A career sports reporter, Marissa McNees, managing editor for Recycling Today, transitioned to the recycling industry late in 2021 and has taken a crash course in the industry. She attended her first ISRI Convention and Exposition in March, and recently took over as the co-chair of the Communications Subcommittee for ISRI’s Young Executives Council.

In this edition of Faces of ISRI, McNees discusses her journalism background, her introduction to the recycling industry, and what she’s looking to accomplish in this new chapter of her career.

Tell us about your background and where your love for journalism started.

I’ve known I wanted to be a journalist since the third grade. We used to have these writing journals we’d write in, and I knew then I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. After earning my degree in journalism, I immediately started working for newspapers in my hometown of Detroit. I worked for newspapers until I joined Recycling Today last year. Having to learn magazine production, as well as this style of reporting and editing, has been a challenge, but a very fun one at this point in my career.

How did you end up working for Recycling Today?

I wanted a change. I still wanted to be a journalist, that never wavered, but the newspaper life was hard and the track I was on was becoming a little bit too difficult. I wasn’t being fulfilled the way I hoped I would. One of my goals was to become a news editor, which I accomplished, so that was exciting, but when the pandemic hit, we were all working from home pretty much exclusively and I missed that newsroom collaboration. I started looking for new opportunities and happened to come across Group Interest Enterprises (GIE) Media, the media company behind Recycling Today. The opportunity looked interesting, so I decided to take a chance. I was a sports reporter before I joined Recycling Today so there’s obviously been a learning curve, but it’s been a fun journey.

What have you found most interesting about the recycling industry so far?

Prior to joining the industry, I had a very basic knowledge of what recycling was. I thought it was as simple as you put your recyclable items in a bin and take it to the curb or to a recycling facility and that was it. I never realized how many aspects of our life recycling touches, it’s everywhere. That’s been exciting because there’s never a lack of stories to tell or angles to pursue. There’s always something going on, which for journalists is what we always want. I’ve been with Recycling Today for six months and I joke sometimes that it feels like six years because that’s the amount of information I’ve had to take in. I learn something new every day which is exciting.

ISRI2022 was your first ISRI Convention and Exposition, what was your experience like?

Going to ISRI2022 was super helpful. You can’t meet new people unless you join new groups and attend industry events, so it was a good way to force myself into meeting and making acquaintances with different people. I wasn’t around for a lot of ISRI’s virtual offerings, but I was happy to finally meet people and put faces to names after writing about the industry for a few months. I finally felt like a part of a group and in the loop, both from an industry perspective and an ISRI perspective. You just learn so much about people when you’re in person, and that ultimately makes us better at our jobs, especially as journalists. You get so much more of the story when you talk and interact face to face.

What do you hope to accomplish as the new co-chair of the Young Executives Council’s communications subcommittee?

I have a ton of communications and journalism experience, and that helps me bring a unique perspective to the table. I love learning from other folks and their perspectives while also sharing my own. I’m excited to integrate my experience into this brand-new industry I’m not super familiar with yet. I’m also excited to meet new people and be a part of something outside the magazine but still industry related, which will help not only bolster my background on the industry, but also help me build relationships.

What are some of your short-term and long-term professional goals?

One of my major career goals was to become an editor. I’m managing editor now for Recycling Today, so that mostly checks that box, but I want to be the head of an editorial department. My editor DeAnne [Toto, editorial director for the Recycling Today Media Group] is amazing and I’ve learned a lot from her in my short time here. So, a role like hers is something that’s always interested me. I think I’d be a good fit with my experience and personality. The more I learn, the more I’m excited about the prospect of growing in an editorial space and taking on more responsibilities as an editor.

Short term, there’s so much to learn. One thing DeAnne told me that was calming when I first started was that she’s been doing this for 25 years and she doesn’t know everything yet, so that was really helpful. I’m excited to learn more and get a better grasp on this industry and produce more feature-length content and tell stories with my own spin. Everyone brings their own voice to the types of content and stories they’re writing, so I really want to tell stories and get more involved in the industry and provide more coverage, especially in areas where there may not be a ton of coverage, but there’s an appetite from people in the industry.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

My favorite thing to do outside of work is play volleyball. I played in high school and a little bit before I moved to Cleveland. Cleveland is a huge volleyball community, which I didn’t know before I moved here. There are opportunities to play every day no matter the season. In the summer you get to play right off Lake Erie, and that’s a fun backdrop to play against. I also love watching reality television, that’s the other way I turn my brain off. There’s something about reality TV that just helps you unwind after a long day. With my sports background, I of course love watching sports too.