This month, we introduce you to Nikki M. Mascali, staff reporter for Metro New York since October 2016.
Tell us about your journalism background?
I originally was a business major, but I couldn't deny my love of writing any longer; so after nine years in "corporate America," I went back to school at 26 to study journalism. I interned, at age 27, at an arts and entertainment weekly paper in Northeastern Pennsylvania where I'm from and was hired as its staff writer soon after wrapping up the internship. Eventually, I became its editor, a post I held for two years before moving to New York in 2012.
Favorite story you ever covered?
There's been so many over the years, but one that's definitely near and dear - and a constant - is a story I did about a homeless veteran and bookbinder named Stitch, who was doing a residency at an art gallery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I got to sit with him as he bound books from scratch and talked about his life, from traveling to renaissance fairs around the country with his dog to why his books don't have lines, "because they limit your creativity." After the story ran, he wrote me a beautiful, handwritten note on paper he made that was sealed with wax. In the letter, he wrote, "May your quill never run dry." I now have that statement, along with a quill and inkwell, tattooed on my back.
What types of stories interest you?
I'm fascinated by people - why they do the things they do, what drew them to their particular profession or project, what makes them tick, what inspires them. (There is a reason my loved ones call me "Nosy Nikki!") But I also love writing about people helping people, especially in this day and age when we so desperately need uplifting stories to remind us that we're all humans despite our differences and divisions. This week, for instance, I wrote about an East Village ice cream shop that employs mostly at-risk kids from the neighborhood to teach them life and job skills. It was so great to speak to one of the young adults and hear how the job changed her life - and hear how her manager has seen her change so much with just a little care and guidance.
And since I'm an obsessive dog mom to our pit bull Kona, I love when I get to write about dogs here in the city.
Some days it seems like you've written the whole paper. How many articles do you usually work on each day?
Some days I feel like that, haha! The number varies depending on the type of story I'm working on or what I've already got in the pipeline. It usually ranges between two and five on any given day.
What content appeals most to your readers?
Metro New York readers' tastes are varied, but they do take to stories about transit--from service issues and updates to upcoming work announcements--as well as protests; celebrity and entertainment news; and of course since we are a New York paper after all, sports. Now I have to say, "Go, Islanders!"
What's your biggest pet peeve when people pitch you a story?
Sorry, I have two tied-for-first peeves: cold calls and calling "to make sure you received my email." While I may not be able to respond in two seconds, email is definitely the best way to reach me, and *spoiler* likely every other journalist as well.
What's a common mistake people make pitching you - and how can they correct it?
Pitching things that are out of my jurisdiction. While I do have the ability to get outside the box of just covering straight-up New York news on occasion, there are things that are out of my realm. I think it's good to do some "Nosy Nikki" work on your end to read or glance at a range of a journalist's byline to see what their wheelhouse is and get a sense of what they cover to better get those pitches into the right hands.
How should people reach you or a Metro colleague to pitch a story?