By Kalah McLaughlin
After working more than a decade and a half in broadcast journalism, Steven Sandberg, J/MS 2000, has flipped the script and become the press secretary for New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator, Robert Menendez, a Democrat.
Sandberg’s main duty is to interface with the press and so has switched from being the reporter to now responding to reporters’ questions and giving them information to write and produce their stories. Without letting his journalism degree go to waste, Sandberg also writes press releases and speeches and arranges public events for the senator, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is prominent in U.S. immigration policy reform.
“The decision to go to ‘the other side’ was not made lightly,” said Sandberg, who worked for WINS 1010 Radio for the last 10 years. “It was done with great deliberation, but in the end without regrets. Having covered the senator over the years, I had great respect for his public service and tireless work on behalf of the people of New Jersey.”
This career change should not have taken anyone by surprise. Sandberg graduated with dual degrees in journalism and political science. He also briefly studied law at Rutgers Law School in Newark.
During his years as an undergrad at Rutgers, Sandberg fell in love with radio at WRSU. He broadcast Rutgers football and men and women’s basketball through his junior year. During his senior year, Sandberg was hired to broadcast College of New Jersey football and did so for three seasons.
“Simultaneously, I had begun to pursue a career in news while still an undergrad,” he recalled. “Towards the end of my freshman year, I answered an ad and got the job as a news assistant at WOR Radio in New York. Within a few months — at just 19 years old — I was on the air in the Big Apple. “
During that time, Sandberg also did some freelance news anchoring and reporting for WRNJ AM/FM in Hackettstown, NPR and Metro Networks. In 2004, Sandberg joined 1010 WINS as a New Jersey correspondent. There, he covered the Tyler Clementi trial, the fight for same-sex marriage and Superstorm Sandy.
One professor’s words stuck with Sandberg through the years. “I’ll never forget what Steve Miller told us the first day of his Intro to TV class: If you’re pursuing a career in journalism, it’s not for the money, but for the passion. He was absolutely right. It’s a calling.”
Sandberg also added, “The skills I acquired studying at Rutgers and working as a reporter for more than a decade and a half are absolutely vital and essential in my current role. I use them every day.”
Sandberg has worked for Sen. Menendez since last December. He is primarily based in New Jersey but travels with the senator around the state and occasionally to Washington, D.C.
“I am still a journalist and storyteller at heart,” Sandberg emphasized. “Reporters will joke that I have jumped to the ‘dark side,’ in reference to the sometimes adversarial relationship between the media and people in my position. However, it only further illustrates the dichotomy and two-sided nature of a story.”
Sandberg resides in Nutley with his wife, Kathy, and son, David.