CNN, Trojan network and digital trends

Full circle

Today was a dream. We met with CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin after watching the taping of her live show. Brooke went to the same high school as me in Atlanta, Georgia and was the commencement speaker at my graduation in 2015. While I was in high school, I had the opportunity to interview her for my high school’s web-tv station and pick her brain on how to enter the field of journalism. When the Maymester schedule was released and I saw a CNN company visit was listed, I immediately reached out to Brooke.

Today, I felt like things came full circle when I got to witness Brooke thrive in her element. We walked into the television studio and watched Brooke report breaking news just when the teleprompter went black. The show was live, so Brooke was forced to ad-lib without assistance from a pre-planned script, all while juggling various guests. Her producers hurriedly printed off and handed her notes and talking points under the anchor desk as the story evolved. She was in the zone, and not even eighteen hovering college students crammed in the studio could break her focus.

Ten minutes later, she was sitting and laughing with us in a conference room sharing how her career has developed at CNN. We talked about the challenges Brooke faced while reporting the 2016 election cycle and she encouraged us to staying politically informed about all sides no matter what your viewpoints are. 

While at CNN, the Maymester group also met with Wendy Brundige, executive producer of CNN Digital Video. Wendy graduated from USC Annenberg in ’04 and worked in the media center as an ATVN producer. Like Brooke, Wendy similarly stressed the importance of being well-read and informed. She said that in order to be a good story teller, it’s imperative to be able to talk about a wealth of topics. I hope to pursue a career in digital or television production at the network level, so Wendy provided helpful insight into how to break into and succeed in this industry.

I grew up in the same town and walked the same high school halls as Brooke. I’ve worked the same media center shifts at Annenberg as Wendy did during her time at USC. Hearing how these relatable women are paving the way and taking on leadership roles at a media powerhouse like CNN was an experience I’ll never forget.

East-West Trojan connection

I’m from Atlanta and I’ve always known that I want to eventually make it back to the East Coast. Working in the media mecca of New York City has always been a dream of mine. When I was weighing college options, choosing to attend Annenberg was a no brainer because of its reputation as one of the top journalism schools in the country. The only reservations I ever had was that it might be hard to find jobs and connect with employers on the East Coast. I had heard of the extensive Trojan network, but I thought the emphasis was mainly on connections within Southern California. The Maymester trip completely changed my outlook.

On Tuesday night, the Maymester group attended a networking reception with Annenberg alums, board members, and Trojan parents. The reception was held on the roof patio of the Viacom offices in Times Square and it was packed. Most of the professionals in attendance worked in the city and had made the jump from USC to New York. However, the emphasis was not on the successful careers of the alums who worked at companies like the MLB, Buzzfeed, CNN or the New York Times. To my surprise, the focus was instead turned toward the current students. All of these alums came to meet and hear about our experiences at Annenberg.

At that event, I truly realized how the Annenberg network is so large, yet closely connected. About two hundred people came to reconnect with old classmates, and well as welcome the current Maymester students to New York. At the end of this program, I will be staying in the city to intern for the digital video department at Fox News digital. By happenstance, I struck up a conversation with an alum who worked at Fox Digital and whose husband worked in the exact department I will be in this summer. I got insiders’ advice on how to stand out as an intern and had instantly built connections at the company before my first day on the job. Each alum I talked to seemed eager to offer insight and stay in touch by exchanging contact information.

In such a large city, I already feel like I have a smaller community to reach out to or seek advice from. I’ve heard many things about the Trojan network, but I never realized how deep its roots were in other parts of the country. As someone who hopes to build a career on the East Coast, it’s nice to know there is a bit of cardinal and gold to welcome me wherever I go. 

Dream come true

When I was a senior in high school, I wrote about the Maymester trip in my USC Annenberg application essay. I had researched Annenberg, and the Maymester trip stood out to me even before I was accepted and enrolled as a Trojan. I started applying to the trip as a freshman and was fortunate to finally get accepted this year as a rising Junior. I had researched everything I believed there was to know about the trip, and talked to as many students as possible who had gone in previous years.  Still, my expectations were far exceeded.

Not only did I make great contacts in the industry, but I also got to pick the brains of top media executives on where they think the industry is headed.  A reoccurring theme came up at multiple company visits. While we visited a variety of places, from legacy television networks to new media startups, the consensus on where the industry is heading remained the same: soon, people will consume most of their news on their cell phone.

With the convergence of attention to the phone, there is increased competition for views and consumers. Executives at ABC, Vice News, the Skimm and the NBA all said that there is a content overload in the digital space. There are more content producers than ever now that everyone is capturing video with their phone and posting on social media.  However, Senior Executive Producer of ABC Digital, Dan Silver, attested that the digital departments at TV networks will be more successful because of their extensive audience reach and financial resources. Even with an arsenal of resources, Silver said he is weary of using every new trendy tool or platform.  For example, virtual reality, augmented reality and Facebook’s 360 video are all relatively new, but Silver will only use the tool if it adds to the consumer’s experience and not merely just to say ABC did it. While every company is trying to harness the newest emerging technology and media, it’s still important to produce stories outside of the top news of the day.

At Good Morning America, Executive Producer, Michael Corn, said the show increased its White House coverage from two minutes to ten ever since the election ramped up. Given that most networks structure their coverage based on what Trump does that day, Corn stressed the importance of finding unique stories that haven’t been saturated in the news yet. GMA producers have the luxury of finding more human interest and lifestyle stories, as the morning show format allows more variety in coverage. For example, the production staff may pine local news for unusual video that a national audience would also find interesting.

While it’s important to stay up-to-date on the newest emerging media technology, finding unique characters and stories will set your coverage apart in the content-heavy digital space.