Honoring a Local News Legend in Dracut ~ EYE ON DRACUT

By: Brian Genest – 7/23

“You’re fired,” Dr. Marsha Della-Giustina told my classmate in our Broadcast Journalism 2 course at Emerson College.

It was the fall of 1989, thirty seconds after the bell rang on the first day of the class. As my dilatory would-be classmate tried to enter the room, Marsha blocked the doorway and began to shut the door. The classmate tried to push her way in and a struggle with screaming ensued as they both tried to shove the other out of the way.

Eventually, Marsha slammed the door and sent the young woman on her furious way.

Marsha Della-Giustina didn’t lose many fights, literally or figuratively. She was a tough woman in a tough business who understood how tough it was to get and keep a job in journalism and she made sure her students got the message, too, even when it took tough love. “30 seconds of dead air; you’re fired,” she told the class matter-of-factly after the door was closed.

Marsha Della-Giustina was dedicated to journalism, educating outstanding journalists and ensuring our journalism was outstanding. She was full of advice, critiques, and knowledge about every little detail along the way. Marsha passed away in June after a brief illness at age 76, but her legacy lives on and so will her impact on journalism and the stories you see in the media for decades to come.

Most people in Dracut have probably never heard of Marsha Della-Giustina. But I can guarantee you her work and the work of her students has touched your life if you’ve read a newspaper article or watched a newscast in the last 50 years. Marsha was a journalism pioneer who broke the glass ceiling for women in local television, established Emerson’s Broadcast Journalism program and who inspired and taught generations of news reporters, anchors and producers for more than four decades.

At a time when few women were in the field of journalism, Marsha Della-Giustina produced and hosted I Am Woman, a critically acclaimed public affairs program highlighting women’s economic, media, political and cultural issues that aired on WBZ-FM in Boston from 1973 until 1974.

She was an award-winning news producer for WCVB-TV from 1974 until 1984. Marsha oversaw multiple daily broadcasts and served as both an ENG producer and assignment editor for which she earned two team Emmy awards. She was a field producer for numerous special events, including the 1976 presidential election. She later worked as an associate producer and writer for WLVI-TV in Boston from 1986 until 1990.

Marsha Della-Giustina’s arrival at Emerson College in 1977, where she served as both journalism director and associate broadcast journalism professor, made her not only one of the most well-known journalism professors in Boston, but also one of the first female educators of the profession. Marsha created the undergraduate broadcast journalism program that quickly became one of the highest ranked and most respected in the nation.

She was also instrumental in launching the college’s first journalism master’s program in 1997. A consummate taskmaster and a champion of journalistic integrity, Marsha was best known for her tireless dedication to teaching, believing that it extends well beyond the classroom and always demanding the highest professional standards from her students.

“Follow the money, Brian,” she reminded me more than once, advice that has served me well in life, and not just as a news reporter and editor. Marsha was also infamous for telling her students to “trust no one” and to “assume nothing.” She was full of other advice, too, and nothing was off limits, including your appearance on television and your health. “Your hair is too long; cut it.” “Your suit coat looks terrible on camera; don’t ever wear it again.” “Take Vitamin C, sleep in 90-minute REM cycles and stay away from each other.”

Marsha Della-Giustina was tough, but she was always fair. She demanded excellence because she believed the profession she had dedicated her life to deserved it. Due to her leadership and support, Emerson’s network of journalism alumni extends across the country and around the globe. In New England alone, newsrooms in every state boast an Emersonian either in front of or behind the camera. We’re writers, producers and editors who bring Marsha’s teachings, standards, and love for our craft to work with us every day in Dracut and Damascus, from Boston to Beirut, and in every corner of the world in between.

Marsha Della-Giustina remained a beloved mentor to her students after graduation and many of them are remembering her and the impact she had on our careers, including Mike Kirby at the Sun Chronicle.


Likewise, fellow Emersonian Maria Stephanos did a wonderful tribute to Marsha, her life, and accomplishments on WCVB-TV.
(https://www.wcvb.com/article/dr-marsha-della-giustina-wcvb-alum-emerson-college-professor-dies/44179530#) Spoiler alert: Two weeks before she died, Marsha texted Maria while she was on the air to let her know that her earrings were too big.

Marsha Della-Giustina never stopped caring about her students, never stopped striving for journalistic excellence and never stopped worrying about every little detail. Thank you, Marsha, for everything.


— Brian Genest is the producer and host of Eye On Dracut, winner of the Hometown Media Award for News, sponsored by Lucky Oil. ◊