NEW YORK—Tom Allon is one of only three candidates who has officially announced a bid to become New York City’s next mayor, although his name is among a long list of potential candidates.
A win in the 2013 mayoral race may seem a long shot to some, but don’t tell the president and CEO of Manhattan Media that. Allon speaks in terms of “when” he gets elected, not “if.”
“I really think I am going to win. I am not doing this as an empty exercise,” he said in early June. “I would be hubristic to say that I am definitely going to win, but I feel very confident.”
Allon speaks with confidence, but not arrogance. He sounds less like a politician, and more like a businessman, his answers well thought out and to the point. His concise nature comes from years working as a journalist, something he now does part-time for The Huffington Post.
Education is Allon’s main platform in the mayoral race thus far, a priority stemming from values his parents instilled in him at a young age and from his experience as a teacher.
“Education is the fundamental building block in our society,” he said. “If you get education right, a lot of other things will follow.”
Allon’s parents were Holocaust survivors and missed out on education. But they were determined to give the opportunity to their children. Allon’s parents were very protective, he said, but with good reason. “We were very precious to them because they lost their whole family during the war.”
His parents placed significant emphasis on which schools their children would attend.
Allon went to McBurney School for seventh and eighth grade, excelling in both academics and sports. During his eighth grade year, much to his dismay, his family insisted he attend Stuyvesant High School like his brother.
Allon hoped to continue his success in sports at Stuyvesant as a freshman, and that year his coach gave one freshman the opportunity to win a spot on the team in a one-on-one game—a game Allon will never forget.
“It was me against a guy named Bruce Elliot. He was 6’4” and I was only 5’11” or 6’ and he beat me 11-7. I played my heart out,” Allon said.
He then tried out for the baseball team but didn’t make the cut.
“It was devastating,” Allon said. But instead of sulking, he joined the school newspaper. “I figured if I wasn’t going to be an athlete, I may as well write about sports,” he said.
He thrived in the newsroom, and within two months of joining the paper, he was made sports editor. It was the first time a freshman was named as an editor of the Stuyvesant school newspaper.
“All of a sudden I found this new identity-I was no longer an athlete, I was a journalist,” Allon said. “It was the first great lesson in my life where if one door closes, another one could open.”
Reporter to CEO
Allon continued writing in college at Cornell University and his passion for journalism grew.
“There was no greater experience at 11:30 or 12 o’clock at night to leave and know you had put to bed the newspaper that would be read by 10,000 people the next morning,” Allon said.
After graduating from Cornell, Allon earned a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He worked at The New York Times as a copy boy and clerk to support himself.
During the spring of 1986 Allon was covering a New York Mets spring training game against the Chicago White Sox. He and another New York Times reporter attended the post-game interviews with White Sox pitcher Tom Seaver and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden. The veteran Seaver was articulate, fun, and intelligent, but the interview with Gooden, who was a hero to Allon, was disappointing.
“The light bulb went off and I thought, if I have to spend the next 10 years of my life covering the Pawtucket Red Sox in order to get a chance to interview guys like Dwight Gooden, that’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. So then I became interested in a different type of journalism,” Allon said.
In the fall of 1986 Allon took an editor position at the West Side Spirit and moved from sports to investigative journalism. The city was rife with corruption during Mayor Ed Koch’s last term, and Allon took advantage of ample story lines.
The publication became well-known for its investigative journalism, and for the next five years Allon immersed himself in the craft. “It is a thrill to expose things that are wrong. You feel like you are doing something that is helping society,” Allon said. “Journalism and the media is one of the great checks and balances of power in business or in politics.”
Allon moved on to become the president and CEO of Manhattan Media, the company that owns the West Side Spirit.
“I gravitated to the business side because I realized if I wanted to raise a family in New York, I couldn’t do it on an editor’s salary,” Allon said.
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