2012 PFIG Recipient Jenna Dagenhart
College of Arts & Sciences
Media Studies Major
2013 Gradutation Year
Internship: CBS News Internship Program
Notes on the first week
Wow! If this is the life of a news reporter sign me up, please. My first week of interning with CBS News proved quite busy, albeit incredibly spontaneous and fun! My first day did not begin in an office, but rather in the Emergency Room at the John's Hopkins Children Center. Here, we interviewed a Sisters of Mercy Catholic nun, Karen Schneider, and a 15-year-old boy that she rescued from Guyana. Sister Karen also happens to be a Hopkins physician who leads mission trips to third-world countries like Haiti and Kenya in her spare time… talk about an angel. Here is a link to the story we did on the Vatican crackdown on modern nuns featuring Sister Karen: cbsn.ws/KdN4BO. I am hoping that the first day's shoot is an accurate indicator of the rest of this internship's adventures.
Even though it has only been a week, I have met a diversity of inspiring people who love what they do and love to share their wisdom with others. I am interning directly with Wyatt Andrews, a UVA grad turned Emmy-award-winning national news correspondent. Not only is he very talented, but also very patient and very willing to help me climb the broadcast news learning curve. He shares his thought process with me during preparations and research, during the on-site interviews, during the script writing, and during the post-production editing. The news producers, the Final Cut Pro editors, the other reporters, the sound/video technicians and all the other team members of the Washington bureau are also very insightful and collaborative. It is amazing how much I've absorbed just from observations and my interactions with these people- although each time I fill up the sponge with knowledge I know I must wring it out into my brain so that I build on those findings and absorb more from the next story we do. In my first week, I also read a book Wyatt gave me called Writing Broadcast News.
Our office is located on 2020 M Street in NW Washington, DC so nothing near the nation's capital is out of our reach. Location is one factor that fuels the spontaneity I am enjoying as an intern. For example, Thursday was supposed to be an office day to research upcoming projects. That changed. Before I could get my first assignment, I was traveling with Wyatt to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Upon arrival, I got to shadow his interview with the Center's president, Ernie Allen. I also watched the cameramen work their magic and capture footage of a worker drawing retrograde photos (digital sketches of how missing children age physically over time). Here is the link to the news story from that day: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7409660n. It is called a "bounce piece" because it makes a connection between one of the preceding stories in the news lineup- the 1979 kidnapping of Etan Patz- and how that story has impacted American culture and the law enforcement response to the tragedy of missing children.
In addition to shadowing Wyatt, I would like to go on a shoot with another reporter in the bureau at some point to see his or her approach. Some of my goals for the summer are to get much better at script writing, phrasing questions during interviews, researching in the Nexis database, using Final Cut Pro, and recording voice track with inflection. By the end of the summer, I hope to us the CBS resources to create a resume reel of news stories that I have researched, written, edited and self-reported. The record number of stories an intern has put on a reel is five or six. My goal is seven stories. I am learning a lot about persistence and dedication when it comes to pursuing your passion. The news industry is full of challenges, but you have to embrace that, feed off of it. Wyatt explained the "rule of 10,000 hours" to me during one of our car rides: the professionals have fallen many times, but that's why they are where they are- they get up stronger than before, believe in themselves, and practice harder than the competition. If you keep digging, you will make it to China.
Washington was a hub for breaking news during this period, and I learned infinite lessons while covering stories taking place at the heart of all three branches of government: the White House, Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, I physically carried history in my hands. Wearing a pencil skirt and sneakers, I would dash from inside the Supreme Court Document Room to the CBS reporters outside and hand them the Supreme Court rulings. Despite running track in high school, I have never been carried by more of an adrenaline rush. The morning the Supreme Court upheld Obama’s Affordable Care Act, I ran into a sea of protestors as I sprinted to Wyatt at his location about 400 yards away. Wyatt and I spent the rest of the day conducting interviews and putting together Wyatt’s piece about Chief Justice Roberts. Roberts, a conservative, surprised many Americans because he provided the pivotal vote in keeping Obama’s mandate alive. Here is the story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2gqlrQplzM. At the end of this historical day, Wyatt sent me to watch Scott Pelley anchor Evening News live out of the special CBS DC location overlooking Capitol Hill. I always thought that the backgrounds of the Capitol were fake screens, but that day I learned they are indeed real. CBS’s Jill Jackson summed up the Supreme Court ACA ruling well in this article, and she even mentions the sneaker interns in the second paragraph: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57463223-503544/supreme-court-rul....
As research and responsibilities increased, the middle period of this internship felt like climbing to the peak of a roller coaster. The rising pressure only tempted me to push more, and I found myself staying at the Bureau well past 7:00 PM when the Evening News finished. Then on July 9th, the roller coaster whisked me to the White House! During my week here, I worked alongside CBS Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell and her broadcast associate, Jillian Hughes. Norah is very smart, talented, and unafraid to ask challenging questions- even when the recipient is John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Jay Carney, etc. Norah and Wyatt have taught me that even though you want to be respectful during interviews and press briefings, your goal as a reporter is to expose the truth. The CBS booth is just down the hall from the White House Briefing Room that you always see on TV.
My first day interning at the White House, Jillian and I attended Obama’s speech in the East Room, where he urged congress to extend Bush-era tax-cuts for the middle class. Jillian and I accidentally ended up on C-SPAN in the background of a broadcast. Obama traveled on his campaign trail a few days that week, so I watched Obama take off once and land once in Marine-1. When Obama’s helicopter lands or takes off on South Lawn, you feel like you are right there with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz with violent winds coming from the M-1 chopper. We would pass by the Rose Garden every time we traveled from the White House Press Wing to South Lawn. I also enjoyed seeing Bo, the Obama’s dog, running on North Lawn. On my last day interning at the White House, I attended a luncheon with Michelle Obama to recognize young design pioneers. (Michelle Obama’s arm muscles are just as strong in person as you would imagine them.) In addition to all of unforgettable experiences, I learned a lot about tax returns, the functions of the Executive Office, and how President Obama communicates with Congress. Lastly, with the help of the CBS cameramen, I did two on-camera stand-ups at the White House to use for my reel! I discussed Romney’s tax returns in the first on-camera and then in the second on-camera, I talked about Obama’s tax-cut extension plan.
My first visit to the Senate was with Wyatt on July 5th to watch him do his live on-camera close for this story:http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7413956n. I also feel very appreciative for the opportunities CBS has given me to branch out and explore some of its other programs. When Charlie Rose anchored CBS This Morning live from our DC Bureau, Jenna Gibson gave me the job of greeting the guests in the Green Room reception area. After giving him his egg and sausage breakfast sandwich, I got to talk to Charlie Rose for a bit and he said he loved UVA. Another day, I went out to lunch with one of the 60 minutes producers, Kevin Livelli, whom I met at UVA when he guest-lectured a media studies class. Kevin and I had a memorable conversation about his CBS trip to Haiti following the earthquake. One stone still left unturned for me is Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. It is America’s most-watched Sunday morning news show and I would love to help out with this program once before the summer is over.
My internship should have ended on July 20th but that date evolved to August 16th because I really enjoyed being at CBS and there was still plenty to do. When Wyatt left for vacation, I used the break to finalize stories for my pitch reel and shoot stand-ups around DC with the cameramen. I did two on-cameras at the Supreme Court, one at the Senate, two in the newsroom, one outside the building on 2020 M Street and one upstairs in the interview room. Each stand-up taught me to strengthen delivery and avoid distractions. I am deathly afraid of bees and for one of the on-cameras I had to say my memorized lines while standing atop an underground beehive. At the Senate building, I did my lines in front of a middle school fieldtrip. One of the most important things that Wyatt taught me about stand-ups is that you want to zone out the distractions and look through the camera lens to imagine your family sitting around at the dinner table. This helps you relax.
After shooting the stand-ups, I voice tracked for the remaining portions of my scripts. The editors could not have been more generous with their time, helping me navigate through Final Cut Pro to create finalized story pieces. Going into the summer, I barely knew how to use FCP, but now thanks to the editors, I feel comfortable cutting pieces and adding some of the basic special effects like dissolves. Knowing these skills and having a pitch reel will be very important once it is time to apply for jobs.
During the final portion of my internship, I also got to visit the CBS New York Broadcast Center to see Scott Pelley anchor, help out with Bob Schieffer’s Face the Nation broadcast the Sunday after the Aurora shootings during an emotionally challenging time, and spend a week at Capitol Hill helping Jill Jackson. While here, I had the opportunity to meet John McCain and attend a floor vote on Obama’s tax-cut extension proposal.
The lessons I learned at CBS about dedication during difficult times like the Aurora shootings, strong delivery during on-cameras, thorough research leading up to stories, and having tough skin will stick with me as I return to Charlottesville and resume reporting for WUVA-Media. I found that embracing criticism is the only way to fix mistakes. I was very fortunate to have a boss and mentor like Wyatt who would give me his honesty and show me how to work through weaknesses. He also motivated me to chase my ambitions following the Rule of 10,000 Hours. Because of my experiences with Wyatt, I feel that I grew not only as a news reporter but also as a person. I am much more curious about the world and how I can make a difference in it. Wyatt once told me that there are two types of people in life: those who run away from the fire and those who run towards the fire. One day I aspire to be an international news broadcaster who travels to third-world countries and provides a voice for those who do not make it into the mainstream media. My only piece of advice for future PCIG recipients is this: Run towards the fire.