Erin Baldassari, the accidental established editor
In today’s day and age, “children” live at home until thirty, parents still pay for their college-grad’s car insurance, and Facebooking is synonymous with working. The average twenty-four year old is just figuring out life, searching for a career, and teetering on adulthood. But not Erin Baldassari.
Before even reaching a quarter of a century, Baldassari, 24, is already established as the assistant editor of the Cambridge Chronicle. She writes articles, edits assignments, photographs stories, and manages interns. Her workday far surpasses the typical nine-to-five. She arrives early to the office, performs her daily duties, then cannot retire to bed until she has covered a board, city council, or neighborhood group meeting that same afternoon.
The 5’2”, petite curly-haired brunette with a megawatt smile, blushes into silenced anxiety when asked to describe herself. She could say she has written for the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix, Metro, and STUFF Magazine, but she chooses to remain mum. With an innocent smirk, she finally says, “I would consider myself independent.”
She is sitting on a beige couch in the small back room of the Cambridge Chronicle’s Somerville office. The office, located on an unobtrusive street within Somerville’s residential neighborhood, has two larger rooms filled with working editors and reporters from Watertown, Somerville, and Cambridge. Also housed is a reporter from Medford – the locale does not have an editor – and an editor who also reports for the town of Malden. All the journalists are working for Gatehouse Media, the umbrella organization for Wicked Local, which represents Baldassari’s paper, the Cambridge Chronicle.
Originally from Santa Rosa, California, Baldassari is a jet-setter. After graduating high school in 2005, she took a year off to travel throughout South America, visiting Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Peru. She did volunteer work, studied Spanish, and simply explored the continent. At 19, she moved out to Boston to attend Tufts University.
“I had always liked the Boston area,” she says. “It sort of reminds me of San Francisco. It’s small and walkable. I wanted to get out of California.”
Baldassari thinks she made the right choice. Her private wooden desk in the Chronicle’s office is littered with newspapers and stacks of crisp, white paper peppered with type. Her email is verging on capacity and she is always on the phone. This is a young girl in demand.
Despite her current schedule of meetings and deadlines, Baldassari says she never formally studied journalism in school. In 2010, she graduated Tufts University as an economics major.
“Tufts doesn’t have a journalism program,” Baldassari says, “and it’s something I wanted to do while I was in school. I wanted to figure out how the world works, so I studied the thing I knew least about.”
Having no prior journalistic experience, Baldassari enrolled in Exposure, an extracurricular photojournalism program offered at Tufts University through its Institute for Global Leadership (IGL). Exposure has students reporting on documentary studies and human rights.
“I was involved in doing photography in that program,” Baldassari says. “You have to write as well as do the photos, so I was working on photos and doing stories in tandem.”
A passion for photography initially sucked this economics major into journalism. Baldarassi, who operates her own professional photography website, likes the act of taking pictures but favors the results of writing.
“I never actually intended to become a journalist,” Baldassari says, flashing mascara-painted light emerald eyes. “It was never something I actually wanted to do. I was just doing photojournalism, the act of photography.”
But her journalistic feelings soon changed. When she was a junior in college, she interned for the Somerville Journal and the paper stole her heart.
“As soon as I took the position at the Somerville Journal, I loved it,” she says. “I realized I didn’t want to do anything else.”
Her love affair with journalism is a loyal one. After interning with the Somerville Journal, she earned reporting positions at the Medfield Press and the Westwood Press, and was then placed on-staff at the Watertown TAB before entering her current role as assistant editor at the Cambridge Chronicle.
“Within the next two years,” she says, “I’d like to start writing for either an alternative weekly newspaper, like the Boston Phoenix, or a large daily newspaper, like the Patriot Ledger, Lowell Sun, or hey – the Boston Globe.”
She has a lifetime ahead of her, and she intends on engraving herself deeper into the world of print journalism. In ten years from now, she would like to go into investigative reporting and work in a department akin to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. But for now, she will sit behind her wooden desk, continue wearing smart skirts and neutral cardigans, and dedicate her endeavors to the Cambridge Chronicle.
Her best advice to aspiring journalists is to be courageous.
“Be insatiably curious,” she says. “And love the job, because if you don’t, it’s just not worth it.”
Contact reporter Tracy Dubin at https://www.facebook.com/Tracy.D.Dubin