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Home  > Insider profile
Jackie Peck
Journalist

"The network environment is a kill or be killed environment, claw your way to the top. It's really competitive."

As children, we're all asked the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" How did you answer?

Always thought I was going to be a lawyer.

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

Was in a political science course and had to do this computer role-playing exercise where students were either a representative of one of the three branches of government, or of the media. I played Ted Koppel and really liked it--like reporting on politics, rather than being involved in it. It was an incredible class.

How did you get your big breaks?

First job was with CNN's Headline News in Atlanta as a Videojournalist. I was as low on the totem pole as you can go. A lot of grunt work, but it was a foot in the door, and that's the most important thing in this industry. In this industry, you either need to start by doing grunt work at one of the bigger, network stations, or move to podunk and work at a small operation. Networking is huge in the industry! One of my instructors got me a few interviews, but none panned out. CNN hires entry-level people (in Atlanta) so I sent a resume to the New York bureau, and it was then forwarded to Atlanta.

What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?

Interviews in this business and trying interviews in this business suck! You don't even get rejection letters! You simply don't hear anything. It's really tough. You've got to really want it and keep sending out those resumes. If you really want to be an on-air reporter, put a bunch of tapes in the car, call News Directors, and stop by and drop off your tape. The best way in is to know people. "Never burn your bridges in this business" is the first thing they teach you at Northwestern.

What have you learned from your experience?

The network environment is a kill or be killed environment, claw your way to the top. It's really competitive.

What most excites you about your job right now?

The learning. It's different with every story. I talk to olympic rowers, visit housing project in New Orleans, interview politicians, people who do incredible things. One of the most powerful experiences was when I had to go do a story at a housing project in New Orleans. I was doing a story on teen pregnancy. When I got down there, I stopped at a police station for something, and when I told them where I was going, the woman said, "Do you want an escort?" I said no, but began to think perhaps I was being a little na?ve. Surprisingly, however, even though I was white and from the north, the people at the projects were really welcoming and nice. I learned that just because of where you're born, you may have a lot of extra hurdles to endure just to get somewhere. I would have never had this experience or met these people if it wasn't for my job. I guess you could say you really get a feel for America and can have some real eye-opening experiences.

On a scale of 1-10, how relevant was your academic major to your career? (1=not at all, 10=absolutely essential)

10 Absolutely Essential

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