"At one moment you may be talking to the Governor, the elite and powerful of society who welcome you with open arms, and then your chasing the derelicts of the community..."
As children, we're all asked the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" How did you answer?
Interested in the news, entertainment aspect. Felt I "had" to pursue it. Was very self-motivated--driven towards it. An overwhelming urge.
What have been the most defining moments along your career path?
I got my first real job as a reporter/photographer at Channel 7, the CBS affiliate in Watertown, NY. I was shooting, writing stories that would go on the air, and eventually started producing shows, became a fill-in anchor, and then a weekend anchor. There were about 15-20 people at this station. You do everything at a small station, and you learn fast.
How did you get your big breaks?
I knew I had to go to a small market to get started. If I wanted to really do, I had no choice. So I moved back home. I made a tape with the help of this guy in Boston. I came up with stories and such, and even though it wasn't high quality, it was enough to show a News Director that I had potential, if not experience.
I eventually started sending out resumes, but I didn't get any response. So one day I went to the local CBS affiliate in New York, dropped off my tape, and then called the News Director who agreed to see me. She wasn't that impressed with the tape until she say my stand-ups--then she thought I might have potential. But she wasn't impressed with my lack of news experience and broadcast writing skills, so she gave me a book on broadcast news and told me to read it as well as pick out stories from the newspaper and rewrite them for broadcast.
I came back in a few weeks, showed her what I had done and asked if I could do an internship. That was my foot in the door.
I ended up working (for free) 3 days a week--I would go out on stories, interview people (although never on the air), write the story, add a sound bite, and done. It wasn't long before I was then learning everything else, including shooting, editing.
What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?
Basic desire--you have to really want it. Plus, you've got to be open to criticism, and be willing to make necessary sacrifices. Be willing to move to Podunk, accept a low salary, work long hours in stressful conditions. It does get easier, gets better, but you've got to be patient and have a burning desire to do this. The advice I give others: Be willing to do an unpaid internship in a small market. This is where you'll get as much hands-on experience as possible, and you can really figure out what you want to do. You'll get to write, edit, put stories together--forget the large markets at first. People want to avoid this step when starting out, but it's essential to getting started.
What have you learned from your experience?
It's just so unpredictable and different every day. At one moment you may be talking to the Governor, the elite and powerful of society who welcome you with open arms, and then your chasing the derelicts of the community who want nothing to do with you. The ups and downs are extreme.
I recently covered a story about a woman who left her kid in the car while she went to buy a pack of cigarettes and then someone took the car. When we went to interview the husband he wanted to beat me up. Another time, there was this guy who got mad at his wife and ended up sticking his head though a glass window, where it got stuck.
So there we were going live, and there was this guy with his head stuck out the window, and his wife on the lawn smoking a cigarette and they were fighting. It's strange stuff. Plus, you also learn so much about the city and state you work in.
You learn about politics, you've got to go into the communities, even the dangerous ones. You learn a city for it's good and it's bad. You get a really wide perspective of a place.
What most excites you about your job right now?
The writing, telling a story creatively with visuals. Intellectually it's very satisfying. Also, I think it fits my personality very well. I'm pretty high strung, and I get all the excitement I need from my job, so I don't have to get it other places. When I have my days off, I just want to relax.
On a scale of 1-10, how relevant was your academic major to your career? (1=not at all, 10=absolutely essential)
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What would you like to have achieved by the last day of your career?
Well, I don't think I want to be an anchor. And I'm not really into the high-profile end of the business. I get noticed on the street sometimes, but don't really like it. I do like it when people say, "hey, that was a really good story you did", but I don't want to just be recognized. It's scary sometimes to think how many people are actually watching you!
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