It's been almost a year since I first started as a news assistant at ABC 7 in Los Angeles. Next Thursday will be my last day.
I'll never forget the "mandatory" meeting all of the assistants had with Cheryl Fair and Rob Elmore (President and Vice President of ABC 7) about a month after I first started. As we all gathered around our Executive Producer's desk, we all wondered what the higher-ups at our station possibly had to say to us.
"We brought you guys here today to remind you that you are never 'just' a news assistant," Cheryl Fair said. "Every single one of you is a valuable part of the team and you are just as important as anyone else that is here. You are just as important as Mark Brown." For reference, Mark Brown is an evening news anchor at the station who has been anchoring for as long as I've been alive.
We then went on to introduce ourselves and explain about our aspirations as reporters, producers, and storytellers.
Though brief, we walked out of that meeting excited for the future. We joked about how it couldn't be possible that we (easily replaceable) were more important than anchor Mark Brown (not so easily replaceable), but it was the thought that counts. Some of the assistants who have been around for more than one year said that a meeting like this has never happened before and that it meant a lot to them.
Though I've learned so much about show production, writing, and some of the most valuable things I've learned in the newsroom have nothing to do with news at all. They all have to do with people and these lessons will be applicable to any relationship and job I decide to start and maintain in the future.
I worked the overnight shift on the day of the Thousand Oaks mass shooting, the shooting that killed 13 people. Among the 13 was 1 sergeant, 1 shooter, and 11 victims. To constantly be listening and watching over and over about deaths and sad family memories in the midst of frustrated and stressed producers yelling is an experience I never prepared for.
One of my favorite memories was volunteering for ABC7’s Spark of Love Toy Drive. The toy drive is an event sponsored by our station where we collect toys for children, especially the ones affected by the Woolsey fires. I spent an entire day in the city of Glendora where I got to meet so many kind and warm Eyewitness News watchers. I was so happy to interact with the local community and people who actually watch the newscast that everyone works so hard to put together every single day. There was an old man who told me he wakes up at 4am every single day to watch his favorite anchors Leslie and Phillip. I thought it was really sweet how he knows which slot each reporter usually reports during and how he told me he could see me becoming a big reporter/anchor one day.
Whether it’s a hurricane, car crash, or in this case a shooting, it is the media’s responsibility to report it objectively. On your screen it says the number of people dead. It happens daily. Eventually, you stop caring. It’s as normal as brushing your teeth in the morning. It’s just a number to you. But this is someone’s lover, someone’s child, someone with their whole life ahead of them. When you think about it in that point of view, the burden weighs heavily as you mindlessly log a press conference on a shooting at 3:30 a.m.
Thousand Oaks, CA is a safe community. One of the safest in the area. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, terrible things will always happen. It was very tiring to work overtime during the fires, but at least I felt like what I was doing was meaningful. I worked the teleprompter and helped logged the press conferences from the police department, fire department, and city council.
During my time at KABC, I feel like I have adapted and grown so much since I first started. There were so many different personalities in the newsroom and I often took things very personally when producers, editors, or managers were frustrated. In addition, I wasn’t used to the immense amount of pressure working a live show would bring me. I’ve been in the reporting side of it at school, but being in the control room where everything seems to be going wrong is a very different experience. I worked overtime, weekends, holidays, and on crazy news days. We’ve covered murders, shootings, fires, and floods like it was just another day. I learned so much about discipline, hard work, and growing a thick skin in news. It’s not as fair or as glamorous as it seems on the outside. Sometimes, people are rude to you for no reason. It often has nothing to do with you and it might be a projection of the frustration they are feeling from either themselves or the current situation. I remember feeling so sleep deprived going in at 3am to work, but I realize how lucky I am to even have this opportunity.
Earlier this year, I was frustrated at myself for not being where I envisioned myself to be yet. But now I realize I wasn’t stuck— I was learning and improving. Figuring out who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.
Just because someone isn’t constantly broadcasting their successes doesn’t mean they’re not growing. I did a mix of print, for digital, and broadcast journalism in college (unlike many other people who mostly stuck to a niche), so it was not exactly clear to me which route I should ultimately pursue. Journalism is so broad. With the same degree, you could be a sports reporter, food columnist, data journalist, social media/audience manager for a newspaper, and still be a “journalist.”
Working in news for the past few years has broadened my view on the world and left me conflicted—I am both jaded and hopeful about the current state of our country. Perception is often confused for reality and it is so important, now more than ever, that journalists use their ability to shape public opinion (whether its print, digital, broadcast, local, national, etc) to influence the world in a positive way.
I am super grateful for all my family and mentors I’ve met at ABC7 and USC who have helped me grow and follow my dream this past year. And of course to my parents for their unwavering belief in me as we visited so many random towns and news stations all over the country.
I am both excited and scared to leave Los Angeles as I embark on my next journey to becoming a full-time on-air Multimedia journalist for NBC-affiliate KYMA11 in the beginning of June. I hope to learn on my own, grow out of my comfort zone, and make a positive impact Yuma, Arizona.