In his more than 40 years of experience, Frank Reysen Jr. has been involved in just about every field of journalism as a writer, editor and reporter; he has also served as a public relations executive. His work history includes roles as a director of the Department of Defense High School News Service, a combat information officer for the United States Army, news editor of the Marion Daily Republican, sports editor for Media-Scope Magazine, executive editor of Incentive Marketing magazine, the editor of Licensing Trends Newsletter and the editor of Playthings Magazine. Presently, he is the communications manager for New Jersey Planning Officials, the State’s association of planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment.
Mr. Reysen Jr. was a doctoral degree candidate in journalism from Southern Illinois University. He received his master of science in journalism in 1965 from West Virginia University and his bachelor of arts in classical languages in 1963 from Fordham University. He is the recipient of the prestigious Neal Award (a business journalism editorial award considered “the Pulitzer Prize of business media”) from the American Business Press and several Public Service Awards from the Community Action Network. He was also recognized with three Bronze Star Medals and a Commendation Medal for his journalism achievements as a U.S Army Captain in Vietnam.
Conversation with Frank Reysen, Jr., MS
Who’s Who Publishers: What would you like to promote most about yourself or your business?
Frank Reysen Jr.: The diversity of my career experience, which ranges from being a sports writer to writing about the war, to covering government and military affairs. I’ve also reported on many aspects of business. I’ve written about entertainment and composed a number of book reviews. Originally, I intended to become a sports writer/publicist and began my career as sports editor of The Fordham Ram college newspaper. That was going to be my life’s work, but things turned out very differently.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Getting my bylines and still seeing my name in print on articles of vital interest to various specialized readerships. As much writing and editing I’ve done over the years, the most satisfaction I get every month is when the magazines and newsletters I work on come out. I always enjoy seeing the finished product of publications that serve the professional needs of government officials or business executives.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Winning a Neal Award for an investigative series on knockoffs in the toy industry – a pinnacle for a business journalist. Other than that, there is nothing to really compete for. You can shoot for the Neal Award each year. We went for them and we won a few. There is also the recognition I received from the United States Army. When I served in Vietnam, all I did was edit publications and go out to cover battles. I had a rifle and a pistol, but I never pulled a trigger. I shot my typewriter everyday.
You interviewed Howard Cosell.
How was that? Was he as colorful as his persona?
Very much so. It happened on my first full-time job for a trade magazine called Media-Scope. I authored a three-part series on the future of sports marketing and advertising and Howard Cosell was one of my best sources. He was terrific. I went into his office at ABC Sports in Manhattan armed with a list of about 25 questions. I was very nervous, knowing his reputation – he could eat you alive! But after I asked my opening question, I hardly had to ask any follow-ups because he anticipated all of the relevant issues. He went on for nearly an hour offering his provocative and perceptive observations. To this day, I consider it the most successful interview I’ve ever conducted. But it wasn’t easy.
You interviewed some fascinating people, such as Martha Raye and Charleton Heston.
Yes, I interviewed these celebrities, and many others, in Vietnam. Whenever they visited our unit on USO tours, I would make it a point to interview them for our division newspaper, The Old Reliable, which I edited, and Stars & Stripes. I would ask them about their careers and their experiences in the war zone. I ran into some of them years later, and after I reminded them of our previous contact, they embraced me like a long-lost friend. And when they passed on, I felt the loss personally.
What are your short term and long term career goals?
I would like to see us broaden our offerings on the NJPO Web site and make it the one indispensable source for information on municipal land use and planning in New Jersey.
What specific steps have you taken toward achieving these goals?
We continue to develop new educational, legal and historical material for inclusion on the Internet.
What topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert on?
In addition to my current interest and involvement in land use issues, I am conversant with marketing, merchandising, advertising media, product licensing and the international toy industry. I spent 20 years as editor of Playthings Magazine, where I was considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the United States toy industry and quoted in countless newspapers, magazines, radio and TV reports.
I’m also cited in a number of business textbooks and histories on marketing, merchandising and sales promotion. Whenever I Google myself, my name keeps popping up in scholarly books and journals with things I wrote 15 years ago. I’m turning into a human footnote.
Journalism, public relations are other areas of expertise as well.
How do you stay current in your profession?
I’m a prodigious reader. The thing that really keeps me up-to-date, effective and relevant is my heavy reading, which is also my main hobby. I read four or five newspapers a day. five or six magazines a month, and 100 books a year.
What makes you a valuable resource in your industry?
I now have six years of experience covering this field of land use in New Jersey. Every municipality in New Jersey is interested in and has had problems with land use. I work closely with NJPO’s long-time executive director, Joseph Doyle, who is acknowledged as one of the leading authorities on this subject. He used to be my assistant editor in Vietnam. Now, I am his assistant at NJPO. I knew little about this subject when I joined the association in 2002. He has been a great help.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
A key problem has to do with eminent domain, where governments can seize private property for development as they see fit. There are a number of important court cases now in New Jersey, and we are determined to keep our readers up to date on all of these critical judicial decisions. We are also keeping a close watch on the affordable housing controversy.
What advice can you offer fellow members who work in your industry?
Read all pertinent materials and stay on top of things. My doctor has been practicing for many years, and he still goes to conferences and reads trade journals. That’s what I try to do in my field – never stop learning and always stay current. I like to pick the brains of and network with people who know more than I do. My education really began after I graduated from school.
What advice can you offer people aspiring to work in this profession?
Find out what it’s all about before you get into it. Do your homework. Don’t just wander blindly into the first job opening. Find out the problems and the opportunities in your chosen specialty; try to meet some of the key people involved. Try to carve out a niche. On one of my first interviews, the interviewer for a plastics industry publication, noting my interest in sports, advised, “Everybody is an expert in sports. But if you become an expert on plastics (or toys), then you’ve got something unique and valuable. Pick something where you can stand out and make your mark. That’s exactly what I did. I became the key source for The New York Times, NBC, the BBC, the AP, Reuters, etc. whenever they needed a quote about toy safety or the hottest new toy. My name was all over the media, and some people actually thought I was on the payroll of the toy companies.
What are you passionate about?
Aside from the aforementioned career issues, the thing I’m most into, and that I spend my free time on, is literature. I read mostly serious fiction, best-selling mysteries, biographies and modern poetry. I also collect signed books by major authors and dignitaries from all over the world. My collection includes more than 10,000 autographed books by living and dead authors, such as W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Roth, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Stewart, Lana Turner, President Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Who have been your mentors?
Three men come to mind right away. Joe Doyle, the executive director of NJPO, has been invaluable in educating me about land use and municipal planning. In the toy industry, my primary mentor was Harry Guckert, the late publisher of Playthings, who showed me how to conduct yourself as a respected leader in the business world. My journalism professor at West Virginia University, Paul Atkins, taught me the value of a disciplined, uncompromising approach to reporting and editing.