Her previous job was covering Florida government and politics for two of the nation’s largest newspapers. She interviewed some of the state’s most influential people, facing tight deadlines on news stories that would be read throughout the state. Janet Zink thought she had a fast-paced job. Then she came to TPA last September, to become the director of communications for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
“I was used to daily deadlines,” she said. “But this takes it to another level. It’s so busy. Every day is absolutely packed. There’s so much going on here. I love it. It’s great. It’s really fun.”
Zink’s duties include working with the media on stories involving TPA and managing the airport’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and its YouTube channel.
“Basically, I try to get good news stories about the airport out to the public through any platform that’s available,” she said. It’s not just a 40-hour-a-week job. When a plane landed on a recent Saturday night at TPA with faulty landing gear, reporters called Zink for details just before midnight.
Most of the reporters in town know Zink well. She had a 30-year career in journalism and media relations before she came to the Aviation Authority.
Zink was born in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and remains a football fan to this day. Covering the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa for the St. Petersburg Times and being on the field during the half-time show featuring Bruce Springsteen is a career highlight, she said.
Her family relocated to Tampa in the early 1980s. “Canton was a steel town and the steel industry was going downhill,” she said. “My father knew it was time to leave there. He did his research and determined Tampa was a city on the rise. It turns out he was right. I give him a lot of credit for having that kind of foresight”
While finishing up a degree in mass communications at the University of South Florida, she landed a job as the pop music critic for The Tampa Tribune in the late 1980s, writing about that era’s popular music acts including Van Halen, U2, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. It was a job that fed her passion for music. She studied classical piano until she was 18 and occasionally plays drums during jam sessions with musician friends.
She took a break from journalism to work in public relations for the University of South Florida. In 1992, she went to work in the public affairs office at USF Health, which includes the colleges of medicine, nursing and public health. The internet was just starting to boom and she was given the task of creating the website for USF Health. She kept writing for newspapers and magazines on the side, and eventually became a full-time freelancer so she could spend more time with her daughter Emily, who’s now a 20-year-old nursing student in Gainesville.
Full-time journalism beckoned, though. The Tampa Bay Times (then called the St. Petersburg Times) hired her to cover Tampa City Hall and Hillsborough County politics. After several years, the Times relocated her to Tallahassee, where she covered state politics for the Times and the Miami Herald. She said she loved the work, but when she heard about the opening at TPA, she knew it would be good fit.
“I love Tampa and I love this airport,” she said. “Any time I’ve traveled, when I come home I’m repeatedly impressed by how much better this airport is than any other airport. It’s just so easy to use. I feel honored to be a part of the team that’s making it even better.”