Jen Maxfield, an Emmy-Award winning reporter who has been with NBC New York since 2013 and previously worked for Eyewitness News (ABC NY), has spent 22 years covering news in NJ. Although she started her college career in sports medicine at Columbia University, a junior-year internship at CNN at the United Nations sparked her interest in journalism. During the pandemic she was inspired to write her first book, “More After the Break,” where she updates 10 stories she covered over the years. Jen lives in Bergen County with her husband, Scott Ostfeld, and their children Trevor (15), Vivian (14) and Evelyn (12). We asked Jen about the inspiration for her book, the stories that have touched her and how she balances life as a professional journalist and mom.
New Jersey Family: What inspired you to write More After the Break?
Jen Maxfield: It was the stories I had reported over the years where even though the deadline had passed and we had put the details on the news and broadcast the story from the scene, I was still thinking about the people at the center of the story and over the weeks, months and years since the story aired, I continued to think about them and the people and wondering what happened to them and I figured if I was genuinely curious then the public would be curious as well. And people do ask us sometimes why we don’t follow up more on stories because somebody will really be at the center of the conversation for some period of time and then the news story is over, and everybody sort of moves on. And so this book was an effort to take a little more time with the stories and also to show people what it’s like to be a reporter and a journalist and be doing these stories and be with people on some really tough days of their lives.
NJF: Each story is so powerful. Which story has stuck with you the most?
JM: I really can’t choose one because they’re all so special to me. The story in chapter three about Tiffany and her mom Corrine (Tiffany Jantelle, 23, was killed by a drunk driver in 2011 as she was trying to comfort a dog in the street that had been hit by a car) … I would credit Corrine for being the person that gave me the courage to move forward with the book idea. She was the first person I called and said I want to write more about Tiffany, I want to write more about your story, I want to write more about a number of people’s stories that I feel like deserve more than we gave them on the news. … I think if I hadn’t had the conversation that I had with her back in December 2020, I don’t think the book would have gone forward.
(And) Tamika Tompkins (in 2012 she was stabbed 27 times by an ex-boyfriend though she had a restraining order, and her 2-year-old daughter saved her life) – this woman has impacted so many people at this point. Anyone who’s heard her story or heard her speak, it’s really a powerful story. I just think it’s very brave to be able to get up and tell your story and look at the larger picture and hope that other people learn from it.
NJF: You juggle a demanding career with raising kids. What is a typical workday like?
JM: I don’t have a typical workday because of the way my job works. I am a substitute anchor at NBC so that means when one of my colleagues is off, I can fill in on any of the news shows that we have, so that means anything from the morning news that starts at 4 in the morning on a Monday to the 11 pm news on a Sunday night. I fill in on every show there. I know in advance the schedule could be different each week. And then I also do reporting like I’m doing later today and I also teach at Columbia’s (University) Journalism School, and of course I was working on the book. I am very diligent about keeping a calendar so that I know what’s happening.
NJF: You discuss “mom guilt” and “news guilt” in the book. How do you cope with it and how do you balance work with the kids?
JM: I try to be present in whatever I’m doing so if I’m home with my kids my work phone is on the charger, if I’m at work I try to limit the personal calls and emails. But obviously being a mom is a 24-hour a day job – especially with three kids in middle school and high school, there’s a lot going on. … It’s not always a perfect balance. Some weeks there’s a lot going on at work and I wish I had spent more time at home and some weeks there’s a lot going on at home and I wish I was more focused at work, and that’s just life.
NJF: Besides yours, what is the last great book you read?
JM: Usually I’m reading one book on paper and one book as an audio book. I just read “In The Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson. … It’s about an American diplomat in Germany in the 1930s just as Hitler was just coming to power. … On a lighter note, I’m right in the middle of “This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub, that one’s on my nightstand … and then a friend of mine Elyssa Friedland came out with a book “The Most Likely Club” which is a very a light read and that one’s next on my list. I’ve always been a voracious reader and I always make time to read.
NJF: You work in NYC but live in the Garden State. What do you love most about living in NJ?
JM: I grew up in Bergen County and I love raising my family here. I love that we have the proximity of being close to NY while also being able to just enjoy the natural beauty of NJ. I just love being able to go on hikes with my family, especially at this time of year and being able to go to the various farmers markets and only being an hour from parts of the Jersey Shore but yet still being able to go see a Broadway show half an hour from home. I really do feel we have the best of all worlds here. And of course, like in any place, what really makes it wonderful are the people from all different parts of the country and the world that are doing really interesting things.
NJF: Where are your favorite places in NJ to take the kids?
JM: I like doing things outside. … When my kids were little, I used to take them to Van Saun (County) Park all the time which is in Paramus. I also really love Liberty Science Center, we used to go there a lot. too. Actually, the Tenafly Nature Center and Flat Rock Brook (Nature Center in Englewood). I also love going to Spring Lake in the summertime.
NJF: What’s next for you career-wise?
JM: I think just doing what I’m doing. I’m very happy at NBC New York. I’m grateful to work there. And I love what I’m doing at Columbia. I’m still on the book tour. Everything is still kind of churning along and I’m just grateful for all of it.