Alumni event brings together young and old
UNH honor alumnas and Boston newscaster, Natalie Jacobson
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
The University of New Hampshire Boston Alumni Chapter welcomed alumna Natalie Jacobson to the Executive Forum in Boston on the afternoon of Oct. 18. The triennial forum serves to introduce and discuss topics relevant to the greater Boston business and professional community.
A graduate of the Class of 1965, Natalie Jacobson went on to do more notable things than anyone ever thought a woman at that time would go on to do.
Landing her first television job as public affairs director of WBZ-TV in the late 1960s, she worked her way to the anchor chair for NewsCenter 5 Midday in a matter of a few months, ultimately reporting the station’s flagship 6 p.m. newscast in 1976. She was added to the 11 p.m. newscast in 1978, becoming Boston’s most-watched news anchor for 20 years.
In terms of overall success in life, Jacobson said she owed a great deal of that to her experience at UNH.
“UNH was just Valhalla to me,” she said. “It was an invigorating change of life [for me]. It was freedom from a pretty strict family life, it was an opportunity to meet people from everywhere, and it was an opportunity to read a lot.”
Jacobson began with this as she responded to her interviewer after the event in a quiet room closed off from the rooftop ballroom of the Parker House Hotel. She sat with ease and spoke with grace as if she were once again in front of the teleprompter, waiting for the cue that would tell her it was time to report that night’s most breaking news to the residents of the Boston area.
No more than an hour before, Jacobson was standing behind the podium of the hotel’s ballroom in front of dozens of UNH students and alumni.
“It was somewhat by happenstance that I got to UNH, and I’m very fortunate that it worked out that way,” she said.
She went on to tell the story of how her father, at first, saw it unfit that she attend college as a second-generation American whose grandparents had come from Serbia and Yugoslavia.
Jacobson’s father had told her that she could learn everything she needed to know from her mother, which was a mindset that had been changed by her godfather, who eventually convinced her father to allow her to go to school an hour and a half away, another one of his restrictions. Jacobson said she was finally able to apply in April of her senior year of high school.
“All of my friends were getting their acceptances and rejections … so I applied to UNH and thankfully somebody dropped out in April and didn’t accept their acceptance letter, and that’s how I got to the University of New Hampshire. Every night when I went to bed, I’ve got to tell you, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning.”
Jacobson said she was very fortunate to feel that same joy and energy when she chose her field of work in journalism.
“It was a very different time then; it was the genesis of television news,” she said.
Upon her graduation in 1965, Jacobson married the first man she ever fell in love with, Bill Jacobson, who, as a member of ROTC, got his orders to go to Bangkok, Thailand, as opposed to Vietnam. As second lieutenant, he could bring Jacobson along.
“So, I got two years in Bangkok, Thailand at the age of 21,” she said. “It was the best graduate program you can imagine.”
Jacobson’s speech at the forum captured the attention of her fellow UNH alumni in the most spectacular way, every pair of eyes directed toward the front of the room as she spoke with eloquence, commanding the room with a sense of humor that made a crowd laugh the way viewers would if they were watching an old Lucille Ball film.
Continuing on with her story, Jacobson introduced a very valuable aspect to her speech in which she talked of the adversity she faced while trying to break into the reporting industry as a woman in the 1960s.
“After a lot of introspection and talking to a lot of folks, I decided journalism would be my career. I chose television versus magazine or newspapers because I liked the idea of telling a story both with sound and words and pictures opposed to only words. Also, it was intriguing to me because television was a baby. Television news was a baby. There were no rules, so that you could be on the beginning of something.”
Jacobson got to work quickly on building up her credibility in an industry that primarily consisted of men. She would not take ‘no’ for an answer. The next step that she talked about is of great value to any literature or journalism major whose next major step is job searching.
“So I wrote out what I thought was a brilliant portfolio, something that showed I understood foreign policy, something that showed I could write fiction, and something that showed I could write nonfiction.”
After a few years of hitting the pavement running with nothing but integrity, passion and hunger for good reporting, Jacobson was hired as a rookie reporter, and was eager to learn anything and everything she could about the business. Standing behind that podium as UNH’s honored guest at the luncheon, Jacobson spoke words of wisdom for students in attendance who were eager to follow in her footsteps, with fiery aspirations and egos untainted by a proactive and aggressive industry.