Part II: My Experience at NBC News

Here is Part II of my internship experience at NBC News. This 15 page paper is due Friday so I would love any feedback, commentary, or input that you have. I loved writing this piece because it was exactly the reflection I needed for this summer. I hope it’s been a good one for you—whatever you have been up to these past few months. I can’t wait to hear your stories soon—more than anything, I hope you’ve been happy. Here is Part II…

My fellow interns helped me so much, particularly with creating my package for my demo reel. I love writing and I have had a daily blog for the past year but I quickly found out that writing for television is a whole other ball game. What looks good on paper doesn’t always sound good when you pronounce it. I learned so much about how to sell a story with the power of words and how to give it life through the tone of the piece. I became very invested in each story that I took and while none of them took flight, I always kept trying. I wrote pitches on a weekly basis for the executive producers to review and after a day of research and writing, I always got a simple response, “Thanks, but we’ll pass.” That’s that. Still, I wanted to include one of my favorite pitches.

Climbing the Seven Summits of the World all in one year and making a difference every step of the way—that is what Alan Arnette is doing to raise a million dollars for Alzheimer’s awareness and research. Arnette’s mother, Ida, passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2009. So far, Arnette has conquered Vinson, Antarctica and Aconcagua, South America, and he just returned from the summit of Mount Everest three weeks ago. He leaves for Denali, Alaska (Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America, this Saturday. Arnette is expected to summit around July 9-13, weather depending. Using a system of a digital camera, PDA and satellite phone, Arnette will be sending dispatches directly from the climb to his supporters. Arnette will be shooting his own video during his climb.

Arnette, 54, says, “There are a thousand reasons to turn around and only a few to keep going. I was not going to turn around on Everest. I wanted to scream from the top of the world that Alzheimer’s was a disease that takes lives and we need to find a cure. The pain in my lungs at 29,000′ pales to the pain in my heart the day my mother asked, ‘Who are you?’’ Arnette is the first person in the world to climb the 7 Summits of the World while also climbing all 56 14,000’ summits in Colorado. Arnette is sponsored by Pfizer and the Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program of Janssen so that every dollar raised goes directly to theAlzheimer’s Association and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund to enhance research along with the National Family Caregivers Association to provide support for family caregivers. He’s raised over $100,000, speaks nationally at Alzheimer’s Conferences, and has reached over 20 million people with his regular television and radio interviews that he does. He gets over a million views to his blog every year and when he is climbing, he gets over 100,000 web hits a day.

I know Alan Arnette personally (you can see the blog post here) so I was naturally disappointed when I got an instantaneous rejection. But I quickly developed a thicker skin and adjusted my attachment to my stories. I’m still hoping that one of my stories will get picked up one of these days. They say it’s about 1 in 10 of your pitches that gets picked up and I’m at about 10 now so here’s wishing…

I had to become highly skilled in social media in order to be in the know, let alone to be ahead of the curve. For once, it was okay to be on Facebook or Twitter in a work environment because sites like these have become the bread and butter for breaking news. Even the death of Osama Bin Laden was announced via Twitter, an hour before President Obama announced the news. I quickly became well versed in searching trends and I even Tweeted to some of my favorite correspondents—and they tweeted me back! That’s what I love about sites like Twitter—you have the opportunity to connect with prestigious people that would have never crossed your path otherwise…at least not yet.

With that being said, I still have a LOT of learning to do. I am considering applying for an internship at KNBC next summer to get more of a hands-on experience. As much as I have loved working in network news, there are limits to what an intern can do. Because I am at the Burbank Bureau, we only cover national news in the western region. If the story is in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Colorado—that general territory—we will cover it but nothing more. This was wonderful to hone in on a region, but because of insurance reasons, interns were not allowed to go on shoots outside of Los Angles. So when the three young adults fell over Vernal Falls this summer and when there was a bear attack in Yellowstone, we were not allowed to go out with the correspondents and producers to cover the story. This is perfectly understandable, but as a giddy intern ready for anything and everything, I got some cabin fever being stuck at the desk sometimes.

I love going out in the field. I love meeting people and sharing their story. I love being a part of something greater than myself and I don’t think there’s a better way to learn a story than to tell it yourself. That is why I am considering working at KNBC—because if I want to be a reporter someday, I need to know how to be an efficient reporter—meaning there is more than just reporting. Local reporters are expected to not only be on camera, they have to shoot their own footage, put the package together, and edit the piece. There’s no one back at the bureau trimming the edges for you—you are expected to do everything yourself. So if I plan on becoming a reporter someday, I need to become as self-sufficient as possible. It is my goal that I will have more opportunities to go out into the field the next go around so that I can familiarize myself with the entire process of reporting.

That’s the thing, though. I’m not entirely sure I want to be a reporter and I’m not completely convinced that I want to work in this industry. It has been highly interested and extremely educational, but I’m not sure if it’s the lifestyle for me. I’ve never been the kind to hop on a plane at a second’s notice. I’m not saying that I couldn’t be, but it’s not in my blood either. Many of the correspondents have told me that they live to be in the news…it is their life. They are willing to sacrifice a home life, even possibly a thriving marriage for the sake of their job. It is not they want to choose between one or the other, but work is work. It comes first for them. I respect this so much but I don’t know if it’s for me.

Yet while these correspondents say that they live for the news, I could possibly take it or leave it. It may be something that I love to do for the rest of my life, or it may have been an amazing summer to remember forever. I’m really not sure yet. Ultimately, my dream is to become a motivational speaker, author, and columnist because my true passions lie with writing and public speaking. It sounds like I would love broadcast journalism then—the perfect blend. But just because something seems perfect on paper doesn’t mean it could be perfect for my real life. I am open to the possibilities, and this summer has certainly opened my eyes even more, but I’m still not entirely convinced. I can’t wait to see where I take the road…it is not taking me anywhere. I lead my own path.

Quite frankly, I don’t want that path to be in Omaha, Nebraska or Anchorage, Alaska. Most reporters start at the bottom—you can’t have crème brulee the first day of your career. Becoming a reporter at KNBC, or heck, even at the national level takes at least 10 years. If you’re lucky. You could end up staying in Omaha or Anchorage forever. As a local California native, toughing out those winters, whether it’s in the Midwest or the upper Northern Hemisphere does not sound appealing. Sure the weather isn’t ideal, but more importantly, it is nowhere near my family. I can’t imagine living by myself in a remote town for 10 years trying to make my way. But again, I am open to the possibilities.

Yet when I see Matt Lauer and Ann Curry every morning, I have new hope. I am reminded that success is possible in this industry and simply being a nice person and a devoted, hard worker will truly take you places. Some of the most talented are the most humble and I have found that most correspondents and anchors are eager to share their knowledge with hopeful interns. I’m always curious to know how they got to be where they are. The answer is simple—putting in time, and making sure that time was well spent. I realize the chances of me ever having one of those coveted positions is slim, but I am hopeful. You never know where life will take you and I’m not opposed to it taking me there!

I have so much more appreciation for the people in the news industry. They make it look so easy, so natural as the anchors read off the prompters and the packages roll. It is rare that slip-ups happen, at least enough that anyone watching at home would notice. So when I had the chance to see what goes on behind the camera, I was astounded. Every second is planned, every word is critiqued, and yes, every hair is put perfectly in place. A perfect broadcast on an imperfect world.

The people in this industry are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. I felt honored to be in their presence. Again, I believe telling a story is the best way to teach yourself so these people are extremely well informed. They have opinions but they are unbiased in their writing, reporting, and editing—at least when you don’t work for cable news. Many of them have a light heart even with such a heavy load and a weighty world of stories to cover. I loved learning from them. We had so many real conversations and even though many of them joked with me that I should “run away” from the news, I know that they passionately love what they do. That is probably the reason why most of them have been there for 20, 30, and 40 years. They are a family unit and they experience life together.

I will be sad to go. I will miss seeing everyone at work, including my fellow interns, even though they tragically go to the school across town. I will miss seeing stories come to life from start to finish. More than anything, I will miss being in the know. Sure, I will always watch the news and check in on a daily basis, but I won’t truly know the details of a story like the people in the newsroom do. I won’t be ahead of the curve anymore, knowing about a story before it airs.

Thankfully my time with NBC has not come to a close, it has merely shifted. As I mentioned before, I will be interning at E! News this fall. I am thrilled for this and I can’t wait to see what this opportunity will hold. Many people keep asking, “What will you be doing?” The honest answer is that I am not entirely sure. A newsroom is a newsroom, this one just happens to be for entertainment news. Nevertheless, I’m sure it will entail the usual duties of pitching, logging, and being of service. What I’m really looking forward to is the unexpected. More than anything (yes, more than meeting Ryan Seacrest), I am excited to go into the field and hopefully witness some amazing interviews. Maybe do some myself!

I’m not sure what the future holds but I feel like the future is bright. I remember feeling anxious this past March when I didn’t have any summer plans. All of my friends were studying abroad, going to summer school, or starting their first job. I remember feeling so unproductive and nervous as I anticipated my possible internship with NBC. So when I got word that I would be working at NBC News, I was ecstatic. Beyond thrilled. I love having a plan and now I had one—at least for the summer.

That’s what I love about a year—you never know what will happen by the time it comes to a close. When the clock struck midnight ringing in 2011, I never knew that I would work at NBC News in June. In June, I had no clue that I would work in E! News in September. And now in August, I have no idea what I will be doing in December, but I am eager to find out. I have never felt more hopeful or more happy with my future.

Still, it is crucial that we enjoy the present moment. I am still interning for NBC News and will continue to do so through mid-September. This is longer than my expected stay, but I have been invited to work more and I’m happy to be there. With every day that passes, I want to make the most of it. I don’t want to let one slip by where I haven’t worked on my demo reel, a budding story, or breaking news in full swing. I want to learn something new every day, and so far I have.

I knew coming in that I would have to be self-motivated. Nothing was handed to me—I certainly was not spoon fed in the staffroom. I’m thankful for that because that’s real life. You have to work for everything. Stories don’t always come to you—you have to find them. You have to be proactive, not only with reporting but with your life. I make this conscious choice every day. I don’t want to miss a minute of “what could be.” Instead I want to make the most of every minute that is here, right now. There is never a better time than now to ask the questions, research the information, and to be there.  To be ready.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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