Personnel Profile: Jenny O’Mara

NAME: Jenny O’Mara
JOB TITLE: Deputy Bureau Chief, Capital Public Radio.

Capitol Weekly: So how
long have you worked for public radio?
Jenny O’Mara: I have been at the Capitol Bureau for five years. Before that
I was in the news department in commercial radio at KFBK.

CW: What do you think of the transition to public radio?
JO: It’s hard to say whether it’s public radio or the station at which you
work, but it seems like there is more freedom to express ideas and there’s
more thoughtfulness that goes into the stories. Even though we keep up a
busy schedule here, at commercial radio it’s really go, go, go. Commercial
radio puts more of an emphasis on breaking news stories. Here we have more
time to really think instead of just reacting.

CW: Who is one of the most interesting people that you have interviewed at
the Capitol?
JO: John Burton was always good for an interesting encounter. He was always
good for a colorful quote, sometimes almost too colorful to use on the
radio. He was always really entertaining and fun.

CW: Tell me about one of your experiences starting out reporting.
JO: My first reporting job was in a little town in southern Indiana. There
were about 20,000 people in the city and 40,000 in the county that I was
working in. It was a great experience. The most interesting thing about that
job was that I was from California, so people were always curious about why
I had moved. There was a little distrust there, so I had to sit people down
during interviews and show them that I wasn’t so scary as a reporter.

CW: So what has been a highlight of reporting at the Capitol?
JO: There was a night when the energy crisis was in full bloom. I was at an
evening session of the Assembly and they were dealing with some of the
energy issues. I was in the press bay and they were wrapping things up in
the Assembly and everyone was gathering their things and I looked up and saw
the chandelier swaying. And I was like, ‘hey look at the chandelier’, and
nobody was paying attention to me because they were just frantically getting
ready to go. And then one of the sergeants came in and told us that we had
to leave because a truck had hit the south side of the building.

I remember walking downstairs starting to get nervous because I didn’t know
if there was a bomb out there or what was going on. And I remember going out
the door and seeing the fireball and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh!’ That was an
amazing night. I ended up staying up all night doing reports. There were a
lot of lawmakers standing around with their mouths open in awe. People were
scurrying around in their coats that night because all the doors in the
Capitol were kept open to air out the building, but everyone still had so
much to do because of what was going on with the energy crisis. That was a
wild evening.

CW: So when you aren’t busy at the station, what can someone find you doing?
JO: I love to read, so I do a lot of reading. My husband says, ‘is that
really a hobby?’ And I told him that I have a book group that I belong to
and so if there is a group dedicated to it, it must be a hobby. The big news
is that I am expecting a baby in the end of March.

CW: On another note, which West Wing character do you think you look most
JO: Yes, yes, yes! [Laughs] You know I get it all the time. I would love to
meet CJ sometime and say, ‘do you know how often I am compared to you?’ Well
I could say Martin Sheen, but that probably wouldn’t go over too well.

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