Jennifer Gavin

I started getting suited up to the eyeballs. And it was intentional. It was to be present in the workplace in a formal-looking way that sent the message, “I am here to conduct business with you. I’m not here for any other reason. So don’t get that idea.” It was also like putting on a suit of armor, you know? And so I spent a lot of what little money I had in those early years just trying to be dressed in a workplace in a way that sent a message, “I am not here to play hanky-panky games with you. Stay away from that.”

— Jennifer Gavin

Jennifer Gavin

The tranquil mountains of Estes Park, Colorado, belied the energy of a group of women journalists in 1985. A reporter for AP at the time, Jennifer Gavin enjoyed sharing stories with the ladies at the first JAWS camp, an event that she described as “a girls’ weekend out with professional overtones.” However, the inaugural camp marked a “bittersweet moment” for Jennifer. Despite her affinity to the group, she realized this event might symbolize her farewell to journalism, prior to making a career switch to government PR. Nearly 30 years later, she was delighted to hear of the group’s longevity and mused, “It’s nice to know that we threw a stone into a stream in Estes Park, Colorado, and the ripples are still going.”

With her father being a long-time columnist at The Denver Post, Jennifer grew up immersed in the journalism world. The family encouraged her to pursue her own interests, but when the Pentagon Papers story broke nationally, the public service aspect of journalism appealed to her. Her early career was at several AP bureaus and newspapers in Florida. When she later accepted a job in the Colorado governor’s office, she thought it would close a chapter on journalism forever. That turned out not to be the case because The Denver Post did away with the nepotism policy in the late 1980s and she was then able to work there. She described the fun environment of zany journalists in a competitive two-newspaper city, but the decline in the news industry in the mid-1990s led her to re-evaluate her career. When her husband got a job in Washington, D.C., she followed him there, obtained a master’s in international relations at American University, and began working in government. She currently leads public affairs at the Library of Congress and regularly maintains a blog that has a wide readership, which she says is larger than the audience size during her newspaper days.

In preparation for the Washington, D.C., trip, I sent out recruitment emails, and Jennifer Gavin was the first to respond. She was pleasantly surprised to be contacted and expressed enthusiasm about reminiscing on her first JAWS camp. On December 20 and 23, 2013, I visited the Library of Congress to see Jennifer. In between laughs, she regaled me with her newsroom adventures and the history of Denver. After the oral history session concluded, she kindly gave me a personally guided tour of the Library of Congress and told me about life in Washington, D.C.

( This interview was conducted by Youn-Joo Park )