Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Excerpt from "A Journalista's Journey"
MANY OF YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW THAT I'M CURRENTLY PENNING A BOOK. TWO ACTUALLY. ONE IS A FICTIONAL LOVE STORY. THE OTHER IS ABOUT MY JOURNEY AS A JOURNALIST. IT'S TENTATIVELY TITLED, "A JOURNALISTA'S JOURNEY" IT'S BASED ON MY EXPERIENCES AS A REPORTER, AND CHRONICLES MY LIFE SO FAR AS A BROADCASTER. SOME OF YOU EXPRESSED INTEREST IN READING IT, IF I EVER FINISH THE DARN THING (LOL), BUT FEEDBACK IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT. I AM ABOUT 60 PAGES INTO IT, AND WHILE I DON'T HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW LONG IT'LL BE, I AM STUCK. THAT HAPPENS A LOT TO WRITERS. SO I NEED SOME INSPIRATION. HONEST FEEDBACK PLEASE! YOUR SUPPORT MEANS A LOT. I'VE READ A LOT OF BOOKS WRITTEN BY JOURNALISTS. ALL OF THEM HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER, AND I LEARNED A LOT. HOWEVER, I CAN'T SAY THAT I AM AS ELOQUENT OF A WRITER---OR MAYBE THAT'S NOT IT. I JUST WANT IT TO BE RAW. SO I'VE INCLUDED AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK. CHAPTER 19 ACTUALLY...
*LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK*
It’s another Sunday. There are a lot of those. Days where I sit and reflect. And it’s tough not to, sitting on this plane. I’m flying back to Salt Lake City from visiting my family in California. I try to go as often as I can. Nobody tells you how badly you’ll miss your family when pursuing a career in television news. I guess it should have been common sense. I remember one of my mentors, Ken Wayne who currently works for KTVU Ch. 2 (Fox, San Francisco market) telling me that I’d have to move for my first job, warning me that it could take years before I get the opportunity to come back to California, where I consider home.
“I know that,” I said.
What I didn’t know was just how desolate of a city I would end up in. It’s what some describe as the armpit of the country. I know; it’s not politically correct but I figured since I heard this terminology used more than once during my two year stint there, there was something to it. It is better known, or more popularly referred to as a city where snowbirds flock to during winter months. Today, it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, although I don’t how accurate that is considering it is nowhere near being one of the biggest cities in the country. In fact, it is what I consider a small city. A place where everyone knows everyone and nobody goes unnoticed. A place where you could quickly become a big fish in a small pond. The truth is I had never heard of Yuma before I moved there. I knew where to find Arizona on a map, but Yuma was not part of my geography class.
Anyway. Being on this flight makes me appreciate how convenient living in Salt Lake City is, compared to Yuma that is. It’s all relative. Flying home from little ole Yuma was an all-day event sometimes. And sitting in a jumper plane that felt like it was going to crash was always so nerve wracking. I limited my trips home, convinced that the odds would someday work against me. Small planes almost always crash, or so it seems. Working as a reporter in Utah has convinced me of that.
So back to Yuma. Sometimes I’m scatter-brained. I always thought I was a good example of someone who could multi-task. Talk to someone at the same time that I’m typing on my computer and eating, but I am too obvious. It is not my strongest characteristic. Employers would say it’s a skill I lack. I say it only means I like to focus on the task at hand, and it could also mean that I’m a good friend. You’ll know when I’m listening, and most of the time I’ll avoid trying to multi-task, because I always get busted and then a wave of guilt consumes me. No one likes to feel like they’re not your priority. Yuma. I promise not to get distracted again. Not in this chapter anyway. I had never heard of Yuma, before applying for the job of reporter. Yuma was one of about 25 positions open in small market television markets across the country at the time. Small market is just a fancy term for small city. Yuma is a small city. The bigger the city, the bigger the market. New York ranks number one. L.A. comes in second. You get the idea. Yuma, at the time (2004) was market 172. It has moved up, thanks to an increase in population but not by much. Salt Lake City is currently (2009) market 31.
I began applying for jobs during my last semester at California State University of Hayward. I majored in Mass Communications with an emphasis in broadcasting. The emphasis took me an extra six months. By this time, I had already completed an internship in the investigative department at KRON 4 in San Francisco and one year at KYVU, which is where I met some great mentors that not only pointed me in the right direction, but helped me get that first job. Sure, part of it certainly had to do with my drive but just as much is owed to their confidence in me. For some reason, “they” thought I had a good shot at this. I remember the first day of my internship at KRON. The head of the department was explaining my duties as an intern, when she abruptly interrupted herself, looked me up and down and said, “I hope you don’t think you’re going to get an on-air job out of this. It doesn’t work that way.”
“I know, “ I said.
And there was a lot of that at first. In fact, I had a similar encounter with Ken Wayne, who is someone I consider a great friend and mentor. I was sitting at a round table listening to a seminar in a college classroom. It was one of those career fairs. Ken cam over to our table that had one other girl and a couple guys, all sitting there eagerly interested in a career in television. Ken sat down next to the other girl, who I’ll call Angie. He asked us what we wanted to do for a living.
Angie quickly and enthusiastically exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to be an anchor at KTVU!” Ken chuckled. And there’s always a lot of that too. Chuckling when girls say they want to be an anchor. For some reason, veterans in the business don’t like it when someone’s aspirations only include being an anchor. Why? Because it gives of the perception that all you want is to be on television. And if that’s the case, go to Hollywood and become an actor. Don’t waste your time, because while this is a rewarding career, there’s hardly anything glamorous about it.
Side note: if you’re wondering if I’ll ever circle back to Yuma in this chapter, I do.
So…Ken looks at me and I answer “I want to be a reporter.”
I think he liked that, and honestly it’s what I wanted. I had no intent in being an anchor at the time. Ken, however wasn’t sure how candid I was being. He had skeptical plastered on his face, examining my response closely just like a good reporter would. And when he nodded, in what I thought was approval, he hastily said “You’ll have to take out that nose ring.”
By the way, it was a tiny stud but I replied, “I know.”
And that’s how I met Ken. It wasn’t how I got the internship at KTVU, which is what paved the way to my first gig in T.V. news. It started in community college. I was writing for the school paper at the time, my sophomore year, just a semester before transferring to CalState when I suddenly panicked. “What the hell am I going to do for a living?” I knew, always knew and dreamt of becoming a published author, a writer of some sort. But my parents had already made it clear to me that, “Nobody can just become a writer.” After months of writing for the Express, I thought I could have a column in the New York Times. I had obviously been watching too much Sex in the City, my friends said. “Do you know the chances of landing a job like that?” Geez. Why was everyone so discouraging?
I took a career placement test at the counseling office. Lord, that was a long list of questions but within days I had some answers, some suggested career paths. Are you ready for this? Because I wasn’t. There was a list of four jobs that best fit my personality type.
1. Librarian: This one surprised me, despite my love for reading. I didn’t think I had much of an interest in books. Not when it came to putting them back on the shelves anyway. And while I know librarians do a lot more than just shelve books, I was certain I’d be fired for talking too much. I thought to myself at the time, there’s no way I can whisper for eight hours a day, five days a week. The upside? I could come up with some cute outfits. I could even wear librarian glasses! I could be the SEXY librarian. Uh no…
2. Technical Writer: See, I knew it. I was meant to be a writer. But what was the technical part all about? After a quick google search and consultation with a career counselor, I scratched that off my list.
3. Public Relations: That’s it! A smile spread across my face. All of a sudden, everything was crystal clear to me. I could incorporate my love for writing in this line of work. I didn’t bother researching it much after talking with a few people about the possibly of an endeavor in public relations. It seemed to make sense to me at the time. They are writers. And they are people-persons. I am a people person. I was just happy that one of the suggestions on this list made sense to me, because I was starting to get worried.
You’re probably wondering what Myer Briggs suggested my fourth best career option would be.
4. Broadcaster: I remember my eyes quickly seeing that word. I skimmed it, uninterested and thinking nothing of it. I don’t’ think I even had an emotion attached to it. It was just like, whatever.
“I’m going to work in Public Relations!” Excited about my new revelation, I told everyone, including my friend at the paper. I’ll call her Fran. Fran said I should go to the open-call internship at KTVU the following week. Cool, I thought. Public Relations for a television station! I quickly drafted a resume and cover letter, and showed up the next week at the open-call. I had no idea. There were hundreds of college students there, packed in the lobby waiting for it to start. It was unsettling, because for once I realized the chances of getting the internship were probably slim. We were shuffled into the studio, which is where one by one, someone from each department delivered a snooze fest of speeches. The first was community relations. Blab blab blab. Then came time for the news department to talk. The woman at the podium asked everyone interested in a news internship to raise their hand. Virtually everyone’s hands went up. My confidence was instantly restored. This is good, maybe I will get that PR internship after all, I said to myself convincingly. To tell you the truth, I paid no attention to that woman. It was only when the head of the PR department stood at the podium to speak when my eyes and ears perked. Oh my God, I’m so excited! At the end of their presentations, everyone was asked to stand in line at the appropriate section. I pranced my way over to the PR table, scoping the beautiful blondes in suits ahead of me in line. Oh boy. Maybe wearing this outfit was a bad idea. I’m a strong believer in being myself, and apparently wearing a dark denim jacket with jeans and black top was being myself. My hair was frizzy and a wavy mess. I had J.Lo hoop earrings on, but the truth was I didn’t even own a suit.
My turn was almost up. I surveyed the man sitting at the table. He had a pleasant smile on this face, with kind eyes. He seemed so enthusiastic. I took a deep breath. First impressions are everything. I extended my right hand, smiled with a mouth full of crooked teeth and said, “Hi, I’m Nineveh!” What happened next would literally change the course of my future. I’m going to hit pause, because it was one of those moments where without realizing it, doors opened and destiny took over. You can laugh. But it wasn’t until years later, after I got offered a job in Yuma that I realized the significance of this one moment. So from time to time, when I think back about how I got here, I remember to hit pause.
“Hi, I’m Nineveh!” The man, sitting across from whom I will identify shortly looked back at me, with his small blue eyes, smiled and said “Have you ever thought of working television news?”
“No,” I replied.
“Well you should, “ he shot back.
“I want to work in PR,” I stammered.
“Are you sure?” he asked. OF COURSE I’M SURE I screamed, in my head.
“Yes”…a long, drawn out yes.
“Tell you what. I’ll only give you this internship if you promise me you’ll shadow a reporter for a day.”
It was an odd way to negotiate since I had no genuine interest in television, but I reluctantly accepted.
“Okay, I promise.”
I know what you’re thinking, but that’s seriously how it unfolded. I don’t think he even glanced at my resume or cover letter. He didn’t ask me questions about why I wanted to work in PR. He seemed almost convinced, from the beginning that I would one day be working in news. And he was right.
Kenny Wardell changed the course of my life. The one of many, but one of the first to believe in me. Kenny is a great man, someone with integrity, whose intentions could never be questioned. That, I soon discovered. There was nothing sleazy about his desire to help me. I don’t know what he saw in me that day. You’d have to ask him, but I’m glad he did. Years later, I’m still in touch with him. He is a great friend, mentor and a wonderful human being who as I discovered years later, helped so many other young college students realize their dreams of working in this business too. I spent three months learning the ropes with Kenny. He took me to every event. I worked what I thought at the time was tirelessly, discovering the world of public relations. He never discouraged me, just showed me what life in PR could be like. A glimpse. And because he was so passionate and still is, about PR, it was a positive experience. I didn’t hear about the deal we’d made before I was hired as an intern until weeks before my internship in the PR department would come to an end. We were in one of the rooms, where the announcer’s voice is recorded. You know that voice you hear every night before the news? “Tonight…dangers lurking in your cupboard.” Yeah, that one. A deep voice that gets paid big bucks.
“This is so rad!” I squealed. It was a first for me. I had so much fun during my internship, but there was something about that man’s Barry White voice that excited me. Kenny brought up the promise I made. “So how about it?” I have you set up with Tom Vacar; he’s one of our best reporters. Next Tuesday. Meet him at 9am in the newsroom.”
Huh? I thought. “You already set it up?”
The truth is, I forgot about the promise I made, and while I didn’t mull over it, I was always good at keeping my word. I knew I had to do it. Yes, in a way I felt trapped. Maybe it was the fear. Fear of the unknown. He took me through the newsroom that day, introducing me to everyone. There were dozens of cubicles lined up next to each other, people talking back and forth, phones ringing, others furiously typing and talking to themselves, women in the green room getting ready for the evening newscast. It was a different world. I felt the buzz, the adrenaline, the excitement. I was curious. What planet was I on, and why I hadn’t I been here before? It was like a secret society, and the only way to earn the right of passage was to meet someone on the inside.
IF YOU'VE READ TO THIS POINT, THANK YOU. THE CHAPTER IS NOT FINISHED, BUT I JUST WANTED TO SHARE AN EXCERPT. SOMETIMES I WONDER IF I SHOULD KEEP WRITING...