By Alex Blute
I distinctly remember the afternoon it hit me that this experience was something special. A few of my fellow reporters and I were on a Capitol-bound metro train, video camera gear in tow, surrounded by sweaty summer tourists. My phone rings. I hear myself say to my colleagues: “Maybe it’s the White House returning my call.”
The ears on a few of the tourists perk up. They shoot a look at the media credential around my neck. I counter with a demure little half-smile that says both “Yes, I know. You probably think I’m pretty important,” and “Being important is hard work. Look at all this heavy equipment I have to lug around.” The smile seems to further endear me to the tourists.
But then I suddenly realize: This really could be THE WHITE HOUSE calling ME! Seriously? Could the humid, 100-degree weather have somehow turned my brain to mush? More importantly, am I really about to miss a call from the First Lady’s office because I jammed too many reporters’ notebooks in my purse this morning and can’t find my phone?! (I also did some split-second wondering about why handbag designers don’t make the darn things more practical, but that’s beside the point.)
As it turned out, that particular call wasn’t from Michelle Obama herself. Oh well. The tourists would never be the wiser. But the experience provides a perfect little glimpse into all the excitement life has to offer for a few dozen members of the S.I. Newhouse School’s Summer-In-D.C. broadcast journalism program.
For a whirlwind six-weeks, we pack up our tripods, and take the skills learned during our year as Newhouse graduate students to the nation’s capital. There, we do the one thing that we couldn’t do at Newhouse, the thing that ultimately proves we’re journalists worth our salt: We get real jobs.
I spend my days looking for Washington-area stories that are meaningful for folks in North Texas and feeding soundbites or video back to Wichita Falls. My colleagues, meanwhile, are having D.C. experiences that could be completely different from mine, each focused on their individual area of interest. For those like me, who want on-air jobs in news, we’re hooked up with stations across the country—from Peoria, Illinois, to Shreveport, Louisiana—as D.C. affiliate reporters. Similarly, students who want careers in sports generally cover athletic events for the small or mid-sized market to which they’ve been assigned. We have a newsroom of our own, staffed with a handful of summer professors, including former senior producers at NBC and ABC, who are tasked with overseeing our work.
Students on track for careers in radio broadcasting or producing work outside the newsroom, are hired for the summer by some of the biggest names in American media. NBC, CBS, and NPR are just a few of the companies who have S.U. students contributing to their daily, on-air content. During our summer program, the Newhouse student bureau fields the most TV reporters at one time in Washington.
In the past, many Newhouse students wound up being hired by the stations they worked for during the Washington program. For most of us, this means the stakes are quite high. But to ensure we don’t run ourselves into the ground, we’re treated to little breaks from the chaos with a weekly speaker series. We can always count on an inspirational presentation from a top area journalist (and some free food!) every Wednesday evening. So far we’ve collected professional advice and life tips from a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, the Senate producer at NBC, and a freelancer who spent time embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, to name a few.
With everyone on the precipice of graduation (and that long-awaited first paycheck), leaving our summer program may prove bittersweet. Sure, we’ve finally felt the rush that comes with life as legitimate, working broadcast journalists. And, yes, we’ve hobnobbed with D.C.’s best and brightest—people who have the jobs we’d like to do someday. But there won’t be anything quite like these days, when everything is new and fresh and unknown. But I guess that’s what it means to get a Newhouse education.
Someday soon, when our phones are ringing and—with any luck—it actually is the White House, we won’t have to agonize about whether we’re ready to pick up. We won’t have to question whether we’re capable of telling the stories that matter to people.
We will just answer the call.
Alex Blute is a graduate student in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and French from the University of Arizona in Tucson and has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. She will begin law school in the fall and hopes to pursue a career as a legal analyst.
Professor Jeffrey Good will discuss his research on how patients and health care providers interact, and how it can be applied to improve patient-provider communication.
2301 Calvert Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Monday though Friday 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Open evenings and weekend for classes