“Remember when you would always tell me that I watched too much TV?” I asked my parents recently. They never conformed to the mainstream message of parenting magazines that advised cutting down on their child’s television watching.Those hours spent in front of the TV eventually led to an internship in television production.
While I have always been a healthy and active person, it turns out my countless hours in front of incandescent screens was with a purpose.
In fifth grade, my teacher assigned our class a “million dollar project” in which we had to choose how we would invest a million dollars, if given the opportunity. At 11 years old, I debated between CD players or a surplus of scooters and rollerblades.
Nickelodeon’s “Nick News with Linda Ellerbee” sparked the idea for my million dollar investment: to build an all-girls school in Afghanistan. I envisioned an informative break from the hourly cartoon schedule, the longest running kids’ news show in television history. I proudly stood in front of my class, displaying my manual clippings of pictures cut out of TIME magazine glued next to a picture of me with young girls covered in burkas.
I realized my calling to be a journalist.
Seven years later, I found myself waking up at 4 a.m. to travel to my internship with Nickelodeon’s “Nick News with Linda Ellerbee.” I went to the West Village in Manhattan twice a week. Nick News is owned by Ellerbee and her husband through a production company called Lucky Duck Productions. I felt like the luckiest duck, having the opportunity to work in the media capitol of the world under a great journalist.
After arriving in the West Village, I had the pleasure of meeting a former North Philadelphian and recent Temple alumna Michele Aweeky. I had just transferred to Temple from Ithaca College and was learning how to navigate both Philadelphia and New York. Aweeky taught me that and just about everything I know about television production.
Aweeky is now in charge of hiring interns, where she does her main recruiting through the interview process. She said she’s looking people who are willing to work hard.
“If someone shows up to work and doesn’t assert themselves and realize what kinds of opportunities await just being inside a functioning company, and in my case, a multi-Emmy award-winning company, then I don’t want to give them important work to do,” Aweeky said.
After showing I was willing to work, I didn’t have to ask for responsibilities anymore. The people in the office became my “New York City family.” I began sitting down with each person to learn how they do their job and the importance of it. The more I got to know the people that worked in the office, the more willing they became to start assigning me projects. I even had the tremendous opportunity to assist with an interview with “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers for our “Annoying Siblings” show.
I also got to act as a production assistant at HBO Studios for our show “Are We There Yet?” with guest Gloria Steinem as we asked how far women have come over the years. My internship with Nick News led to a new internship with a women’s public policy organization in Washington, where I met with one of the guests on our show during production.
Like Aweeky told me, internships “look for someone who is a mix of devoted, interested, social and reserved. And most of all, someone who has a no-job-is-too-small attitude. Everyone makes the coffee at some point. At Nick News, [Ellerbee] even makes the coffee. So if you’re starting to think a job is below you – it isn’t. As an intern, you’re the lowest part of the totem pole. Bite your tongue and make the coffee. Maybe it will lead to a job someday.”
Esther Katro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.