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Interview with Matthew Fazelpoor: Journalism, Jersey and Jabronis

Mar 22, 2023

We sit down with a longtime friend of the HustleMania family, journalist Matthew Fazelpoor to talk about his journey so far, what he is working on currently and his vision for the future. We touch on topics like progress in the State of NJ, Politics, Community and last but definitely not least Wrestling! Come read a conversation with a great guy from Jersey.

HustleMania: Matthew, it’s a pleasure to have you join us on HustleMania, it’s been a long time coming as you are an unofficial member of the HustleMania family, a cousin of sorts. So let’s get right into it. Can you tell us about your journey in journalism and how you got to where you are today?

Matthew Fazelpoor: It has been a long journey haha. But I honestly would not have had it any other way. It has been one that has required patience, endurance, and adaptability. And it is a constant evolution to try and become the best possible journalist I can possibly be. I started this whole journey by wanting to go into sports radio. Along the way, I took a detour into news and absolutely fell in love with it. Getting to do news in my home state (I love Jersey with my soul) has been the most fulfilling experience in my life. I spent quite a while at New Jersey 101.5 News where I got to really get hands-on and learn the material/craft while covering some a wide variety of stories.

The time period covering Superstorm Sandy and the aftermath stands out. That is where I really saw how good, honest journalism can hopefully make a positive impact in this world. I really enjoyed my time there. But hit that point where I wanted to continue to grow as a journalist and take on new challenges. For a little bit, I did some independent/passion projects and podcasts that I had always wanted to do but did not have the time to do previously. Made a pit stop back into radio at 1010 WINS, which was a very cool experience. But I ultimately missed covering my home state. And I found my way to writing for NJBIZ and have absolutely loved it.

The world is pretty crazy and divided right now. And I try to steer of the drama and the divisive/opinion-based “news.” And NJBIZ has been a real solid opportunity to, again, cover my home state, but in a different way than I had before. I would describe what I do as covering the intersection of government and business, which takes me into a lot of interesting stories/topics. And it has been particularly fascinating to cover that area as the post-pandemic recovery continues. There are a lot of post-COVID scars and new realities, so I’m just trying to capture those types of stories and report them as transparently and truthfully as possible.

And, sorry for the long-winded answer, but I’ll close with this. The journey is ongoing. I am a Kobe Bryant fanatic and try to apply his “Mamba Mentality” thinking to what I do. So it is a constant quest to get better personally, and sharpen my skills, which hopefully leads to solid reporting that serves the community in a positive way.

HustleMania: You are a seasoned professional and it’s the experiences you describe are how you got there. We also adopt a “Mamba Mentality” at HustleMania, it’s how we improve as a community. What are you currently working on and what can readers expect to see from you in the near future?

Matthew Fazelpoor: Well, on the political front, it is budget season. Hearings on the state budget kick off soon. So, that will be an area of focus, and how those decisions affect business, and the state of NJ and the people, as a whole.

Coming back to the post-pandemic, there are a lot of projects/initiatives that got paused during that time period. So a lot of those things are starting to pick up momentum and getting cranking, which I’m definitely trying to capture. Atlantic City stands out as a place with a lot of redevelopment projects happening. There is a cool project in Newark called HAX, which is a startup accelerator that just got going as the state tries to build up its innovation economy and attract more startups/VCs here. I will be touring that facility soon and talking with some of those small startups. And if a few pop, it has the potential to be a major boon for Newark and the state as a whole. More broadly, again, I am really focused on seeing what this “return to normal” looks like from COVID. What sectors have bounced back, which haven’t. And how that impacts the broader economy. And this recent turbulence at banks is obviously causing a lot of uncertainty. So that is something I am absolutely keeping an eye on as well.

HustleMania: It’s refreshing to see some potential progress coming out of the Pandemic for sure. Is there a particular story or project that you found interesting or challenging to work on recently?

Matthew Fazelpoor: As somebody who tries to find some silver lining and optimism in this otherwise tough profession, two recent stories standout. I know you share the love of Paterson as I do (where I was born and my mom’s side of the family is from). The rebirth of Hinchliffe Stadium piece I wrote was really fun. My grandfather and other relatives had frequented there back in the day. And to see a site that was basically left for dead come back to life is really cool to see and should be a huge shot in the arm for the Silk City. I got to tour the construction site last month and will be going there for the opening ceremony which is set for May. The Jackals minor league team will be playing there this year and there is redevelopment planned around the renovated stadium and the Falls. Always cool to see and be able to cover things like that.

The other recent story I really enjoyed working on was the launch of Eric LeGrand’s Bourbon. I had the good fortune of being able to cover Eric LeGrand since he started his entrepreneurial journey with his coffee house, and now this new venture. I recently sat down with him and his partner Brian Axelrod, to discuss the launch of it, as well as what his experience has been like in the first year operating a brick-and-mortar coffee shop, etc. Eric is a super-impressive, inspiring and forthcoming guy. Anytime I get to speak to individuals like that, I consider it a high honor and basically just try and stay out of the way, and just make sure their story comes through as authentically and straightforward as possible. Those are the examples of what I really love to do. Where I can tell those kind of positive and interesting stories about the great Garden State.

HustleMania: We have been following your stories and these are two of our favorites as well. We think it brings light to all the amazing things New Jersey has to offer and how to redevelop to positively impact community directly. It is well known that you have a love for professional wrestling. What you have learned from that passion that you have been able to apply to your work in journalism?

Matthew Fazelpoor: Haha, the question I was waiting for! Yes, as you know, I love pro wrestling and have all of my life. It’s the best. Ric Flair at the top of that list…WOOO! All kidding aside though, the part that wrestling really can be applied to, in my opinion, is covering politics. There are so many parallels to pro wrestling when you cover politics. Politicians on both sides of an issue basically cut their own promos. They knock the other side and get their catch phrases and all their stuff in. But then, like pro wrestling, they still have to go behind the curtain and are technically all part of the same organization, whether that is a government branch or other entity. The campaign trail is so pro wrestling adjacent. And these last few years, as politicians have gotten a little more unplugged and raw, it rings even more true. So, when I cover those types of things, I try to use my wrestling knowledge to cut through some of the noise and bluster, and just get to the center point of the story and not amplify the catch-phrases and all the smoke-and-mirrors.

HustleMania: We are huge fans of the Nature Boy Ric Flair here at HustleMania. WOOOoooooooo. His persona is the hustler’s mindset in the fact of always striving for the best and having personal confidence. We think you bring up an interesting point with your parallel of wrestling and politics. It is surprisingly something that more people can use as a tool when analyzing candidates' and officials' personas. Moving on from politics, in what ways do you believe your work as a journalist helps and supports the community, and how do you strive to make a positive impact through your reporting?

Matthew Fazelpoor: How my work lands and is received would be for others to decide. The part I can control is the amount of effort and honesty I can put into it. While I joked about pro wrestling in terms of politics, I give all sides an open line to me. As long as people are acting in good faith and being straight up, I always reciprocate that and will give anybody an opportunity to tell their side of the story. And I do not know everything and do not have predetermined outcomes (unlike pro wrestling), so I welcome different context and perspective in putting together my reports. While I love covering positive and fun stories, as I noted, I also cover a lot of not-so-positive stuff and challenges that the state and its people face. It varies and I try to capture all parts of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and report it as I see it and hear it. I am always, ultimately, trying to put over and root for this state and the communities & people in it to succeed. But, most importantly, I am trying to give it to people straight. People want honesty, transparency, and truth. And I do my level best to provide it. That is my guiding principle always. And, in the process of that, anytime I can shine a light on cool things going on in the community, whether it is something involving a local business owner, or a project like Hinchliffe, or, even one more example, Metuchen, where I live, is up for a major national award for its downtown/Main Street, which would be a huge deal for the town. This line of work can take many different shapes and forms. And from stories involving broad national trends (inflation, post-COVID, the bank chaos I mentioned, etc.) to those with major statewide implications (the budget) to more hyperlocal stories, it all matters and has significance. My job is try to capture as much of it as possible and report it honestly and coherently to people. But my job is not to tell people how to react it or how to feel about it. So, I try to go at it in good faith, max effort, and genuinely, and hopefully when those things happen, the story reads in a fair and honest way. I can be at peace with it from there.

HustleMania: That is fantastic. We admire your dedication to being a journalist first, reporting the stories and allowing your readers to determine their own opinions. We want to thank you for being a part of the HustleMania project and being who you are. You are a stand up guy doing great work in journalism. In closing, like the Nature Boy himself says "To BE the best, you have to BEAT the best."

Check out some of Matthew's latest pieces here:

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