Those who know me know that I have tried to spend my college career getting as much experience as I can in order to better my chances of getting a job after graduation. I have tested the waters of Sports Information, media relations, and social media, but have always had my eye on live television production. I had applied to a few internships at local TV stations but did not receive either one, which I was pretty bummed about.
But towards the middle of May I received a message from a co-worker from the Maine Red Claws who works the assignment desk at WCSH, Channel 6 NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine. He mentioned there was a freelance position opening up and he had recommended me to come and interview for it. So naturally, I went in for the interview and was offered the job on the spot! I was so excited and honestly couldn't believe that I had gotten a job at a news station considering I still have on year of school left. The News Director mentioned that it would be a great opportunity to work in different areas of the field and see what I liked and what I didn't like, before I have even graduated from school. I was extremely excited to have been given this position and took the opportunity head on.
My original freelance assignment was as a News Editor. In this role, reporters will send me their stories, which have already been edited together, and it is my job to attach them to the rundown (a computer program that ensures the segments are ready to air). I am also tasked with creating shorter segments from reporter's packages, file video, or from our NBC archive that match the script written by the producer. Doesn't seem to difficult, right?
Wrong. Let's talk about deadlines.
I am responsible for editing all the shows, which depending on the shift ranges from 3-6 shows. I also never know when scripts will be written, packages will be sent, or stories will be added or dropped, so I must be constantly working on each show. During the primetime, you must also record a soundbite with the anchor and create a segment based off their script, but that script is usually not written until 45 minutes before it must air. So you must be quick.
When I was training, I learned that if you finish editing the show five minutes before you are supposed to air, then you're early. I remember my first time editing the show on my own, I was finishing up one show, AS IT WAS STARTING.
Talk about stressful.
However after lots of practice, I was finally able to get the pace down and now I feel very confident about my ability to get each show done on time. You can never predict when something will go wrong, but I am now comfortable managing my stress level during these situations. Breaking news is always exciting as everyone in the newsroom is scrambling trying to get accurate information to air as soon as possible. However usually by the time all the facts are straight and the stories are written, I have about five minutes (if I am lucky) to edit something to air. My first night on my own, the Sanford Mill burnt down- which is a HUGE story. I was editing footage and trying to run the prompter all at once! Fun times.
I have covered every shift possible, which can take a toll on your body since one shift runs from 2 PM-12 AM and the other starts at 2:30 AM- 1PM. The weekend shifts are a bit easier since there aren't as many shows, so it is much more relaxing. However I am not sure if I will ever get used to waking up for work at 1 AM.
I have also taken some freelance shifts down in the studio working as a camera operator. My first thought was: "Oh I'll probably just stand behind the cameras and cue the talent."
Wrong, once again.
The camera operator has a large variety of tasks. I set up the downstairs studio, as well as the studio in the newsroom upstairs. This involves turning on all TVs, prompters, lights, and cameras and making sure they are properly set up for each show. All of the cameras are operated from a single switch board, so once I have set everything up in the studio I must make sure the cameras are properly framed and lighted at the switcher.
Once the scripts for each show are printed, I must review them to see which set the anchors are supposed to be at, and if needed assemble that set. The studio at Channel 6 is relatively small, with one area of the studio able to become three different set ups. So during commercial breaks, which are roughly only about 2 minutes or less, I must move all the furniture and rearrange the cameras to make sure the anchors are framed properly in their new location.
I am also tasked with the responsibility of cueing all the talent during the shows, essentially operating as a floor director. And finally, I run the prompter for the first few shows as well. This job is much more social as I am able to interact with the directors and anchors much more than when I am trapped in a dark edit bay upstairs in the newsroom.
So although this role was definitely more than I expected, once I learned where the cameras were supposed to be set up for each set, the job became pretty easy...and FUN!
Overall, I have absolutely loved the experience I have received at the station thus far, both in the newsroom and in the studio. I have been getting offers to work lots of shifts and in various roles which I am extremely excited about. I hope that I will soon be able to be trained in other roles such as a photographer, or even a reporter. But the experience I have received so far is way more than I ever could have received in an internship! (Plus the pay is nice too.)
I can't wait to see what my future as in store at Channel 6!