The women of JAWS radiated such warmth that Gina Setser’s visit to the 1990 JAWS camp turned into an annual pilgrimage. For her, the weekend event provided a “huge release,” an opportunity to take a breath from her busy career and share bottled-up emotions from work. Not only did she become a member, but Gina also served as JAWS president in 1993 to 1994 and guided the brainstorming of how to strategically grow membership while retaining the special group cohesiveness. In face of recent technological changes in journalism, she used her multimedia background to encourage her peers to overcome their initial fears of technology.
Gina grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, and her dream of a college education defied traditional gender expectations of the times. When she began teaching English and journalism as a high school teacher, she instructed students to operate a camera and herself became enamored of photojournalism. This interest led her to move out of her home state to pursue a second bachelor’s and a master’s at the Missouri School of Journalism, interspersed with jobs as photojournalist for Stephens College and the Mizzou Division of Extension in the 1970s (where she saw the early use of Internet via telephony) and the University of Missouri’s assistant director of publications in the 1980s. When she left the University of Missouri in 1988 with design and photojournalism skills, she spent the rest of her career in newsrooms. At The Albuquerque Tribune, she led her team into winning multiple national awards and a 1994 Pulitzer. At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she worked as online editor and producer from 2001 until her retirement in April 2013.
The oral history interviews took place on October 25 and 27, 2013, at the JAWS camp in Essex, Vermont. Fresh from retirement, Gina was relaxed and eager to meet up with her JAWS buddies of the past 23 years. When beginning her career, she might not have imagined that one day she would help spearhead journalism’s transition into online formats, but she met the challenges head on and is now happy to seek adventures in retirement.
( This interview was conducted by Youn-Joo Park )