TheBridge profile: Jay Newton-Small
Name: Jay Newton-Small
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: CEO & founder of MemoryWell
Past job: Washington Correspondent at TIME Magazine
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? WeWork White House. Since our offices are there it's not only convenient but free!
Q. Describe one skill you learned in a previous job that helped you in your current job. As a journalist, you network a beat and get to know all the players. I've found that with fundraising, it's a similar skill only instead of asking for information they probably shouldn't be telling you, you're asking for money. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the money is harder to come by!
Q. Job advice in three words? Take a risk
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? Well, I still appear regularly on MSNBC and CNN as a contributor to TIME and that has proven incredibly helpful with fundraising and selling for MemoryWell. Brand is brand and it's always good to be out there as storytelling, even if the stories vary hugely between President Trump (TIME) and those living with Alzheimer's and dementia (MemoryWell).
Q. How many hours of sleep do you get? I get seven pretty religiously. After four presidential campaigns and infinite break news situations, the one thing I know about myself is that I'm a wreck without sleep.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Organization. My co-founder Theo LeCompte is a details wizard. I'm in a perpetual state of awe.
Q. Best advice you’ve received? The best advice I ever received was from my father. My parents' careers with the United Nations took us to 11 countries over five continents when I was a child. Moving that much was miserable. I'd just get to know a culture, a bit of a language and make a few friends before it was time to leave again. My father always told me that the two constants in life are time and change. Given time, everything will change. So if you're happy, savor it; if you're miserable, take heart. I've found this to be true my whole life.
Q. Embarrassing work moment? When I was a baby White house reporter for Bloomberg back in the spring of 2004, I was covering George W. Bush's Rose Garden press conference where he announced what parts of the 9/11 Commission recommendations he was going to impose. Usually, when a president calls on you there's a routine: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, TV, newspaper, etc. So when the president skipped right from Reuters to TV, I breathed a sign of relief. Posing a question to the most powerful man in the world on live television is terrifying for anyone their first time—even the professional TV reporters. Journalists have lost their jobs for asking dumb questions. About 10 minutes later, I hear Bush call me name and I'm dumbstruck. All three questions I'd prepared had already been asked by others and I had no idea what to ask. "Jay? Jay?" he began calling, having no idea what I looked like. Meanwhile, Helen Thomas, the legendary White House correspondent, began shouting a question. Bush didn't much like Thomas, so he kept calling my name. I wanted the earth to swallow me whole. Finally, I raised me hand, "Here," I said, as if responding to a school attendance roll call. "How are you?" Bush laughed. "Fine, how are you, Mr. President?" I replied. "Well, I'm fine, but I don't think that's your question," he quipped back. If you look at the official transcript there are notations of [LAUGHTER] in all caps throughout this episode.
I eventually pulled a question from thin air—thanking God profusely that I'd come over prepared and had actually read all of the 9/11 Commission's report. I asked why Bush had chosen to disregard the report's recommendation to make the Director fo National Intelligence simply a White House appointee and instead had asked that the position be Senate confirmable. "That's actually now a bad, question," Bush mused before replying that not sharing power had gotten us into this mess, so he'd decided to share power coming out of it. The next morning, all four national papers led with Bush's answer to my question. My boss left them on my desk with a note: "We have to work on the style but the substance isn't bad." It remains one of the worst and best moments of my life.
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