By Jeanne Sager
NEW YORK CITY October 8, 2004 In the midst of the hoopla surrounding Martha Stewarts path to prison, one face might have struck a chord in some county natives memories.
If your eyes were keen enough to see the younger woman accompanying the decorating maven out of a New York City courtroom earlier this year, you might have said, Hey, I think I know that girl.
And youd have been spot on.
That girl was Monticello graduate Brooke Morganstein, a member of the New York public relations firm that has become the voice of Martha while shes answered charges of conspiracy and other improprieties.
Although shes a relatively junior member of the staff (Morganstein started with Citigate Sard Verbinnen in 2002, 12 days after graduating from Syracuse University), shes been one of the folks fielding questions about everything Martha.
Its been quite a learning experience for Morganstein, a 1998 graduate of Monticello High School.
Growing up, the daughter of Zane and Janet Morganstein wanted to be Katie Couric.
She entered Syracuse Universitys prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and quickly learned that broadcast journalism wasnt the place for her.
I found there was going to be a lot of emphasis on being perfect, she explained, from the right haircut to the right shade of lipstick.
Right away, I said Im not comfortable with that, Morganstein recalled.
But she wanted to stick with her dreams she stayed in the Newhouse school, switching her focus to the public relations side of the story.
Today shes working with journalists day in and day out.
Shes handled the PR for mergers and acquisitions, sitting down with investment bankers to learn the ins and outs of the financial world so she can issue well-informed press releases.
And shes been a major contributor to the public relations for Univision, the Spanish language media company.
Working with Martha has certainly been if not the biggest learning experience, then a highlight of her career so far, Morganstein noted.
Shes served with two of her companys bigger executives on the Martha account.
I was in the courtroom every day, she explained. I learned so much just from witnessing, firsthand, a trial Ive never served on a jury, and it was really amazing to watch our judicial process.
She sat in a courtroom jampacked with reporters and Martha fans a virtual media circus, and she was getting a ringside seat.
The world was really watching through the television screen, and I was sitting right there, Morganstein explained.
She was right there when Martha Stewart was convicted in March on federal charges of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements stemming from her sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems stock.
So, the big question: what is Martha like?
Morganstein said her client is very much a normal person.
As for those famous temper tantrums, Morganstein didnt comment.
She said Martha is a passionate woman, and noted that her conversations with Martha were generally more along the lines of casual chit-chat a chance for a woman at the center of a media maelstrom to just talk about life.
I would see her and speak with her one-on-one, but most of what we talked about wasnt for the reporters, she said.
Morganstein said the Martha she knows is kind and intelligent.
Everyone sees the driven side of her, which she is, but shes very kind, she noted.
As for Marthas decision to head to prison now, rather than waiting for the conclusion of her appeal, Morganstein said the statement issued by Martha is spot on.
She wanted to just get it over with so she can get back to her company, she explained.
Morganstein said shes been faced with crazy questions of all sorts with Martha expected to report to a federal prison in West Virginia by 2 p.m. this afternoon, the media is after every bit of juicy detail they can get before shes incarcerated.
They ask where Marthas eating tonight; they ask what color Marthas pants are, even the cost of her pocketbook.
Morganstein said its all part of working for a high-profile client.
And she enjoys every minute of it.
I enjoy working in a job that Im just challenged constantly, she explained. You have to think fast on your feet.
I realize not everyone has a job that theyre challenged by. Im fortunate to be in one where I learn something new every day.