The Life of a News Reporter
By ALEXIS CORBIN and RACHEL HIRSCHHEIMER
The hours are crazy, the stories are sad, and only the strong survive. It’s the life of a news reporter.
“You learn along the way,” WNBC traffic reporter Lauren Scala said from her makeup chair at 3:30 a.m. “I kind of got thrown into it. It’s either sink or swim.”
When viewers tune into respective news stations like WNBC, all they see are airbrushed news anchors, a pleasant background, and a desk topped with a few coffee mugs. However, there is much more going on behind the scenes than one would think. From reporters dashing to the control room delivering last-minute segments, to news anchors improvising on air, even the most average of days in the life of a news reporter is very exciting.
Although being a news reporter is an incredibly stressful and demanding field of work, the most passionate anchors say that certain moments make it all worth it.
WNBC news anchor Michael Gargiulo described the defining moment in his career as the time he traveled to the island of Iwo Jima, where the famous World War II raising of the flag took place on Mount Suribachi. “It was the most exciting thing because it was a place that was extremely inaccessible to most people, and I was able to go here with these veterans who were in their eighties to revisit their battle and be able to stand on Mount Suribachi,” Gargiulo said. “That’s something I will never forget.”
Another WNBC anchor Darlene Rodriguez, explained that her favorite stories to report are “the little victories.” Rodriguez said that she often reports stories that touch viewers emotionally, like one concerning landlords not providing heat for tenants, leaving many families to struggle. “When I would do those stories and find out the next week that the landlord was fined or had to make repairs or even find out that they do have heat, you feel good and feel that your work made some sort of difference,” Rodriguez said. “It’s small, but it matters.”
WNBC field reporter Ida Siegal explained that the stories that affect her the most often deal with children and communities. Some memorable stories that she has covered are the 9/11 attacks, the capture of Osama Bin Laden, Hurricane Sandy, and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I’ve wanted to be a news reporter since I was 16 years old,” Siegal said. “At that time, I met former ABC news anchor Peter Jennings on a class trip and thought if there is anything I can do to assist in any part of this process, please let me know.” She thought he was one of the smartest men in the world and “wanted to be just like him.” It was then that she started to “do research on how to become a news reporter.”
Other news anchors didn’t fall into their field of work so easily. “I had a different background,” said News12 news anchor Stone Grissom. “I am a lawyer. I started off as a legal analyst. I kind of fell into it. I moved from that to doing what I do now. It is a long process and there is a lot of luck involved.”
Fellow News12 anchor Stacey Bell said, “I’ve never done anything else in my adult life. I am from the South, and I lived in Cleveland, Ohio for about 13 years. I worked for the Fox affiliate there and then I got married, and my husband was here, so I had to move here.”
“I like human interest stories more where you can go out and talk to people,” Bell added. “Say someone just had a lung transplant and you can talk to them about their transplant and the person they got it from. I just like stories that anyone can relate to. I like stories that tug at the heart strings and play with your emotions,” stated Bell. On the other hand, Grissom stated that his favorite topics are of a different sort. “My favorite stories are legal stories or big political stories. I love it when the different parties are fighting and arguing about stuff.”
“It was just what I always wanted to do,” Stacey Bell said of journalism. “I would watch the news growing up, and I just always wanted to do it…I don’t know what else I would want to do. It’s my job and it is fun, when I’m not here for 11 hours,” she joked. Scala remarked that it takes a certain type of person to be a reporter; an honorable journalist must have a passion for telling people’s stories. Since being a reporter can be a tough, on-the-spot type of job, one is bound to make a couple missteps throughout her career. “We all make mistakes, but the one thing I never do is try and cover it up,” Scala said. “I try to own it. You have to make mistakes. It makes you grow as a person. Unfortunately, we make mistakes in front of a lot of people.”
While watching Chris Cimino, one may think that anyone can be a meteorologist and read off of a teleprompter, but Cimino doesn’t use one. Rather, he uses just a green screen and a camera. He improvises daily and takes any missteps in stride.
“With more experience you know how to craft a story. You get better at it,” said Rodriguez of the job’s learning curve. “When you do a story on somebody, whether they did something wrong or were accused of something, make sure you treat them in your story in a fair way so if you saw that person the next day, you can look them in the eye and know that you treated them fairly.”
Gargiulo said, “The truth always counts as well as finding the truth. Being objective is very crucial. It’s hard sometimes because it might seem as if someone did something really terrible and they might be a terrible person for doing it. But remember, people are suspects, and defendants are not guilty until the jury finds them guilty. Even then, sometimes it might have been a mistake. You get better at it, and you learn from your previous mistakes.”
“It’s okay to be afraid,” Siegel added. It’s okay to feel intimidated. Don’t let it stop you. If someone tells you you’re doing it wrong, you’ve asked a dumb question, you have the wrong information, brush yourself off and use the criticism to your advantage. Learn how to do it correctly next time.”