Graduate Makes News in the Big Apple

October 31, 2010

Graduate Makes News in the Big Apple


VALDOSTA -- Throughout her college career, Taylor Samuel had set a goal to work in television news. When her mother told her about an internship at Fox News in New York City, the senior mass communications major never dreamed she would have the chance to work for a national news network.

“I sent my application and then sent it again -- I was afraid they didn’t get it the first time. When I received the call requesting a phone interview, I was shocked,” Samuel said. “They wanted to know my interests and educational experience. I really didn’t think I would have a shot -- I figured it would go to students at larger universities.”

The Woodbine, Ga., native traveled to New York City and reported to Fox News on June 4. Samuel said she was excited and determined to do the very best job possible; however, she admitted having a little apprehension that she would not measure up to her fellow interns.

Samuel and another intern were assigned to work with veteran newsman Geraldo Rivera. Throughout the internship, they worked alongside Rivera and his staff on the weekend news show “Geraldo at Large.”

“I love to report the news and get the information out. I was thrilled to work with someone as well-known as Geraldo. He is very easy to work with and encouraging,” she said. “I was excited that the show was infotainment, and I knew his style.”

Fresh from the classroom to the newsroom, Samuel admits she didn’t know what to expect. Her duties ranged from writing, pitching stories, and researching potential guests.

“It took me a few days at first. We had pitch meetings every Wednesday, and they expected us [interns] to have fresh story ideas. I started researching, looking on the Internet, blog sites, anywhere I could find that story that was unique and timely,” the transformed news-junkie said. “I was looking for something no one else was covering.”

Samuel explained that the show’s format involved taking a current national story or issue and then looking for a new angle. For example, during the media frenzy surrounding the Chelsea Clinton wedding, Samuel suggested to show producers to book Bethenny Frankel, from the popular cable television show “Real Housewives of New York,” to talk about her recent wedding.

“Bethenny is always in the news, especially in New York. She was promoting her new book, starting her own television show and recently gotten married.” Samuel said. “We booked a panel of guests who talked about high-profile weddings.”

Samuel was amazed that her ideas became part of a weekly national television show.

“It was kind of surreal that they were actually accepting my ideas and they wanted me to be so involved with the process,” Samuel said. “I wanted to impress them with all of my ability. I wanted to go out there and do my best.”

Samuel’s hard work paid off, the two month internship was extended, so that she could continue working on the “Geraldo: Celebrating 40 Years” that was televised Labor Day weekend.

“Being asked to stay and help produce Geraldo’s anniversary show shocked me. I knew that I had put everything into my internship, but I was surprised at how much confidence the other producers had in me,” Samuel said. “They had always allowed for me to have an opinion about a story or an idea, but for them to actually refer to me as one of the producers of his anniversary special was incredible and surreal. The experience was like nothing I had ever been a part of."

Like a seasoned veteran, Samuel put in the long hours and sleepless nights to prove she could compete in national news market.

“Taylor was an incredible asset in the production of the Geraldo 40th Anniversary special,” the show’s senior field producer, Greg Hart said. “She was given a tremendous amount of responsibility and handled it with grace and poise.”

Big City Dreams

Samuel credits the education and experience she received at Valdosta State University in positioning her to not only to receive the internship, but to be able to compete and excel in a major news market.

“At first I was intimidated that I was going to Fox News, I felt like I would be up against people with big school experience,” Samuel said. “I was completely wrong. I am now the biggest advocate for smaller schools. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned at VSU.”

Samuel plans to work as a television news or sports reporter. Her longtime goals include an anchor position or producing a nightly news show.

“For me to experience this having just graduated from college is like a dream,” she said. “Having the opportunity to work with many different people from all over has given me the chance to learn and understand more about how large corporations work as a team to get the job done, which is much different than the classroom setting you learn at college.”

Samuel becomes emotional when she reflects upon the relationships she formed with members of the mass communications faculty.

“I love my professors, I owe them so much,” she said. “They were all very interested in what was going on in my life. It wasn’t like I was just going to class. They played a big part throughout my college life.”

It was these connections that Samuel credits with her ability to perform well during the internship.

“When I was at Fox News, I knew I could pick up the phone or e-mail one of my professors and they would help me out,” Samuel said. “It was comforting to know they were down there supporting me.”

An Applied Application

Mike Savoie, assistant dean of the College of the Arts and associate professor of mass media, said internships are not required of mass media majors but highly recommended.

“There are a number of local internships in media and obviously our students need to find programs in Atlanta and nationally,” Savoie said. “These internships are highly competitive but we have had a great track record in placing students.”

Locally, mass media students receive experience by working with the university or local cable television stations, filming events for athletics and the arts, and producing community programs and public service announcements for community non-profit agencies.

“There are many opportunities that avail themselves to our students that enhance the educational experience we provide,” Savoie said. “We feel that these experiences are invaluable to the coursework and practical experience we provide.”

VSU’s mass media curriculum was developed to provide students with a variety of “hands on” experiences; and the faculty brings a wide variety of professional experience to the classroom.

Savoie, who worked as a music video and commercial director and producer before coming to Valdosta State, said that most of the mass media faculty worked in professional media--major feature films, radio and national news reporting and production -- prior to working in higher education.

“This wealth of experience gives us great exposure to the inner workings of professional media production,” Savoie said. “This experience is reflected in a curriculum that was crafted to produce proficient and well-rounded students for professional media occupations.”

Savoie is pleased with the success the mass media department has experienced in placing interns in highly specialized media jobs. Students are also sent to work at national professional sporting events in Georgia and Florida, including football games for the National Football League and NASCAR events.

“Taylor was a model student and pleasure to work with,” Savoie said. “We have seen many students like Taylor go through our program, and in fact, she was the second student to intern with Geraldo in New York. We have also had an intern placed with David Letterman.”

The students benefit from the internships, and they also provide Valdosta State with a presence in major cities throughout the country.

“These are high profile internships that get people’s attention, but there are many mass media students interning in a variety of professional areas including television, radio, and sports broadcasting,” Savoie said. “All of these are invaluable to our students, and we carefully monitor these internships for future placement of students as well as to ensure that the experiences are worthwhile.”