If you've ever called us here at Nightly News with a question or comment about the broadcast, chances are one in three that you've spoken with me.
As a desk assistant, I have the quintessential entry-level newsroom position. Three of us share the job of answering the phone, signing for FedEx packages, ordering office supplies, changing toner in the printers and clearing jams in the Xerox machine. We bring in the newspapers in the morning and print scripts and the rundown in the afternoon. During the show we run into the studio to give Brian the pink pages you see him holding every night. (Those are his scripts.)
The job description, on paper, seems mostly administrative. But like most jobs, it is what you make of it. And over the past year this job has become my dream First Job.
One of us desk assistants is in the door at 7:45 a.m. (we take turns), and the other two come in at 9. The morning meeting is at 9:30 and by 10 a.m. the day is in full swing. Producers get their assignments and come looking for help. Depending on the story, they usually need us to gather relevant footage or help find people to interview on the topic (experts, characters and people otherwise involved). If the interviews have already been conducted, the first rule of business is to get everything transcribed (or "verbated," which is the vernacular around here) so the correspondent can begin writing the script.
If the interviews are done that day, it usually means verbating them live as they come in via satellite. I sit at a computer next to a small television and type as fast as I can while the person is speaking. It's not always perfect (especially if the person talks fast), but it's helpful for the producer and correspondent to have it as quickly as possible.
In between interviews, producers may also need facts or statistics related to the story (www.census.gov is one favorite resource). I also watch raw footage as it comes in throughout the day and point out good shots to the producer, who may be juggling so many things that he/she can't see every frame of video.
At the end of the day, it's satisfying to see a story air and know that I picked out a certain shot or got an important statistic to include in the piece, assuming that there's time to sit back and admire our work. Sometimes news breaks late and stories get launched at 3 or 4 p.m. for a 6:30 broadcast. In the news business, that's called a "crash"... and we'll save that for next time.