New Faces: Jesse Scaccia

New Faces: Jesse Scaccia-MCJ

The College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State encompasses nine departments and the Armenian Studies Program. Each year, new faculty are brought on to elevate the academic offerings here at Fresno State. These new faculty members bring innovative research, diverse fields of study, and technical expertise to our college, inspiring fresh ways of thinking throughout our many disciplines.

We are excited to welcome Jesse Scaccia as he joins the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism as Associate Professor. He teaches courses in media writing and news and media literacy. Scaccia’s highlights as a journalist have included publishing in communities across the country, writing a column for The Virginian-Pilot, freelancing for The New York Times, editing a local art and activism magazine in Norfolk/Virginia Beach for a decade, serving as the executive producer on a documentary series for Black Entertainment Television filmed at an HBCU in Louisiana and interning at ESPN at the headquarters in Bristol. 

Scaccia has always worked on causes he believes in. He was on the small team with Virginia NORML that led the push for the legalization of medical cannabis and its subsequent decriminalization. He also helped start an arts district, a public art festival and helped bring PRIDE to the city of Norfolk for the first time. He has also worked to promote a more transparent government, greater civic engagement, and more support for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

What are your office hours?

M 12-2 | T 3:15-4 | W 12-2 | Th 11-11:45   

And just about any day, upon request – just reach out and ask!  

Tell me a little about yourself. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What schools/universities did you attend?

I was born many, many years ago in a small, faraway country called New England. I spent most of my childhood in a pretty place called Connecticut, but I bounced back and forth to St. Louis quite a bit, too. I received an undergrad and grad degree at the University of Connecticut, where my studies focused on becoming an English teacher for grades 7 – 12. My first teaching job out of college was in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where I taught English and ESL courses. While I was in New York, I got a grad degree in journalism from NYU. If we fast forward a few years, I got an MFA in nonfiction writing from Old Dominion University while starting a culture magazine in coastal Virginia. My formal education came to the end of the line at Colorado State University, where I skied and hiked the Rockies while earning a Ph.D. in journalism and mass communication. 

I was a gypsy vagabond with other stops along the way to Fresno. I’d also like to shout out my summer in Yosemite National Park (washing dishes), teaching high school and reporting in San Diego, a season spent on a longship in the North Sea of Holland, and the better part of a year volunteering at a home for young men in Cape Town, South Africa. 

What do you love most about journalism?

There’s a lot I love! But what I love most about journalism is probably the way that it can bring a community together with a shared sense of destiny. We’ve become more internationalized and digitized than ever – good, heartfelt local journalism has the ability to pull us back together in the interest of the shared space we call home.  

Another thing I love about journalism is that journalists are important storytellers in our society. They help point us to what’s important and how to think about those important things. Journalists share the stories of our friends, neighbors, and the inspiring (and infamous) among us. Humans are the storytelling animal. We feed off stories about our world. We need them to share these complicated contemporary realities. The stories journalists tell help to fulfill our basic need for human connection and a sense of interconnection. Local journalists and many other kinds of specialized journalists help create a sense of tribe. 

Why do you think journalism is important?

There isn’t democracy without journalism. The very concept and theory of democracy are built upon a vision of an informed citizenry. Democracy needs independent citizens that help spread, interpret, and question government information and decisions. We call them journalists. We need journalists to help understand who to vote for – and when to vote, too. America fails at a core function when there isn’t strong journalism happening at all levels. 

Journalism is also crucial because it plays a key role in making our cities, states, countries and world better. Journalism does this through its watchdog role – calling out political, corporate, and social BS, leading to change. There are also things like solutions journalism, which helps communities find solutions to pressing problems. We need independent researchers/reporters/writers doing the hard work of understanding problems and figuring out the best ways to fix them – and then reporting what they’ve learned to the rest of us. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Currently? In my students. I’m a big fan of theirs. 

I’m also always finding inspiration in nature, music, and love. I try to get out to Yosemite or the Sequoia area regularly. We’ve got grand temples in our midst! 

What are you looking forward to at Fresno State?

Finding new ways for our journalism and media students to use their talents and time to make a positive impact in the city. 

What is a fun fact people might not know about you?

I can wiggle my ears – haha. I’m a lifelong Knicks fan. My cat Pippin is my ride-or-die (but if people know me, they know this). 

Is there anything I missed? Anything you would like to add?

I’m just really thrilled to be here. I appreciate you taking the time to get to know me!

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