TV Interns

We have all been in your shoes. I started at the now defunct CNN San Francisco bureau back in 1999. If you asked the news staff what I was good at, they would have  said, Who? Oh... her? That one. That sits there. Quietly with a semi-panicked expression? Oh, she's good at sitting at the desk and answering phones. She shows up on time and she appears to be studying some form of organic chemistry all the time. Yeah. That one doesn't really GET it.

And I didn't. I was too nervous to really ask anyone if I could go out on stories with them. I was overwhelmed by everything. The fast-paced environment, the busy people, the newness of being in news. I had NO CLUE what I was doing or what they were doing or what I should be doing. So I brought my homework and between picking up the phone and saying, "CNN SF, this is Vicky," I really didn't do much that helped anyone there, especially not me.

I figured it out over the following internships I had at KPIX, KTVU and CNX Media. I learned there are some real assholes in news, but there are also people who will offer guidance and mentorship. Now that I'm a reporter, I get shadowed by interns all the time. I try to be patient and helpful. But some interns are insanely clueless. Here's what I tell those who work with me, and want to become TV journalists.

Every now and then you will run into an insecure reporter/anchor who views you as a threat. Or they are just a jerk in general. Don't waste your time with those people. And don't take it personally. They will die alone surrounded by their 83 cats and porcelain clown collection.

Do your homework. Know the station's main anchors, reporters and when you get there, find out who does what. Assignment desk, producers, photographers, writers, editors, etc. Try to remember people's names. Bring your A game. As in, dress professionally, carry yourself like you know what you're doing, even when you don't. Ask pertinent questions and take notes on the answers so that you have a reference.

Figure out what you want to learn and do. Then go to the person who is doing that and introduce yourself. Ask how, not if, you can help them with whatever they are doing. Can you make a call? Can you print out an article or do some research? Can you pull some file video? You're getting a soda, would they like one too? Seriously, finding a way to make yourself useful will endear you to the person you are trying to learn from. You are then not just a barnacle. You are a symbiotic creature.

Let them know exactly what you want to do. I would like to go out with you on your stories. I would like learn how to report. I would like to make a resume tape. I would like to shoot a stand up when you and your photographer have time. I would like to learn how to write. I would like to learn how to produce. Be direct and be concise. 

If you are unsure, ask. And always carry a notepad and pen with you. You're here to learn and remember. And unless you have a Mike Ross memory, write some stuff down. 

Read local and national news websites and have a clue what's going on around you.

And if you are worried, have faith. If you saw how broke down I looked and sounded when I first started, oooh girl, you will know that tenacity and persistence actually pay off. 

I will find a picture of me from my intern era and post it someday when I've had too much to drink. It might be a while, since I don't really drink. I don't have that enzyme that breaks down alcohol. So I look like I've been badly sunburned. Not cute.