision to leave FOX-5?
ED: I left when my daughter, Alexa, was 2. It was really a personal decision. I was able to be a stay-at-home mom, to be able to spend time with my daughter, and when you’re given an opportunity like that after working pretty much all your life, you’ve got to take it.

TF: Between being a TV reporter and a journ professor, which is more fun?
ED: As a professor, I get summers off, winters off, spring break. When you’re a news reporter you have to work every single holiday and I was getting up at 3:15 every morning for 10 years because the show started at 5 a.m.
Some of the things that I personally like to do I’m able to do now but not when I was working as a full-time reporter. I was able to take tennis and become a very good tennis player. I even invented a tennis product – TennisRAQ — that you can find online. I am also able to dabble in yoga and Pilates. I love that I can take my time to do that.

TF: Does being a professor give you some perspective as to how journalism may be different in theory and in practice?
ED: I actually teach a class called Media Principles and Practices. I think most journalists understand that we have to follow a set of principles because that is the only way you can get your audience to trust you. But sometimes it’s tough to practice these because of the pressures of ratings and deadlines, and specially now, it’s harder because of Facebook and social networking sites like Twitter where you have people reporting things so quickly and report the wrong things. Like when NPR reported that Gabrielle Giffords had died when she wasn’t (dead).
In class, we look at the history of newspapers especially in the 19th century, early 20th century and how they thrived because of sensationalism. That’s when the tabloids began. They needed readers in order to survive. And the public has to understand that. That journalism is also a business.
I think for the most part journalists do try to follow the principles.

TF: You’re quite fortunate to work in a major news organization.
ED: Yes, I was able to work in the number one market in the country, and I just happened to work in television news when it was really the only game in town. It was the golden period of morning news. Now there’s so much competition nobody really watches it anymore, and then there’s competition from the Internet.

With husband John Muller, daughter Alexa and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine

TF: Tell us more about your family and your life now.
ED: We live in Central New Jersey in the Jersey Shore. My husband’s family is mostly in New York and Long Island. So for the most part it’s only me, my husband and my daughter. And we just love to be a unit just hanging out together. We love to travel. Every day is sort of different. On an academic schedule during the school year, three days in a week is devoted to teaching. Two days I don’t have to go in to Jersey City to teach I have a tennis clinic. I play with a group of women, and we play competitive tennis. My daughter who is 8 is at an age now when she is doing a lot of things. She is also a tennis player, and she’s in the swimming team.

TF: You don’t look like you miss the daily deadlines at all.
ED: No! Look at the cool things I get to do now. I didn’t get to do anything when I was a reporter. I talked about other people’s lives and I wasn’t really living mine.

Maricar CP Hampton is a freelance journalist.

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