Jason Nark, who covers South Jersey for the Philadelphia Daily News, is sometimes put in precarious positions in the name of a good story.
“The Daily News likes to put me in awkward positions overnight. I don’t mind,” says Jason Nark, with a laugh.
Nark, CCAS ’00, is a reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News, the guy who has become known for covering the odd corners of the Delaware Valley – mostly South Jersey – and is sometimes put in precarious positions in the name of a good story. Something weird happen in New Jersey? Nark’s on it.
Nark, 34, comes from a Rutgers family. His parents, sister, uncle, cousin – all Rutgers grads. Nark even met his (now ex) wife, Niki, on campus, though she wasn’t a student. She was there to see film director Kevin Smith speak. They now have three children.
He chose English as a major, and took a few journalism courses. When he showed an interest in the field, James Moffatt, a Philadelphia Inquirer copy desk chief who taught at Rutgers-Camden as an adjunct, convinced him to stay in their English program versus transferring to a school with a journalism program.
“I knew I enjoyed writing, and I figured that journalism was a way to be able to write every day and not deal with the intimidation of writing a book or a screenplay,” says Nark.
He says studying with Rutgers English professors Chris Fitter and Rafey Habib inspired him to pursue a writing life. “I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed being an English major there,” he adds.
Still, it wasn’t until Nark won the John C. Wentz Memorial Prize, given to the student submitting the best paper in an upper-level English course with his paper on British Imperialism, that he thought he might really have what it takes to write for a living.
“It was a very big deal to me, and a wake up call,” says Nark. “I thought, hey, maybe I can do this.”
In 2001, he got a part-time job as a sports writer at the Courier Post in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Soon after, he helped report on a devastating Fourth of July fire in his town, which in part led to him to full-time work on the metro desk. Nark stayed at the Courier Post where until 2008, and then joined the staff of the Philadelphia Daily News.
This year, he won four awards from the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his work there.
Nark was hired to help the Daily News increase their presence in South Jersey, though his focus now is on what the paper calls “enterprise reporting” – pieces that require more time and research than your typical news brief.
He digs into stories that other reporters might pass over – like writing a lengthy, nuanced piece about drug-addicted Camden prostitutes; digging into an Cape May County drowning that he found was far from an open and shut case; and a piece on a Moorestown police officer who was cleared on animal cruelty charges, an article that also became a report on bestiality laws in Burlington County.
And then there’s the overnight stories: staying in his father’s North Wildwood condo throughout Hurricane Irene and camping overnight with the Occupy Philly Movement or spending the night at the Golden Key Motel, the site where a Bonnie and Clyde couple who kidnapped and murdered a man in Atlantic City were captured. It was also the hotel where the bodies of four murdered prostitutes were found in 2006.
“I like writing about people who aren’t necessarily famous or political figures. I do that stuff, too, but some of my favorite pieces are about interesting people who aren’t going to change the world,” he says.