Hello, wonderful people! I hope all is well in your worlds. For those of you who follow me on social media (I’m @sydneyumeri on all platforms), you may have seen my picture in the Newsroom studio at CNN. While this is an exciting time in my life, I want to take a moment to put things in perspective.
To say the least a lot has changed these days, but at the same time, not much has changed at all. Contrary to the thoughts of many, no, I do not work for CNN. I’m not an anchor, and you won’t be able to catch my work on TV… yet!
I am currently an intern under the wonderful and talented George Howell who for the last month has taken me under his wing and shown me what the work of a seasoned news anchor and journalist looks like. Before continuing, I want to highlight the fact that without George and the connections/networking that was put in place to connect us, this internship would not be possible. So I am incredibly thankful to him and the people who were able to make this happen.
For those who don’t know, George anchors for CNN Newsroom between 4-7:30am Thursday through Monday. This means that my internship actually takes place within those hours. Yes, I wake up at 1:20am on Saturdays and Sundays, and shadow George from roughly 3am to 8:30am.
During that time, I watch him prepare for each show, write and re-write scripts, communicate between the studio and production room, line up questions for interviews, and of course, deliver each show live. As each show takes place, I follow along through either the teleprompter or written scripts and take notes on how he is able to deliver each story, his mannerisms, inflection, etc. Then come about 6 or 6:30am it’s my turn. I get the opportunity to do a cut-in.
A cut-in is basically announcements inserted into a network program. In the case of CNN’s Newsroom, at the bottom of every show, quick headlines of the top stories are given leading into another regularly scheduled programming. Now, as I mentioned before, my work does not go on air, and thank goodness it doesn’t because to be candid, I have a lot of work to do.
As an aspiring broadcaster, I have not gotten the opportunity to truly work and hone my craft. That is until now. For the first time ever, I did a cut-in the morning of Saturday, August 5th, and guys, it wasn’t pretty. I struggled through sentences, stumbled over words, and ultimately ended up stopping not even half way through the first script because I was just so shocked and overwhelmed. If you know anything about broadcasting, the biggest rule is to not stop regardless of circumstances.
We were able to run it back, and I read through one script completely, still struggling through it, but the point is, I got it done. Despite the significant improvement of being able to finish the second time around, I found it hard to celebrate. I was scared from the first take. 😬 Truly, broadcasting is more difficult than we give anchors and reporters credit for.
Having watched Geroge for the past four weeks and seeing everything that goes into broadcasting, I have even more respect for what anchors, reporters, and everyone in between do. Broadcasting isn’t just talking or reading, there is an aspect of performance that goes into it. To hold the attention of millions while essentially reading a story is not easy, so there is a lot to be learned about inflection, body language, pacing, and even reading from the teleprompter without letting you eyes constantly scroll from left to right.
Speaking of reading, that is another aspect of broadcasting that is quite difficult for me. Yes, I can read, but just as some people have a fear of public speaking, my biggest anxiety provoker is public reading. I’ve never been very good at it, and the fact that the profession I aspire to requires so much of it is nerve racking. Every day that I get up and go to CNN, I have to face one of my biggest fears, and that alone is a lesson that I would like to share with you all.
The first day I shadowed under George I swear I was ready to give up my dream of broadcasting because I thought there is no way I could overcome my anxiety towards reading out loud. Not to the point where my job could depend on it.
But with little consistent acts of perseverance and courage, I continue to show up every Saturday and Sunday. Not just for myself, but because of the time, energy, and wonderful teaching George invests in me. Most days are hard because I really have to push myself out of my comfort zone. I usually leave exhausted just because of the mental push I assert solely to overcome my anxiety and ultimately negative self-talk. But despite the days being hard, there isn’t a day I walk out of CNN thinking, I didn’t get better. I always move the needle forward in one way or another, even on the day I completely botched a cut-in, my first cut-in.
After that day, I returned on Sunday, August 6th, determined to have a better showing. In my mind, nothing could be worse than my first take from the previous day. It turns out, I was right. I could only go up from there. I was able to complete a full cut-in, and despite stammering through parts, I made significant progress towards my ultimate goal.
I share this story just to say that the road to any goal, anything worthwhile, is never painless. Oftentimes, we look at the successful people who have gone before us and think, “They make it look easy. They probably never struggled like I do.”
Well, you’re wrong. Everyone struggled at one point, or several, and made the conscious decision to persevere. Now, this isn’t a story to pat me on the back. That would be ridiculous. But I hope it serves as inspiration to some and for others a little reminder that you’re not alone as you struggle and persevere towards your goal. This is just the first step to getting there. We all have to pay our dues, and for many of us, we are doing that now.
I’m not exactly where I want to be yet, but hopefully one day you’ll turn on your TV and find my relaying the most recent news happening or giving you a rundown of the day’s sports.
I also share this story to put my picture, and other things on social media in perspective. As I’ve mentioned before, social media is a highlight reel, and that day at CNN was a highlight for me, as is every other day I get the opportunity to walk in that building and get better. But I don’t want you for one second to think I’ve “made it” or believe I have a role that I don’t currently possess. Instead, I want to give you the full story. I’m an intern who’s getting better, and I’m proud of it!
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Until next time, get up, get moving, and live your best life!