Justin Catanoso decided to become a writer in the fifth grade thanks to Kathryn McPherson, the kind of inspiring teacher you don’t expect to find in tiny beach resorts like North Wildwood, New Jersey, where he was born. By the eighth grade, tossing aside dreams of fiction writing or poetry, he determined that journalism would be the medium by which he would work with words — anything to keep him from watering geraniums or cleaning restrooms at his father’s thriving businesses at the Jersey Shore. He has never wavered from that path. Justin studied journalism at Penn State University, wrote for The Daily Collegian for four years and began his career in 1982 covering countless town hall meetings for the nearby Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
In 1983, he met Laurelyn Dossett, then an undergraduate at Penn State, and they were married the following year. Following a two-month long honeymoon spent traipsing across Western Europe, from London to Istanbul, Justin and Laurelyn returned to the states and headed south. He covered cops and courts for the Knoxville Journal for two years, before crossing the Smokies and settling in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he spent 11 years as a reporter for the News & Record. In 1992, his pioneering investigative reporting into fraud in the tobacco industry earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination, a Science-in-Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers, and Medical Writer of the Year in North Carolina.
For the past two decades, civic, health care and business reporting in central North Carolina has been the focus of his work. In 1998, he left daily newspapers to become the founding executive editor of The Business Journal, a weekly newspaper covering business and economics in the Triad region. A frequent and accomplished public speaker, Justin has spoken to groups near and far on topics ranging from Italian culture and sainted relatives to regional economic development to the journals of Lewis and Clark. He is now represented by HarperCollins’ speakers bureau. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Business Week, The Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Catholic Digest and on National Public Radio.
Justin has degrees from Penn State and Wake Forest University, where he has taught reporting, writing and editing as a visiting lecuturer since 1993. His wife Laurelyn is an award-winning songwriter and co-founder of the Americana music band Polecat Creek. They live in Greensboro with their daughters Emilia, Rosalie and Sophia, each of whom Justin has asked in the fifth grade to name her career choice. This is his first book. Sadly, Mrs. McPherson, a fifth grade teacher for 49 years and whose commitment and vitality inspired countless children, died on March 29, 2008 in Cape May Court House, N.J., at age 102.