By Tara Dorfman
The BBC — it’s the most massive news organization in the world, employing over 20,000 people. As an American student who had never officially worked in a newsroom before, I was slightly intimidated to begin work as a production intern at the BBC’s live, nightly newscast, BBC World News America. I imagined an office filled with the dry humor (or should I say humour), delightful accents and sprightly attitudes of a largely British crew. While some of this stood true, I learned much more than a few new British colloquialisms.
Like every other senior in SMPA, I’ve had my fair share of internships. I’ve spent time on the Hill, and I’ve helped produce documentaries for HBO and Sundance with a company in New York City. I’m also currently working at Discovery Communications, blogging in their digital media department. BBC World News America has been the first hard-news experience I have ever really had—and I’m glad to have that credential.
The show was housed in the same newsroom as the BBC’s DC bureau, and I was primarily responsible for a few different things. Each day, I helped produce a 30-second “promo” to tease that night’s show; I then helped deliver the piece to affiliate networks. I also booked interesting and eloquent guests, conducted research for packages, and learned how to properly operate a teleprompter.
When you push aside all of the technical knowledge I have gained in my day-to-day responsibilities, I feel as thought I learned two major things:
- Responsible, intelligent, respectable news organizations DO still exist. It’s been so incredibly enlightening to be part of a news organization that offers fair, unbiased news that puts forth a different, more international perspective. This internship has allowed me to take interest in issues that other American news programs often don’t show at all.
- Journalism really IS a tough business.I got to see firsthand just how unstable and transient this type of work can really be. About a month ago, BBC America decided it was going to make a switch and become a more “entertainment-oriented” network. The show’s hour-long format was cut down to a half-hour and along with it, our budget and crew were cut in half as well. Hardworking and talented members of the WNA team were forced to find work elsewhere. Though the downsize had nothing to do with the quality of the show, massive changes are made by higher-ups and everyone must adjust accordingly. I saw the show’s team roll with the punches while maintaining the excellence of the program, and I quickly realized the importance of flexibility in this business.
With graduation looming large and uncertainties about my career path becoming more palpable, I’m unsure about whether or not I will be a journalist. What I do know is that SMPA has given me marketable skills, has allowed me to have unique experiences like the one I had at the BBC, and has encouraged me to go for it—whatever “it” may be.