Trueline Spotlight: Once a Writer, Always a Writer
There was a time when Jason Pafundi wasn’t writing stories about loved ones or even people he just met.
But that ended by the time he was 10 and the rest is a tale that’s unwound from coast to coast.
Pafundi, a Trueline staff writer and digital content strategist, brings to his roles a direct manner, an undying love for the New York Mets, New York Knicks and the Washington Football Team, and a journalism career that began with a family newspaper.
“I’ve always been a writer,” he says. “I wrote with a word processor—even short fiction like ‘Attack of the French Fries.’ I look back and wonder if I should have gone into medicine. It would’ve paid better.”
News on the Home Front and Beyond
But medical science’s gain would have been storytelling’s loss. Pafundi began publishing the Pafundi News in December 1989. The family newspaper was handwritten, and featured clip art pasted on notebook paper. The special edition celebrating his bar mitzvah in June 1992 was a highlight, he adds.
In his native Palm Harbor, Florida, Pafundi helped lay out his high school’s paper at the Poynter Institute, the nonprofit journalism school and research organization in nearby St. Petersburg.
Pafundi went north for college—slightly—majoring in journalism at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Erin Andrews of Fox Sports, Jeff Darlington of ESPN and Andy Staples of The Athletic were among his classmates, he recalls, but his road from Gainesville to journalism first took him back home to Pinellas County. There he wrote a weekly youth sports column in the then-St. Petersburg Times and eventually starred in his own version of “Welcome Back, Kotter” by teaching 12th-grade English and coaching basketball at his alma mater, Tarpon Springs High School, home of the Spongers.
“It was a bit weird,’ he recalls. “The teachers I had in high school were still ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ to me.”
Everyone Has a Story
Journalism beckoned, pulling Pafundi to the Big Apple where he reported for the Queens Tribune in 2012. New York is a news hotbed, and Pafundi broke some big stories including a new stop sign coming to a busy Long Island City intersection—to be installed three years after the press conference announcing it.
The greater reward was meeting his future wife, Kirstin. Pafundi also thought he’d landed a dream job when he became a media relations associate for the NHL New York Rangers.
He expected the internship would become a full-time job and loved meeting Rangers and Knicks at Madison Square Garden. But his prospects fell victim to the lockout imposed by NHL team owners, and by the time teams hit the ice again, Pafundi was researching and reporting on personal injury cases for Verdict Search, a legal trade magazine.
The job showed there are at least two arguments, if not sides, to every story, and the hour-long subway ride from Queens to downtown Brooklyn allowed him to catch up on his reading on his iPad, he remembers.
A new opportunity came—for Kirstin—as she was asked to continue caring for children of a family moving from New York to Southern California. So they went West, but not before getting married in Kirstin’s hometown of Bristol, Maine, and enjoying a honeymoon in Jamaica.
You Call That Traffic?
Pafundi returned to newspapers by covering financial and entertainment news for the Daily Journal in Los Angeles. His lunch interviews at Beverly Hills hotspots frequently occurred as Steven Spielberg ate two tables away. He also got used to making small talk with celebrities like Steve Carrell at local grocery stores.
But as journalism had beckoned, so did Maine for a couple ready to start a family. In 2015, they returned to the Pine Tree State, and Pafundi joined the Kennebec Journal.
He knew he was no longer in L.A. when he covered a story about a local construction project and a reader complained because he failed to mention traffic disruptions. Of course, those “disruptions” were hard to take seriously by someone who endured 90-minute Southern California commutes covering all of eight miles.
Pafundi later became associate editor for the Coastal Journal in Bath, then joined Trueline in February 2020. Kirstin teaches kindergarten in the midcoast town of Jefferson, and they and their children, Evan, 5, and Lydia, 2, will move into their new home in Bristol this month.
His work at Trueline has expanded to posting published stories on social media as well as writing posts for clients including Good Will-Hinckley.
“It takes a while to get a feel for how to write stories here,” Jason Pafundi says. “But it’s also fun to talk to different people from around the country.”
Jason Pafundi Primetime:
Who’s your favorite Met?
Name a memorable celebrity encounter
Among dozens, I played basketball several times a week with Terrell Owens and Colin Farrell at LA Fitness in Universal City.
What’s the biggest difference between Southern California and Maine?
Everywhere you went—the grocery store, Best Buy, the mall, movies, where we lived, Studio City, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood—people were dressed. Nobody wore sweatpants at the grocery store, because for a lot of them, you never know who was taking your photo.
What’s your favorite comedy quote?
I can’t possibly name a favorite, but how about this exchange from “Naked Gun?”
Jane: “The man was Caucasian, you know, a white guy. With a mustache. About 6-foot-3.”
Frank: “That’s an awfully big mustache.”