Sometimes a career choice is unplanned. That was the case for Zach Haberman ’96, when he happened to take an internship position at the “New York Post” in the summer of 2000. At the time, he hadn’t considered a career in journalism, but after college, the “Post” hired Haberman as a full-time staff reporter. The rest, as they say, is history.
During his 22-year career as a reporter and editor, Haberman worked for a variety of other prestigious media organizations, including NBC News, the “New York Daily News,” ABC News, “2020,” “Primetime,” and the hyperlocal network, Patch. Throughout his career, he reported on major stories, such as the Bush–Gore election of 2000, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the New York City blackout, and numerous trials involving the Mafia and terrorism.
In addition, Haberman was on the Virginia Tech campus, reporting just hours after the mass shooting in 2007. He covered Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and was the first editor to see a video showing the death of Eric Garner in 2014, which may have been concealed from the world without that footage.
During the later part of Haberman’s career at NBC News, he worked as an editor on such politically historic events as the 2020 election and the two impeachment trials that came before and after that Election Day, the appointments of new Supreme Court justices, and the January 6th Capitol riots. In addition, he formed the network’s national digital breaking news desk, a team that works in conjunction with the broadcast and streaming platforms.
Earlier this year, Haberman took a career leap and accepted a position as a director on the legal affairs and crisis team with BerlinRosen, a top-level strategic communications firm and creative agency. He is excited to be working with clients and feels that he’s continually drawing from his two decades of newsroom experience.
Haberman lives in Weehawken, NJ, with his wife, Whitney, and their two young daughters, Eve and Celia.
How is journalism similar and different from public relations?
One thing that’s the same: Situations needing immediate attention will arise at any minute, whether or not they fit into how you envision your day. Many of the same skills apply to both worlds, and thinking about issues/events/moments from a beat reporter’s perspective is not wholly different than thinking about them from a client's perspective. [Working in PR] is a narrower prism than being an editor who oversees several areas of coverage and delivery methods. That's maybe an oversimplification, but using critical thinking and knowing the clock is ticking apply to both in the planning and execution stages.
How do you assess the needs of your clients who may require targeted crisis communication?
The word "crisis" does not mean the worst has happened, could happen, or will happen. It's about being situationally prepared, while also prepared for the unknown and what reality becomes. But all of it, everything, starts with listening. The clients I work with are people, businesses, institutions, and organizations that are striving to do good. Sometimes there can be speed bumps or curves on that path that need navigational assistance and guidance. The only way to do that is by listening to clients’ needs at the moment and how [those needs] fall within their broader mission context.
What led you to pursue a career in journalism?
It happened sort of by accident. I grew up in newsrooms and foreign bureaus, sure [Haberman’s father, Clyde, is a renowned journalist who’s contributed to “The New York Times” since 1977], but had never viewed the profession as a personal path. I took a summer internship at the “New York Post" in 2000. The interns and young staff members performing similar roles were called “copy kids.” We handed out mail, faxes, carted around reams of newspapers, moved elements around the various desks involved in the print process to the beckoning of "Copy!" from any number of editors.
On my eighth day, I was sent out on my first story assignment. I went out with a couple pens, a notepad, and no clue what I was getting myself into. Apparently, I did well enough to get sent out again, and then again, and then again, never knowing what was coming from one assignment to the next.
What’s your advice to anyone interested in pursuing a career in journalism or communications?
In both professions, you must be prepared to fail and equally prepared not to be deterred when failures occur. Rather, view those failures for what they are: experiences to learn from, helping you succeed the next time. And in both professions, one person, no matter how talented, can only be so effective on their own. It takes collaboration, staying open to other ideas and to learning, feedback, and, of course, criticism (which is not a curse word). And always, always, always ask questions.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?
This is not easy to whittle down. I have great love for Berkshire. Some of the closest people in my life are the friends (family) I made 30 years ago at school. But my fondest keepsake, without question, is the one Skip shirt I have left. [Skip Bowman retired in 2022 after running the athletic equipment room at Berkshire for 43 years.] It's completely threadbare, but I won't get rid of it.