Thursday, December 26, 2013

How'd You Get Into Television?

Kudos to the college student who just met me here at work to learn about my job. This junior journalism major already has a leg up. She sought me out, scheduled time with me--yes, the day after Christmas--and showed up.

Kids, if you want to make it in this business (or most careers for that matter) that kind of initiative speaks volumes. 

My son suggested I write a blog detailing how I got into television news. Let me warn you, it was quite a circuitous route. My road is not for everybody. But I do believe the advice I learned along the way is.

So, John, here goes.

I like to say my career began in 5th grade. I sang a song while my dad accompanied me on piano for the school talent show. I tied for first place. The grand prize was a trip to McDonalds. Not only did I finally get my own fries and a chocolate shake, but the experience planted in my 10-year-old brain that I might be kind of good at this performing thing.

My 1st piece of advice for aspiring television journalists? Get comfortable in front of people. Perform. Speak. Sing. Dance. Play the piano. It all builds confidence.
From that point on, I auditioned for every play, musical, dance and cheerleading squad. Loved oral reports and live presentations. Felt extreme joy and fulfillment from an audience’s positive reaction.
I also LOVED school, in particular English, writing, and foreign languages.
This brings me to tip #2:  Write. Get really good at it. You will need this skill for the rest of your life. Plus, writing will greatly enhance your adlibbing abilities, if your dreams are to be on camera.
I continued to sing and dance in college, got an agent and began auditioning for local commercials for extra cash. During Christmas break of my sophomore year at Vanderbilt, a military friend told me he saw young Americans singing and dancing at the new Disneyland theme park in Toyko, Japan.
I immediately called Walt Disney World in nearby Orlando for more information. They were holding auditions for Toyko Disneyland the very next day! So I grabbed my shiny white unitard and Reebok high- tops and drove to Orlando.
I got the job.

You’re probably saying, “Okay, this is not helping me. I don’t want to be Cinderella or Mary Poppins. I want to be a news reporter.”
Hang in there. There's a point to this story.

Working in Japan was a game-changer.  After my Disney contract ended, I auditioned for a HUGE Japanese pop star and joined her for two tours as a back-up singer/dancer. We performed in massive, sold-out arenas; taped music videos; appeared on numerous national television shows; and, my personal highlight, hosted Michael Jackson, his dancers and band when he brought his "Bad" tour to Tokyo. 

I traveled to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and hitchhiked with a friend across Japan to Korea. It cost me next to nothing. And the tales I could tell you from these trips are ridiculous. 

So tip #3: Find a way to live, work, and/or study in a foreign country. At the very least, you can teach English. Tons of companies will pay you to travel and teach, all the while soaking up life experience and expanding your world view. Plus, it will provide jump-off-the-resume job history to help you stand out from the crowd.   
It’s how I got my first job in television news. Here’s how THAT went down.
A couple of years after my Tokyo stint, I was finishing college, had married my college sweetheart and started a family, and was taping a local commercial in my husband’s hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. While the spot was being edited, the station’s general manager happened to walk by.   
He asked for my number, took me to lunch, and within a couple of months hired me to start anchoring his popular morning newscast, “Kentucky Sunrise.”  
Why would he do such a thing? He says he “believed in hiring interesting people.” He could teach them *how* to do the job later.
Guess that Tokyo gig made me interesting. But boy, did I have a WHOLE lot of learning to do. Journalists take their jobs very seriously. Standards are high. But I was a smart girl, a really good writer, and had the confidence to embrace the opportunity and make the most of it.
Tip #4: Always say YES to positive opportunity. You can figure out HOW to do it later!
Once they let me in that WLEX-TV newsroom door, I was not about to let them kick me out. And twenty years later, I’m still doing the job. And I no longer suck at it.
That’s tip #5—Never stop learning.
I (eventually) taught myself how to anchor without sounding like an idiot; how to write for news; how to do live shots without my hands or upper lip trembling. I went from morning news anchor, to host/producer of my own lifestyle show, to anchoring the 5:30pm news and field anchoring coverage of the Kentucky Wildcats’ two National Championship runs.

I eventually moved the family to Phoenix to launch and host the city’s first morning magazine show. Seven years later we moved here to Dallas to anchor TXA21 News, First in Prime, the market's first prime-time evening newscast.

I am currently in my 8th year anchoring, reporting, and hosting here at CBS11. I emcee and speak regularly at community events, love to mentor young people, and even had a stint as the lead singer of our station band, Eleven21.

Sure, my career path required risk, a temporary departure from traditional college life, and much loneliness and isolation…UNTIL I had a family of my own.

 Luke, Nicole and John Kornet then...and now.

These little guys are what’s made work incredibly rewarding--coupled with the opportunity to serve the public by delivering information that protects, informs, and improves people’s lives.  
It’s been an exhilarating ride, this career. I feel really good about how it's all worked out.
But it hasn't been easy. 

Honestly, I probably wouldn't appreciate it so much if it were.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I Finally Have the Guts to Admit

My girlfriend just posted a blog that truly takes guts.

Gina Miller, the long-time sports anchor/reporter-turned-social media guru, has long touted the fact she does NOT feel guilty being a working mother.
The prolific blogger and entrepreneur even changed careers recently and is probably putting in more hours than ever, building her new business. She says she STILL doesn’t feel guilty while raising her darling daughter, Jordan. Not a bit.
Jordan & Gina, "That Sports Girl"
Let me tell you, I have never lived guilt-free. Not a day in my life.
But I tell you what, I am starting to now.
My three children are now in college. One is about to graduate in May and begin his own career.  I truly miss the activity and purpose they brought to my life when they lived at home full time. And I now find myself struggling to fill my spare hours with meaningful tasks and goals.  
Tracy, Luke & Nicole Kornet
I just returned from visiting my youngest son in Nashville who, as I learned upon landing, was battling flu and strep. Had to pick him up at Student Health, in fact, and was henceforth on a mission to help make him feel better before I left town.

Taking care of my 7-foot son put me on Cloud 9—buying him medicine, making him eat, driving him to the gym, setting him up on the king bed at my hotel so he could sleep on a mattress that finally fits his frame.
The following day, after he slept a good 10-12 hours, we went shopping for winter clothes and better dorm bedding.
I loved every second of it.

It’s crazy how much I love being a mother. Absolutely crazy. I feel I have soaked up every ounce of joy from every single stage of their lives.

And yet, had I not nurtured the working side of me alongside motherhood, I would feel utterly lost in my current stage.

I have needed both family and career equally. I knew it as a teenager; I anguished over maintaining a proper balance throughout my 20s and 30s; and now in my 40s, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am better off having had both.

Why on earth do we feel so guilty--even go so far as to perpetuate guilt among other women--for desiring a career AND motherhood?
It makes NO sense.  
And I‘m happy I finally have the guts to admit it.

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