Joanne Jacobs was born in 1952 in Chicago. She was named after her grandfather, Joe Jacobs, a police reporter for the Omaha Bee. Jacobs began her journalism career in second grade as co-editor-in-chief of The Wednesday Report, founded because she and her best friend thought the Weekly Reader was ''dumb.''
Jacobs was graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in English and creative writing in 1974. She worked for Suburban Newspaper Publications, Inc. in the San Jose area and for Super8 Filmaker magazine in San Francisco before joining the San Jose Mercury News editorial pages staff as a copy editor in 1978.
She is now an editorial writer and twice-weekly op-ed columnist. She also serves as a member of the newspaper's editorial board.
She was a Michigan Journalism Fellow in 1991-92, and a fellow at the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families in 1995. She served as a Stanford Daily trustee from 1993-97.
She lives in Palo Alto with her 17-year-old daughter.