Toni Messina

Public Communications Director at City of Columbia

Degree(s): BJ '71, MPA '91

Whereabouts: United States, Brentwood, Missouri

What do you do?
I have served as the public communications director for the City of Columbia (Mo.) since May 2006. I retired from Missouri state government after almost 30 years in all three branches. Prior to state government service, I worked for a non-profit council of governments and an insurance company.

How did you get your job?
I answered a classified ad in the Columbia Daily Tribune (who says those ads don’t work?). I then went through an interview process with a panel of city staff, local professionals and J-School faculty and had the honor of accepting the city’s offer.

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
The inverted pyramid. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with corporate and public leaders, and they always want to know “the bottom line” first. And, if you can keep your main points to one page, they’re more likely to read your message.

What advice do you have for current students?
Everything you do counts, so do everything you can. I work with Missourian, KBIA and KOMU student reporters every semester, and those who have a professional appearance, attitude and work approach make a more lasting impression. Good manners, getting background before asking questions and a willingness to dig a little deeper are useful attributes.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
Meeting some really cool people in copy editing, such as the guy who also worked at the University cattle ranch, the guy who was bitten by the brown recluse spider and the rest of the people who rolled their eyes at bad jokes while working summer intersession at the Missourian. I guess my roommate and I gave Professor (Hal) Lister a little too much back talk – he called us “brassy dames” (all in fun!).

Last thoughts?
I came of age after TV was invented but before technology took over. What a change – we must be perpetual students!

Updated: November 9, 2011