I got my internship for the fall semester of my junior year, working for a very well-known media conglomerate. At orientation, we were assigned to one of three areas: the basement, reviewing old tapes and doing the worst of all bitch work; the third floor, helping producers; or the cream of the crop—working for a specific show. I was assigned to work on a live morning show on its network.
If you’ve never heard of this host or his show, no worries. Not many people watch an obscure man on TV at ungodly hours unless they are waiting for a pap smear or root canal. The first time I met him, I was introduced as New Intern, he shook my hand, and I was starstruck. I was going to charm this guy and we were going to be besties, setting me up for a life of hard-hitting political journalism.
Despite being from West Virginia which, when located on a map, is clearly its own state, my boss did not seem to understand me. He knew only about WVU, the state’s largest school and popular sports teams, and the fact that I chose to go somewhere else in the state perplexed him. He also seemed to find my name — a common, simple name — immensely difficult to 1. Say 2. Remember 3. Care about. Perhaps I was naïve going into the internship, but I did expect to be called by my first name on occasion rather than being pointed at and summoned like a puppy. I was then given the all-important task of Tweeting the guests’ Twitter handles. I was told this was a huge responsibility. The producer I shared an office with smelled like BO and refused to speak before 9 am. I had obviously made the big time.
During tapings of the show, which I was permitted to sit in on (and by sitting I mean literally sitting on the floor), I got to see the exciting ins-and-outs of live television. This included our host yelling “fuck” “shitheads” “motherfucker” and “bunch of assholes” every commercial break, running over the allotted time through pompous anecdotes and “witty” banter, and the producers shouting things in his ear which he continually ignored. Think of every showbiz stereotype—now add in some poor political graphics and there you have a typical day. Following the positivity of the broadcast, a conference call with the New York producers was held daily, where it was agreed that yes, he did talk a bit much, and, yes, he was an asshole. Our host never attended these calls.
On my last day, I wrote notes for the show’s producers and the big guy himself. One producer thanked me — the woman I shared an office with. The rest awkwardly shook my hand, and the host was not there to receive his heartfelt—read fabricated—letter of thanks and gratitude.
Once I left the world of television, I realized that my issues were not exactly with the host, moron as he was, or the producers themselves. It was with their attitudes about the show and politics in general. Every day in that office was immensely stressful and all consuming; this was not because what was happening was stressful, but because the people around me made it so. To these people, this hour of television about presidential elections was literally the most important thing in the world to them, the only job that mattered. Call me crazy, but feeding kids in Africa seems a bit more paramount to the world’s importance than squeezing another chart about Ohio into the 45 minutes of programming.
I’ve never considered a career in broadcast journalism again. I prefer to hang around with people who call me a fucktard to my face rather than through an earpiece.