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Meet Deborah Bongiorno!
Do you have direct contact with APTA members?
SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR
Communications and Marketing Department
What are your primary responsibilities at APTA?
I work on Passenger Transport, which means that my co-workers and I are almost always on some kind of deadline. We typically work on three issues at a time—one we’re editing and designing for the printer, one we’re developing to make sure we have the stories we need (except for breaking news, which we handle at the last minute) and one we’re planning or researching.
We also publish several special issues a year, some in conjunction with APTA’s large conferences. This year, we’re also developing special coverage to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July.
I also work with the APTA chair and others to help develop talking points for the chair’s conference and meeting remarks. Fortunately, this is easy because APTA chairs have very clear ideas about their specific initiatives and they’re articulate and accomplished speakers.
I interact with members in a couple of ways. First, the PT staff works with agency and business member public information officers to gather and publish industry news and to make sure that we continue to serve members in that regard. Second, I’m often in touch with agency GMs, business executives and other industry leaders as subject-matter sources and best-practice experts for profiles, Q&As, case studies and longer format articles.
During this process, I invariably learn something really interesting about an agency, a business or the industry as a whole. It’s a nice cycle: While we’re researching or reporting on a topic for a longer article, we come across some tidbit that could easily evolve into a longer piece. I only wish we had the space to publish longer articles featuring all the great ideas we uncover or are suggested to us.
Beyond this, APTA is a very member-centric organization, and PT is a pretty visible member benefit.
What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I loved working on the special insert in Passenger Transport that reported on a century of safety and security innovations in public transportation, which was one element in a year-long celebration of APTA’s 100th anniversary of its Bus and Rail Safety and Security Awards. The insert (published in the Dec. 8, 2014 issue of PT) tracked 100 key innovations and inventions in a timeline that ranged from 1872 to 2014.
This project was spearheaded by APTA’s safety and security team, so I had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s top safety and security experts who are just down the hallway from my desk. They—and the other experts on staff—are wonderful resources.
I also enjoyed working on Stand Up 4 Transportation Day, the industry’s recent national grassroots advocacy day. It was very rewarding to help support the efforts of so many members in so many communities.
How did you land at APTA?
I took the traditional route. I saw the job opening in the Washington Post and applied because the position seemed so well suited to my interests and experience. After the first interview when I learned a bit more about APTA, I was hooked. I started in January 2013, so I’ve been here for about two and a half years.
For me, APTA occupies a great sweet spot: I get to do publications work, which I love, for an organization that serves an industry that makes a positive difference on a wide range of issues, from personal mobility to sustainability and economic development.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry?
This is my first, but with the exception of a 10-year stint in communications and marketing at a university, I’ve spent my entire career in nonprofit associations—a job sector many people outside of Washington, D.C., never heard of.
I’ve worked in many facets of communications and marketing, but I have a special affinity for publications. Even with digital media and instant communications, I think ink on paper is still a great way to convey ideas and document information.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I have three 20-something children, so I’m a busy mom. I love to cook and travel, and I’m a big fan of most kinds of music.