I am so honored to introduce this week’s Sunny Star, the lovely Melissa Grego. I met Melissa this summer through my internship and ever since we have kept in touch. Melissa is the Executive Editor at Broadcasting and Cable which is a trade magazine for people in those specified industries. She is also the creator of the now annual event, Women of Hollywood, which connects women in the broadcast industry all across the country. I am honored to attend the event in a few weeks thanks to the kind invitation from Melissa and I’ll let you know how it goes—I am very much looking forward to it! In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Melissa as much as I have!
You are the Executive Editor at Broadcasting and Cable. What part of your job brings you the most happiness?
No question, the people. One of my former bosses from early in my career once pointed out that he spends more time with a fellow editor than he does with his wife. “I’ve spent 60% of my life staring at the back of Hy’s head,” he said, laughing. That stuck with me. What a great reminder of how fortunate you are if you can work with people you enjoy and respect. I pledged to myself then that when I had the opportunity to make decisions about who I would work with, I’d keep this in mind.
I’m lucky to be able to say that every single person on the editorial staff at B&C is someone I’d fight to work with if I didn’t already work with them. They all inspire me and make me laugh every day. Just like most businesses, those of us working in media are trying to do more with less every day. That’s tough to do. But it’s so much easier when you’re working side-by-side with people who are at the top of their game and you can learn from.
What has been your happiest memory from your work?
There are lots of little things that bring me joy in this job, like seeing a new reporter get a scoop or see her being brave to ask a tough follow-up question in an interview. But I got to do something in my current job that was a true dream come true — launching a series of events called “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of Hollywood” and “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of New York.”
After talking with women working in the TV, media and entertainment business about what sort of event could really help them in their careers, that didn’t yet exist, we came up with this combination of a networking cocktail hour and a speaker program. We feature women who have achieved great things in their work taking questions from a moderator – and the audience — all in an off-the-record setting. And the bar stays open. It’s in the afternoon, so attendees can go to work, leave a little early and end the workday together on a fabulous high note.
The idea was to create a forum to meet each other and to talk candidly about things women in the industry could all relate to no matter their role or level. So we learn from each other, laugh with each other. And discuss the sort of things that don’t come up at awards luncheons and events where the remarks are generally planned.
The first edition, in July 2010 in Los Angeles, drew more than twice the number of attendees I hoped for and the conversation blew away my expectations. We went on to launch a New York version in April 2011 and now have the 2nd annual “Women of Hollywood” coming up Nov. 15, 2011 (here’s a link to the registration site: www.broadcastingcable.com/womenofhollywood). To be part of creating something so successful, just truly made me really happy.
You have had an impressive career in writing, reporting, and now editing. How do you recommend young adults get started in such a competitive industry?
Thanks! The first thing is just to get out there. The great thing about how social media platforms have developed today is that every aspiring writer, reporter and editor can be a self-starter. I wrote and edited for school newspapers from elementary school through high school – we were lucky to have some wonderful journalism programs for kids where I grew up in Michigan. Every great writer (and I’m certainly not there yet myself) seems to recommend practice. So do it – write, report, edit – as much as you can.
When I went to college, at the University of Michigan, I actually didn’t write for the big college paper The Michigan Daily. Instead, I wrote for a start-up magazine that some acquaintances created and printed themselves. My first big get was an interview with the late poet Allen Ginsberg. He was coming to Ann Arbor to perform and I got in touch with his office through the Buddhist temple that was sponsoring his visit. I requested the interview – and got it. Even though I wasn’t with the big paper. So if you’re an ambitious reporter, you can absolutely get the “gets” even if you’re not calling from the biggest brand in town but rather your very own blog.
And definitely do internships – as many as you can so you gain exposure to lots of different companies and people. You’ll learn how to do things, where opportunities lay, what interests you and meet people who can help point you in the directions you want to go in. When you do get internships, be sure to ask questions. You’ll quickly find curiosity is contagious. You show curiosity in the people you work with and they quickly become curious about you. Keep in mind too that many hiring editors look at internships and (unfortunately low-paying) entry-level assistant jobs as proving ground for new talent.
What is the best advice you have for young writers?
Read and write. Read and write. Read and write.
You host an event for women called Keynotes and Cocktails. Can you tell us about this event and how it has brought happiness to women?
Yes, this is the event I mentioned in my answer about my happiest memory. Every time a past speaker or attendee tells me about something they learned or made them laugh at one of the events, I am absolutely humbled.
One of my favorite questions we ask at the event is about people’s favorite mistakes. Sometimes it’s even more inspiring to hear how people who have been extremely successful have handled a challenge – and messed it up – than it is to hear about how they’ve succeeded all the time. It’s a great reminder that it’s okay to make mistakes. Good, even. Because you hopefully learn from them. It’s encouraging to hear that someone you admire made mistakes. Then you realize that, just because you don’t get it right all the time doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. Every chairman, queen and rockstar has made a mistake too. And usually has a favorite one.
How do you think women can be more supportive to each other in the work place?
That’s a very good question. Being fair and being your best are the greatest things I think any of us can do for ourselves and everyone else in the workplace. Remember, you’re an example for other people to follow at all times. (However, be careful not to beat yourself up too badly if you misstep; see my previous answer.) I first really grasped that when years ago I was handling a touchy situation with another editor and did not know one of our interns was within earshot in a cubicle around the corner. Thankfully, I handled the situation in a way I could be proud of. The next day when I got into work, I discovered the intern had left me a note on my desk saying she heard the exchange, admired how I handled it and let me know she’d be watching me to learn how to navigate the work world. I was leading by example and didn’t even know it.
So just be as good as you can be, and be mindful of how much impact your example can have.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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