Alumna Sophie Flay sitting at the ATVN broadcast desk while still in school.
Photo courtesy of Annenberg Media

Alumna shares stories of food and reporting on Los Angeles

Sophie Flay listens as her father, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, reveals the trick to making a good burger, explaining to their podcast audience that it’s his “signature move.”  The secret, he says, is to “Press your thumb into the center of the uncooked hamburger meat, making a small indent. This ensures it won’t ‘puff up,’ necessitating your ‘smashing’ it with a spatula, thus releasing juices to retain the rounded, flat burger shape.”

Their weekly podcast Always Hungry debuted on iHeartRadio in April 2021 and has since averaged more than 2300 weekly downloads. In addition to her co-hosting duties, Flay, a 2018 broadcast and digital journalism alumna, can also be seen throughout the week reporting for ABC7 as a community journalist.

Flay joined the local Los Angeles television network as a digital intern shortly after graduation and was promoted to her current position the following year. Local stories are shared both on ABC7’s social media channels, as well as on their live broadcasts.

“The community journalist program was launched to help make L.A. feel smaller,” she said. Flay, who took over the Silver Lake beat (a neighborhood north of downtown Los Angeles), said it was a “next gen” approach of utilizing reporters’ knowledge of digital journalism to “highlight some of these smaller communities.”

In this position, Flay writes, shoots, produces and edits. Whether reporting on the reopening of a classic movie theatre in Los Feliz, sharing the work of a local artist who creates miniatures of iconic Los Angles landmarks or featuring great places to eat, Flay considers herself a “multimedia journalist,” she said. “Community members understand that I'm not just here to find stories, but that this is also my community. This is my home.”

She went on to add, “This was the exact short-form reporting skill set I learned while I was at USC.”

Flay grew up in Connecticut and in high school was involved with the school’s morning news show. While she was also active in singing and theater, her love of storytelling led her to apply to the journalism program at USC Annenberg.

“What attracted me to USC was that they really seemed to encourage their students to try anything they wanted. Whether it was a club or a class outside of your major,” she said.  “When I got here, I was like, ‘Cool, I'm going to do everything.’” That included performing with the Sirens, a USC a cappella group. But it was the student-run newsroom in the USC Annenberg Media Center that became her second home. In her freshman year, Flay started on the entertainment show The Buzz, where she was one of their first anchors and went on to be a deputy editor.

Flay also took advantage of several internship opportunities while in school, including one at The Today Show and another working for Warner Bros. Even though entertainment as a career path wasn’t her first choice, she made time in her freshman year to co-host a show with her dad.

The project was for the Food Network’s Snapchat Discover platform. The digital videos, produced in 2015, featured the chef sharing never-before-seen recipes with his daughter. The twist: The videos would disappear at the end of the day.

“We kind of poked fun at the fact that, you know, my dad is obviously a very well-respected chef and I have no interest in becoming a chef,” she said. “We felt like it's very relatable, a kid in college who doesn't really know how to cook with her father trying to teach her a few things.”

As much fun as Flay said she had working with her dad, she was more interested in the medium itself rather than the content. “It was really cool to see how some of these emerging platform ideas that I had been really interested in come to life,” she said. “It helped me realize that this is the part of the industry that I wanted to explore — innovative storytelling for emerging platforms.”

In her senior year of college, Flay co-created and co-executive produced bite-sized video news segments for a new Annenberg Media vertical called “The Rundown.” The digital show was first released on Snapchat but transitioned to Instagram Stories in 2018.

“I felt very comfortable taking risks at Annenberg because it was a controlled environment,” she said. “I learned how to adapt because breaking news can happen at any time.”

Working in a variety of different positions at the media center over her four years also gave Flay the chance to practice and hone her production skills. Now, whether she is discussing recipes using chiles on her podcast or telling ABC7 viewers how trash pick-up in Tarzana is delayed due to the impact of Covid on L.A. sanitation workers, Flay gravitates toward stories that make an impact. “I want people to feel like their voices are heard and important and deserving,” she said.