With only a couple weeks left of my internship, I have to write a 15 page paper detailing my experience. Somehow that doesn’t seem long enough—it has been quite an eventful summer at NBC News. I’ve had an incredible experience that I am so thankful for and I love going to work every day. I can’t share all the details on the internet, but I thought I’d share Part I of my summer internship. And for the record—don’t be offended by my USC comments—I am a Bruin after all! Here it is:
When I first walked through the glass doors of NBC News, I barely knew what b-roll was. I came into my internship with a blind eye to broadcast…and it turned out to be a blessing. As all the USC Annenberg yuppie interns conversed in their media dialogue (which sounded like another language at first), I was dumbfounded and it was fair to say that I doubted myself. But thankfully, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. Before long, I started to become fluent in the fast-paced chatter of a newsroom that is made up almost entirely of acronyms. IFB, timecode, package—all of these words started to make sense—and before long, I couldn’t stop speaking the “language” that once baffled me.
Sure, I had watched the Today Show growing up, and had I always admired Katie Couric, but I had little, okay, basically, NO experience in broadcast journalism. Call it luck, call it self-motivation—I somehow still got myself past the peacock feathers and into the staffroom. With over 7,000 applicants and 250 being accepted—6 of which were in the newsroom—I felt more than thankful for the opportunity. I was told before the day I started that I would have to be “self-motivated—the internship is what you make of it.” I promised I would be a hard worker, and I quickly learned that I had to be if I wanted to earn my place.
Fortunately, like I said before, I was never afraid to ask. I never shied away from introducing myself and meeting the interviewees, some of my favorites being the New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Bloom (who is now a wonderful mentor), the late Michael Jackson’s attorney, Tom Meserau, as he was commenting on the highly debated Casey Anthony trial, and I even met Miss USA herself. I never hesitated to ask to go out into the field, I never was scared to ask if I could do an interview, and I was never fearful to pitch in about a story. You have to ask questions—all the time—if you want to be competent enough to comprehend the conversation.
One thing I loved about my internship was that every day was different. For the record, it did not include answering mail, making copies, or making coffee runs. The staff wanted to make sure that we took advantage of every minute to learn the business, and that included everything from pitching a story to editing a package before going on air. No detail was untouched. I learned how to research stories, write scripts, shoot on location, interview guests, and log tape. Every day was an adventure and I never knew how my day would end, let alone what would happen in the next hour. Not to mention, I loved my first adventure of every day—seeing what car Jay Leno had brought on to the lot.
The best skill I learned from my time at NBC was how to network. I learned that too many future opportunities can pass you by if you don’t seize the moment. I always asked my supervisor for permission to meet guests and thankfully, she always said yes. More than just photo opportunities, I found so many mentors through this process, particularly Lisa Bloom, a national legal analyst. Not only did she do an interview for me on my blog about her New York Times Bestselling book, Think, she also has offered me numerous suggestions about how to become a successful author (my book is set to print in Winter 2012). She tweeted to her 12,000 Twitter followers that “The Sunny Girl is going places—you heard it here first!” That made my day. You can see Lisa Bloom’s interview here.
Ms. Bloom inspired me to truly “think” about my world and I realized being in the newsroom was the perfect place for such a discovery. I had always watched the news, but I never paid as much attention as I could have or should have. Yet with the requirement of work and the constant research of breaking news, I grew to love learning about the news and I found myself becoming addicted to being in the know. Not such a bad addiction if you ask me. With my internship, I grew to care more about the world and the people in it. I began to ask more questions about who was involved and most importantly: why.
What I love most about the people in the news industry is that they are a living testimony to history. Because they have an insatiable appetite to answer the question of “why” with every story, they experience life hands on. They have been to the Olympics, they have seen the brutal wars, and they have seen what a wildfire can do. They have grown to care so much more about people and telling their unique stories. I want this same experience myself—to live a hands on life. I want to interview Michael Phelps as he gets off that gold medal podium in London (I applied to be a runner in the London 2012 Olympics) and I want to go to Washington D.C. to really tell it like it is as the politicians go more than they come through Congress. I want to be there.
One story that I was particularly drawn to was that of Rachel Beckwith’s. Rather than wishing for an American Girl doll or a puppy, Rachel wished for donations to Charity Water, an organization that gives clean drinking water to children all over the world, particularly in Africa. Rachel wanted to raise $300 and although she only raised $220, she was determined to fundraise more for her 10th birthday. Sadly, Rachel’s 10th birthday will never come, as she was the victim in a 12 car pile-up on the I-90 in Seattle, Washington. But with her passing, her platform for fresh water took off. Within days, Rachel’s cause had raised over $130,000 and recently, that total has passed beyond a million dollars. Thousands of people have donated, anywhere from $9 to $10,000. Rachel had hoped to help 15 people but now she has helped over 57,000 people have fresh drinking water for the rest of their lives. That is certainly a birthday wish come true. (Here is my post on Rachel if you would like to donate).
This story struck a note with me. I helped one of the producers with the story and he asked me to find someone who had donated to the cause. Sound easy? It’s not exactly, when most of the donors were anonymous and the interviewee had to live in Los Angeles—and we had to do the interview that day. Thanks to Twitter, I was able to find a woman, April Gulley, a resident of Venice Beach, for the interview. I was fortunate enough to interview April and I was ecstatic when I saw her in the package that aired on the Today Show and Nightly News. I felt like I really contributed and seeing that story air made me proud—especially to see Rachel’s message spread to even more people.
Working on this story was the start of my own project…a demo reel. Thankfully there were some producers and correspondents who were gracious enough to help me make the best tape. Working on the Rachel Beckwith story, I wrote my own script for the Today show package aired and Lee Cowan, the original correspondent who reported the story, gave me his input. After I had a script ready, Aditi Roy, another correspondent, went into the sound booth with me and helped me with my tone, pacing, and diction as I read the script. After I had my voice recorded, we began re-editing the package with my voiceover. I’m grateful that I have an audition tape in progress so that when I can graduate, producers can see my abilities, appearance, and experience on camera.
I found most of the producers to be wonderful. They loved to joke around and some of them even had a baseball pitching party every day around 4:00. They worked incredibly hard when they were on a time crunch, but when they were free, they were always willing to share their knowledge about the news with my fellow interns and me. And thankfully, I had the camaraderie of my fellow interns. We could all relate to each other and we served as a sounding board when we were having a particularly challenging day. If anything—we helped each other laugh—which is essential in the stressful and sometimes tense atmosphere of a newsroom. And as much as I bashed on their unfortunate alma mater of the Trojans, they were able to ease me in to my unfamiliar environment. I was able to ask the stupidest of stupid questions to them like, “What’s a wire?” and “What does it mean to track?” (Don’t worry, you’re not stupid if you don’t know what those things are–I certainly didn’t!) They were gracious enough to guide me along in the first couple of weeks, albeit to their humor, and before long, we were all fast friends. We networked with each other and we loved gathering together every day at 3:30 for the Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams.
More to come tomorrow…
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook