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Communication Alumna Broadcasts ‘Sirius’ Excellence

periodiCALS, Vol. 7, Issue 1, 2017

Jessica Ettinger Gottesman
Jessica Ettinger Gottesman '87

Although Jessica Ettinger Gottesman ’87 grew up close to Ithaca in Lansing, N.Y., her family’s only connection to Cornell was its dedication to Big Red hockey.

In the 1970s, hockey players didn’t live in the dorms; they were housed with host families in the community—including the Ettingers—so they could get their rest and focus.

“For two years, there were three hockey players living at our house. I was 12 years old, and I couldn’t have been happier to have three 18-year-old hockey players staying with us,” Gottesman said.

It was her next Cornell venture that set her on a media path. As a 16-year-old, she got a job at WHCU with Barbara Mink, then the station’s news director, now a senior lecturer in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“She taught me the basics of journalism and news writing, and the skills she taught me, I still use today,” Gottesman said.

They were clearly valuable lessons—Gottesman’s 30-year career in broadcasting in New York City has included everything from live reporting of the September 11th terrorist attacks to award-winning coverage of the Yankees and the Rangers to DJ’ing as Jessica Wade on Sirius XM’s country channel The Highway. She’s also launched multiple broadcast products, including Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Television, Howard 100 News for Howard Stern, and most recently, TODAY Show Radio for NBC on SiriusXM.

As host of TODAY Show radio, Gottesman is in 30 million vehicles each weekday in North America on Channel 108. SiriusXM subscribers hear the TV show, and Gottesman anchors the local cutaways with behind-the-scenes interviews from Studio 1A with Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and all the hosts, as well as the celebrities in the green room waiting to go on. The multi-platform strategy won her a Journalism Award from The New York Press Club and may be helping to grow the TODAY show’s traditional TV ratings as well by keeping people connected to the brand.

As a communication student at Cornell, Gottesman’s home base on campus was WVBR. While working there as a news director, DJ, music director, and eventually program director, she made connections with peers in the media that persist to this day.

“WVBR was a four-year love affair,” she said. “Many of my contemporaries at Cornell and WVBR are still in the business: a president at iHeartMedia, the president of Coleman Research firm, a senior vice president at SiriusXM, a morning anchor at CBS, an anchor at MSNBC. There are so many of them. It’s always nice in the hallways at NBC to say ‘Hi’ to my Cornell brothers and sisters.”

Just two years after graduating from Cornell, Gottesman became the youngest-ever acting program and music director at WPLJ-FM in New York. There, an early claim to fame was helping relaunch the career of former child star Donny Osmond in the late 1980s. Convinced that his song “Soldier of Love” would be a hit—if only listeners would give it a chance—she created a “mystery artist” promotion, playing the song for several weeks without telling listeners who was singing. After the reveal, Osmond was swiftly signed to Capitol Records, and the song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In addition to her many accolades, including regional Murrow Awards, a Gracie, and AP and UPI broadcast sports awards, Gottesman has yet another claim to fame. She has been the voice of the automated announcements of stops along New York City’s Lexington Avenue trains for 17 years. Recorded pro bono for the MTA while she was working at Bloomberg News, it’s a gift to the city she’s come to love.

“It’s a quick commute to the greatest job in the world,” she said.