Meet a Hodger: Jon Newman
An ardent Bruce Springsteen fan and dedicated foodie, Jon Newman hails from New Jersey and is a Rutgers University alum. He ended up in Richmond by way of Charlottesville, then Lynchburg, then Nashville, working in news for both radio and TV. While in Richmond, Jon worked as assistant news director at WTVR Channel 6, but after many nights being awoken by news of the latest fire or homicide, he made the switch to public relations.
After 10 years working at Martin PR, the Martin Agency’s one-time public relations arm, Jon started The Hodges Partnership with Josh Dare in 2002 and the rest, as they say, is history.
We are thrilled for you to meet Jon.
What made you pivot from news to PR?
It seemed like a logical thing to do. Running a news department was not as glamorous as people might think it would be. It was very stressful. I always thought PR could be a fallback for me. I left Channel 6, did a lot of networking and ended up doing some freelance work for Martin PR – I was very fortunate to get hooked up with them. I ended up freelancing for them for about six months, before I basically pestered Joe [Slay, partner at the Martin Agency from 1982 to 2011] into giving me a full-time job, and then started that journey there for about 10 years. But it seemed to be a logical thing to do, to switch.
It was the early 1990s and PR was still predominantly more of a print focus. I was able to bring my broadcasting expertise in and say, “Look, this is how you can pitch stories to broadcast media.”
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about working in PR?
All the negative connotations; that we’re just publicists, or we’re just spin doctors, or to be blunt, that we lie in order to get our point of view or our client’s point of view across. I think because of that, the industry gets a really bad rap. The more we can educate people about PR, the better – about how we are really more like marketers, and how we can help folks craft stories for good. That’s something I’m really passionate about.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
I’m a passionate Rutgers athletic fan and supporter so I spend a lot of my time following those teams. I’m the co-host of a podcast, The Scarlet Spotlight, that’s about Rutgers Athletics and is very guests-driven. It’s about to hit its 70th episode. We interview people throughout the history of Rutgers Athletics and we also give commentary.
I’m spending a lot more time, especially during the pandemic, intentionally working out. I do power walking and we set up a gym in the garage.
My son and I are big fans of the Marvel cinematic universe, so anytime there’s a new movie that comes out, he and I are among the first to go see it.
My family and I are really big foodies. My wife is a great cook, so there’s always something simmering or baking. Plus, we’re always looking for new restaurants to try and Richmond, especially in the last decade, has been a great place to explore all of that.
What are some of your favorite Richmond restaurants?
My family really likes Heritage. We really love Lehja, which is an Indian place at Short Pump Town Center. It’s sort of an undiscovered jewel. We also love ZZQ. My 17-year-old son is a carnivore so at least four or five times a year, we load up on meat from there.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I learned all the words and lyrics to “Fiddler on the Roof” — the entire musical — when I was five. It came out in 1964 and I was born in 1961, so that was its heyday and I think my parents actually took me to see it on Broadway when I was five or six. They bought the cast album and either they played it all the time, or I did while I was growing up. I still know all the words. “Fiddler” was supposed to come here on tour this year, but of course didn’t because of the pandemic. Maybe it’s for the best because I know that I would have been kicked in the shins by whoever sat next to me at that show, because I would have been singing all of it.
I’ve also seen Bruce Springsteen live in concert about 50 times. But people probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that!