Life in the Newsroom

This is an excerpt out of my internship journal, with some funny stories about my days.

 

I didn’t realize at first what exactly my summer internship would entail. I knew nothing of the requirements (both in the workplace and for the University), and as much as I knew about television news thanks to my work in STN, I thought I knew NOTHING about what life in an actual, 24-hour newsroom was like. I quickly learned (within my first couple of days) that life at WMUR-TV and life at STN2 weren’t as different as I had originally assumed.

My internship started on May 30. My shift wasn’t until 2:30, but because of a lack of cars, I had to ride in with my father, who also had to be at work at 2:30…on the opposite side of the city. Which means I was at the studio by 2:10.

Nothing like showing up 20 minutes early to your first day and surprising your supervisors. I sat on the couch in the lobby for 15 minutes until someone came out to let me in.

My first news meeting happened at 2:45 that afternoon, where I was introduced to the reporters and some of the producers. I was greeted warmly – turns out they were fans of my fire engine red (and blue…and purple) hair…and one of the female anchors decided she liked me because I had cool hair and drove a minivan – and they always mock her for driving a minivan.

I watched my first live newscast from WMUR’s studio at 5:00 that night. Sitting with two other interns, I thought “oh cool, I’ll have company!” (I had to try not to laugh when one of them, a rising senior, needed someone to explain to her what a package was.)

At 6:00, I went into the producer’s booth and watched the news from another angle. There were multiple screens, many cameras, I could see the teleprompter, and watched everything from a completely different perspective. I was really amazed to learn that most of the crew being used during an STN show would be redundant here…the graphics bay, camera switcher and mic into the studio were all in one control panel!

From 7:00 to about 9:30, I sat at the assignment desk making beat calls to local police departments. This, I must admit, is not my favorite job in the world. However, it’s definitely an “intern’s task”, because I seemed to get stuck doing it a lot. As the night wore on, though, I was both excited and worried as I realized I was the only nightside newsroom intern.

At 9:30, my supervisor took me into the “feed room” to show me how we send and receive feeds from various sources. It was really complicated, but I was excited to be learning things. I saw how we send video to (and get video from) our affiliates in Maine and Massachusetts, and how we send video to CNN. It was new, exciting and a tad bit terrifying…until my supervisor told me to go ahead and press all the buttons, because I couldn’t break anything. At which point, I gladly pressed all of them.

I watched the 10:00 newscast from the production booth again. It was fascinating to learn how the news I watched every day was put together.

At 11:00, I headed back into the studio to watch. It was a bit one-sided, since I couldn’t see the graphics or anything that was on-screen, but I got to sit in the big plushy chairs they have on set, so I was okay with that.

I left at 11:30, a bit overwhelmed, but happy, and definitely ready to take on a second day.

When I got in on June 1st, I was ready to work. But it was my second day, so I didn’t really do too much “working”. More beat calls, more “observing” and more “feed lessons”. My first real assignment was to help with some “Commitment 2012” stuff. I watched the Democratic candidates for governor debate, and transcribed it out for future use. Not terrifically fun. But on the bright side, I think I know who I’ll vote for. And I almost ended up in the 10:00 newscast. I was watching from the studio, and I had worn a huge pink flower clip in my hair. It fell out when I shook my head, so I bent over to grab it and narrowly avoided falling out of the comfy chair (and directly *into* the camera shot). I left at 11:30, completely exhausted, and mildly annoyed that I had to return to Hartford to do Orientation the next morning.

I spent the 2 hour drive on a caffeine high. By the end of my 2 hour stint behind the table, I was beginning to wish I’d taken the night off.

When I came back in on June 6, things were also relatively uneventful. Working from 2:30 to 11:30, things aren’t exactly hopping. There are people everywhere until about 7, and then they all disappear. That day was more beat calls, more observations…but they let me answer the phone. That was kind of exciting. But only kind of. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t anyone interesting on the phone. But the senior anchor spent the entire 11:00 newscast trying to convince the producer to at least put my purple button hat on the desk. She was notably unenthusiastic.

Since I had to go to Concord on the 8th, I worked on June 7 instead. And that led me to my first real assignment. I was given a camera and sent out to Veteran’s Park with another intern to cover the Easter Seals Walk With Me event. We walked around taking pictures in between the raindrops, and four of my pictures ended up on the 11:00 newscast. And the lesson of the day was “always bring spare shoes because you never know when they’ll make you hike 6 blocks to the park”.

The 13th was a very difficult day for me. I had gone to Boston to see my favorite band in concert – and when I made it back into the state at 3:00 in the morning, I had all of their autographs but was running on pure adrenaline.

Even so, I thought my 2:30 shift would be easy as pie.

Not surprisingly, I was totally wrong. By 8:30-ish, I was falling asleep at my desk. Unfortunately, my supervisor could offer me no help because it was unusually quiet…because the phone was accidentally left off the hook. We could dial out but no one could call in.

On June 15, they decided to see what I was capable of, and they gave me a bunch of stories to try my hand at. I thought I did well, and the producers agreed, saying that it was pretty clear I knew how to write. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I also got to send out my first video feed. I sent our exclusive interview with Mitt Romney to CNN. And I did it without any guidance (even though I did have a ‘cheat sheet’). And while I watched the 11:00 from the studio, I was given a headset so I could hear both what was going on in the booth and in the studio, which was really cool.

My next day in, June 20, I got to see what the weather center looks like from the other side. Only three of the four computers actually do something, but the fourth one stays so there isn’t a random hole in the bank of monitors and it doesn’t look silly on camera. Amusingly enough, it’s more like the STN “weather center” (just me and my laptop) than I expected. I also got more stories to write, which I did with vigor because it’s really quiet at night, and sometimes gets a little boring. The 11:00 producer said that I was just a few words away from having some of my work in her show. I drove home that night singing happily.

The 22nd was an unexpectedly exciting day. It started off fairly normal, but by 8:00 I had 3 assignments. I was over the moon. By 9:00, one of the assignments had turned up nothing, but I had written 2 readers and sent them off, feeling pretty darn pleased with myself. Plus, one of the producers had said that I might be able to practice anchor one day, and that was a terrifically exciting prospect. After that, I had about 15 minutes to calmly sip my hot chocolate…and then all hell broke loose. There was a verdict in the case of Jerry Sandusky. Suddenly, people were everywhere, phones were ringing like crazy, and I was as wound up as everyone else. And when he was found guilty, the entire 10:00 newscast went out the window. I loved it though, because I had never been a part of breaking news, only watched it on TV. And I never realized just how chaotic ‘breaking news’ is.

In spite of how awesome the last day had been, June 27th started off on the wrong foot. I had a doctor’s appointment and some errands to run before I headed into the newsroom…and, of course, nothing went as planned. There were people in every place I had to stop, and I couldn’t figure out how to get them out of my way. I was in a complete panic. I had my parents put together my dinner and snacks, and made it home…just in time to turn around and drive right back into the city.

I barely made it in on time.

My first task of the day was to replace the rundowns in the edit suites from the day before with the new ones. I swiped one of the old sets so I could compare it to the STN rundowns and see the differences between the two.

And the theme of the day continued. People. Were. Everywhere. The newsroom went from relatively quiet to complete, utter, noisy chaos in about 30 seconds. Once again, I had no idea where all the people were coming from, but they were all over the place. I don’t think I dealt with as many people in that entire WEEK as I did that one day. And as quickly as they all showed up, they were gone. I’m still not entirely sure what happened during those 10 minutes of absolute chaos. All I know is that there were people far and wide…and most of them were directly in the way of my desk, blocking me from getting in or out.

Once they all disappeared, my next task was story research. I had to get information on a court case out of Manchester, and then I played phone tag with the realtor in charge of selling off the campus of Chester College. It was a depressing thing to research, being a college student – made worse by the fact that a friend of mine enrolled there last year.

After the 6:00, I took a much-needed dinner break (luckily I brought my own food – the choice of the night was Mexican) and awaited my next task, which turned out to be writing VO’s, which I’m totally comfortable with at this point, even though my VO writing skills aren’t fantastic, since I’m so used to writing packages at STN. But I think that all of the practice I got at WMUR will help me as news director, because as I learn more about professional news writing, I will be able to more effectively help my reporters write.

After the “people panic” that was my morning, the rest of the night was pretty quiet – not many phone calls, and not a ton for me to do. I read through the stories that came in on the wire and practiced my writing, and listened to the NBA draft coverage that was playing on the TV on the other side of my desk.

I watched the 10:00 from the studio, and then volunteered to do something for the 11:00 because I knew how to do camera and prompter, and I didn’t really like sitting in the corner and not being involved. So I marched up to one of the crew members (who I knew quite well because he was the technical director for my high school’s drama club) and asked if I could do something. He laughed at me at first, but I’m persistent…and guess who got to run teleprompter for the 11:00? And I learned that one of the photogs is from my hometown, which amused me greatly.

A lot of random and amusing things happened here, not unlike the random and amusing things that happen in the STN newsroom. People played movie trailers on their phones, blasted music at random times, and there were funny exchanges (in one, it was determined that my red hair meant that I had no soul. I was laughing too hard to be angry.) At one point, an anchor even walked into a glass door, simply saying, “Oh. What do you know, there’s a door here.” I befriended a lot of the reporters, and my friends from home thought it was hysterically funny when we’d watch the news and I’d say, “Oh, he’s cool, he sits across the desk from me,” or “Oh, I know where that camera is,” or even “I was accidentally on the news last night!” A lot of people wanted to know all about the university and STN and what I do there, and I was delighted to learn that I was definitely taking good steps on the road to a TV career. It was really exciting to learn that the senior anchor at WMUR was actually the news director of a student television group when he was in college! Overall, I think this will be a fantastic summer and I’m so happy that I was given the chance to be here. I really love what I’m doing…and I think I’ll be much happier in journalism than I ever would have been in physics.

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