Tom Fitzgerald '89: Storytelling Via Social Media in DC
By Barbara E. Stoll ’93, MA ‘94
Tom Fitzgerald ’89, an Emmy Award-winning reporter for Fox 5 News WTTG in Washington, DC, embraces storytelling to reach his audience with the news.
“Anyone can relate a set of facts,” he says. “What I try to do on television is to present those facts in an engaging, creative, and humorous way that makes them think. I owe the audience that. Storytelling is an important core component of the news report.”
Adding to the story? Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. “Social media has changed the news game dramatically and forever,” he says. “I don’t know how a reporter can exist in a media environment without it. Social media is a wonderful gift and I’m thankful to be in the business at this time. I get story ideas from Twitter frequently, and also tweet news items; sometimes that’s the only way I’ll send news out because it’s immediate.”
Fitzgerald plies his craft during WTTG’s “Good Day DC program,” “Fox 5 News at 5,” and “NewsEdge at 6,” where he is an on-air political reporter. He also is responsible for the Fitz File, a daily web column. “The Fitz File is a ‘cheat sheet’ for the day ahead of what’s happening in D.C. with a few laughs thrown in to start your day,” he says. He also covers political stories, providing a local DC angle to national stories.
A 1989 graduate of William Paterson with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Fitzgerald was a student of the legendary journalism professor Herb Jackson. “Herb Jackson was the closest thing to Ben Bradlee that I’ve been exposed to in my life,” he says. “He was a real hard news guy who was tough on us—he treated us like reporters in a newsroom, not students in a classroom.”
Fitzgerald remembers that Professor Jackson instilled in him a sense of healthy skepticism, and the necessity of questioning everything, including motivation and what might be behind the curtain. That work ethic has taken him from his beginnings at Channel 34 in Monmouth County to a role as one of the first on-air correspondents for News12 New Jersey, where he covered the 9-11 attacks, and in 2003 to WTTG. The recipient of three Emmy Awards, five Emmy nominations, and several Associated Press awards, he received a Radio Television Digital News Association Edward R. Murrow Award for “Campaign U,” a project he participated in with American University’s School of Communication that helped frame key issues of the 2008 presidential election through student analysis of the candidates and campaigns in written presentations and a live webcast.
Now, as he celebrates 25 years in the television news business, Fitzgerald reflects on how his role has changed. “Until now, television news was a one-way street,” he says. “We turn on the TV and it talks to us. Social media has blown that away. I now know who our viewers are because I can have a conversation with them and they can tell me what they do and don’t like. It adds a whole new dimension to what we do.”
Want to connect with Tom Fitzgerald? He can be reached on Twitter at @FitzFox5DC.