Meet the Graduates: Max

Major: Journalism
Certificate: Digital Studies


How has it been to be done with college?

It has been really good. The first couple of weeks were difficult. The day after graduation, my roommate and close friend moved out, which really marked the change for me. It hit me that all these relationships I had in college were going to be changing. But since then, it’s gotten better and I’m happy to be in post-grad life. I loved being at the UW, but I felt ready to move on.

Tell me about what you’ve been up to since graduation.

I’m working for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this summer. I get to work out of the press room in Madison as an investigative and capitol reporting intern. I have a couple of longer stories that I’ve come up with and I run through sources and frame out my ideas. On busier days, if there’s breaking news or other stories that need to be done on a deadline, I pick those up as well. It’s a nice balance.

How did you find this internship?

I received the Sharon Stark Investigative Journalism Internship through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I applied back in the fall for the internship and found out I got it around February/March. The award provided a stipend for this 12 week internship at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So the internship is done at the of the summer. Have you thought about what you’re going to do when this internship is over?

That’s the million dollar question, I guess. I’ve already reached out to CBS News in NY where I worked last summer and I also reached out to Axios, a company I’m really interested in work for. Both places told me to reach back out in August, so I laid the framework for that. Other than those two companies, I’m kind of allowing myself to relax on the issue because I’d love to spend time with my family before hopping into full-time work. So really, until August, I’m giving it thought, but not applying pressure to myself to do more.

So you’re okay with a gap between the internship and starting a new job?

Yes, absolutely. I’m lucky enough that the internship pays well enough and I can stay with my parents if there’s a gap. I just don’t want to rush it too much and stress myself out trying to time it perfectly. I don’t want to be finishing my internship, finding an apartment, moving, and starting a new job a week later. There’s so much that has to happen between now and then that’s out of my control, so I’m just not going to worry too much about it.

Sure. Then you can take your time to find something that’s the right fit, too.

Yes! I think that when we talk about fit, timing is a really crucial aspect of that – where you want to be at the right time. For example, I know the Wisconsin State Journal would be a great newspaper to work at. But I’m not sure I’m ready to have a full-time job in Madison right now. I really associate Madison with college, so maybe the timing wouldn’t work out right now. I think recent grads need to do cost analysis, cost benefit and see how they’re feeling. But also think about their interests, where they’d like to be geographically or what company they want to be at and make decisions off of that and see where things go.

If you’re ever going to move and try out new things, now is a great time. Do you have any advice for students trying to decide what to do after graduation?

A good friend of mine said this to me as school was winding down and I was feeling a little uncertain about the future. You’re not selling yourself out if the first job or the first couple of jobs you have aren’t exactly what you want to do. I think it can feel like, especially with the current cost of higher ed, that if you get this degree and you’re not doing exactly what you want to do, then you’ve already missed out on your dreams and what you want to do and you’re selling yourself out. But in reality, just keep in tune with your goals and ask – are you happy? What do you like about the place you’re at? What don’t you like about the place you’re at? How motivated are you to change things up? There’s a million variables that contribute to a happy lifestyle and work is just one of them. Don’t forget about the people in your life, where you are, your health. Just take it all into one massive calculation.

It sounds like you’re in a really good place and have it all figured out.

It sounds like I’m on top of it, but there’s certainly a million stress babies inside of me that come out. They come out a few times a week, definitely. You’re catching me at a good time, right as the week ends. If this were a Monday, it would probably be a lot different.

Do you feel like having the Digital Studies Certificate has been helpful to you so far?

So helpful! Especially the classes I took in my final semester. I tried to take classes that were tailored to my interests and were very vocational. In the podcasting class, I learned how to make podcasts. In the code and power class, about half was theory, ideas, concepts, and describing social issues. But the other half was design and coding. The certificate opened me to classes that allowed me to pursue creative endeavors in the classroom. Some people are really self-motivated, but sometimes people need a little bit of practice and teaching and that’s what the certificate was for me.

How was the rest of your internship?

The internship was great! Toward the end, I was working on the primary election and I was able to attend Tony Ever’s launch party, which was awesome. I felt like I was part of the core political journalist team and one of the pictures that I took at the event was used on the front cover the Journal Sentinel. So what had been a summer of covering politics and the Sun Prairie fire culminated in this celebratory evening. By the end I not only got to cover breaking news on the scene, but also work on a longer enterprise story that required multiple interviews.

It was also great working with the reporters there. They taught me so much about how to get a strong story while also being open to edits. I learned so much that I wouldn’t have been able to learn anywhere else, but I especially learned how to hold myself as a reporter.

What a great experience for your portfolio! What are you up to now that the internship is over?

After the internship, I went back to Tennessee, which is where my parents live, and started the job search process. I was looking primarily at print jobs and I had a few interviews and even got an offer to be an education reporter in Frankfort, KY. I ended up not taking the position because I felt that Frankfort was a little too small for me and I couldn’t see that job helping me get to where I wanted to be in my long term career plan.

So I applied to the News Associates program at CBS News, shooting to end up in either DC or NY. Having interned at CBS the summer before senior year, I had contacts and references there, so that certainly helped. After my interview, it looked like I was on track to get an offer for the DC program, but I ended up getting an offer for the NY program. So, after three weeks of waiting, I got the offer and moved to NY. Luckily, I have family living in Manhattan, so I am living with them while I try to find an apartment.

Congratulations! How does the News Associates program work?

It’s a 15-month rotational program where every 3-4 months you rotate to a different news program like, CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, The Morning Show, 48 Hours, The National Desk, or Newspath. Then you gain access to the internal job postings where you can apply into one of the permanent positions. The program has a 96% retention rate of people in the program, who usually go on to become an assistant or broadcast associate for one of the news shows. The really exciting thing about being in the News Associates program right now is that I’ll have time to make connections in the company so when the presidential campaign begins, I’ll hopefully be able to put myself in a position to work on some of that coverage.

Sounds like things are working out really well for you. How is the apartment hunt going?

Well, I’ve looked at four places so far and I put down a deposit on one, so hopefully that will work out. And luckily I had a friend from Wisconsin who was commuting into the city from home, so we’re going to live together. If everything works out, I’ll have a week to move in before having to start work on October 1st.

What was the hardest part about this job search process for you?

So many jobs in journalism require 2-3 years of experience. That’s a tough ask, especially since grads right out of college likely don’t have that type of experience and the positions look like they’re entry level. Another thing for me was that I graduated from Madison, had a certificate in Digital Studies and a Journalism degree, and had some solid internship experience. So it was really hard to rationalize going into a super small market because it felt like I’d be going backwards if I started in a location that was so distant from where I’d been. For me, it was all about finding that balance and knowing that there were plenty of jobs in those smaller markets available, but being willing to wait for a job that would satisfy me and help me toward where I want to be in five, ten years.

Any suggestions for current students who are hoping to get into the reporting world?

This is something I really struggle with, but I know it’s worth it in the end – keep in touch with people you worked with in the past. I sent a few emails to people at 60 Minutes where I interned, so that when it came time to apply to the News Associates program, it hadn’t been a year since they’d last seen my name, it had only been a few months. So even though we weren’t having long conversations, I think those emails really helped.

I also think that sometimes people overlook the opportunities that are available in Madison. I loved the opportunity to work in Madison after graduation. Madison is a great place to be in the summer, you don’t have a find a subletter, and it’s a very good way to transition after graduation into a job after a summer internship.

And this one is the hardest one to try and follow, but don’t stress about the job process. It goes at its own pace and a lot of times, there’s nothing you can do about it. For example, I interviewed for the News Associates program on a Friday. I learned then that the recruiter was going on vacation, then to a conference, and then on vacation again. So it was three weeks before I heard back from anyone. And even though the interview went well and the recruiter made some positive statements about the possibility of an offer, that in-between time is when your mind starts playing tricks on itself about your capabilities, and all things good vaporize into fear and anxiety. So stay strong, stay confident and just know that the process could take weeks or months.

The last time we talked, you hadn’t even started working yet. How is the job going?

Work is good! I’m in my first rotation with the News Associates program and I’ve been assigned to the Morning Show. My first assignment was on the Broadcast Associate’s desk, where I would take requests from producers and get whatever they needed. Now I’m on the Eye Opener team. The Eye Opener is a segment that’s produced for every single show that’s a two minute highlight reel of the news, including top stories, viral videos, sports highlights, etc.

What does a typical shift look like?

There’s a constant influx of footage that is coming in over the servers, so when I come in, I make folders for the producers that include the latest clips from cable news, evening news, politics, sports, BBC, weather, and miscellaneous. By organizing the footage, the producers can see quickly see what’s happening and find the clips they need to go in the segment.

Another big part of my job is to log all of the late night shows, so Colbert, Kimmel, Corden, Meyers, The Daily Show. There’s a web application that networks use to put up rough transcripts of their shows as they air, so I copy and paste those into a document that I also time code. Then I send that document out to all the producers so if they want to take a segment from one of those shows, they can easily find it in the log.

After that is done, I just take requests from the Eye Opener producers and find whatever they need. So overall, the job is a lot of organizing, logging, and then really quick stuff like locating footage.

Do you have a good relationship with the people you work with?

Yeah. The broadcast associates are a tight knit group of people because they’re all in their early- to mid-twenties and they’ve been there for a while. But there’s also always a constant flux of new people. There are people in the News Associates program like myself who aren’t permanent employees, there are pages who aren’t permanent employees, and then there are people who get hired immediately as broadcast associates. It makes for an interesting dynamic because the people you work with are constantly changing and you never know who will be on your team the next week. Even though that can be challenging sometimes, it’s allowed me to learn a lot, like the different jobs that people have had, people I might want to meet, or work that I might want to try, which producers are great to work with, etc. So that’s been really helpful.

What’s been the most challenging part of this first job for you?

The tricky thing right now is that my shift goes from 6pm-4am, Sunday through Thursday, with an occasional longer overnight shift on Fridays. I pretty quickly realized that in my heart of hearts, I’m not one that would like to work overnight for a very long time; it just doesn’t maximize my productivity. But I knew when I started this job from previous interns that these types of shifts are pretty common, so I was prepared for it. I just keep reminding myself to be flexible and work the hours that are needed to make myself an asset to the company. It’s also helping me learn what I like to do and what I don’t like to do, so that’s valuable.

For example, I’ve gotten to work around the edit bays and see how a show gets put together, which I didn’t really know much about before. And when I work the Friday overnight shift, it’s just me, one producer, and one editor, so I’m basically an associate producer and it’s providing me with a lot of great experience in producing the segment. So even though I eventually want to get back into reporting, I’m learning everything I can from this opportunity now.

What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

I’ll be finishing my rotation with the Morning Show in early March, so I’m excited to see what comes next. I’m not sure where I’ll be going exactly, but I would love to go to the National Desk. It’s the place where they vet breaking news and disseminate that information to the other shows. So it seems like it would be really interesting for me, getting to make those initial phone calls to places to verify information. It would mesh really well with the work I was doing before as a beat reporter, which I definitely miss. But even though I can ask to go there, it’s ultimately based on availability – where other people want to go and what shows need more staff.

That sounds exciting, but also stressful in not knowing exactly where you might end up.

I think it’s fair to say that. But I’d also like to mention, and I think this is true of any first job, that it probably isn’t going to be perfect and check all of the boxes of what you want to do. And the transition from college to first job is really jarring. It’s a new lifestyle, a culture shock, and that’s been part of the adjustment as well.  I’ve realized that a lot of what life is after college is navigating through the punches and trying to figure out how I’m doing with work, what I like and don’t like, how I can maximize my current situation, and how I can put myself in a situation to get more of what I like. So I’m taking stock of those things and just feeling really lucky that I have the opportunity to be in New York at CBS.

How are things going with the rotational program? Still on the night shift?

It’s been good, but yeah, I’m still on the night shift and that schedule has been really tough. It’s one of those things where if you have a good day or a bad day, your feelings just compound because of when you’re at work. But I’m still trying to look at the positives – I’m working where all the editors and technicians are putting together the broadcast. A lot of people might not have that opportunity and I feel grateful that I’ve seen this side of putting together a show and being able to talk with all the parties involved in making it happen.

What’s been the hardest for me though is that my job hasn’t come with any editorial say. I’m getting footage for producers, but I haven’t really felt like a real key cog in the show. To put it bluntly, I’m missing having more responsibility.

Which segues nicely into my next announcement – I actually just got hired to work on the Evening News research team!

Congratulations! That’s very exciting!

Thanks! When I saw the internal post for the position, I knew I needed to go for it. It’s where I ultimately wanted to end up, so I’m glad I was able to make that a reality (and not have to apply for jobs again for a while!).

Fantastic! How did the interview process work since you are already working at CBS?

I basically just sent an email to the contact person for the opportunity and included a short message in my email about why I was interested in the position. I didn’t think a cover letter was necessary since I’m already working for the company.

They invited me to participate in a trial day, where I basically went in and worked with the research team for five hours one day. I think the point of this is to test how quickly you can pick things up and how you mesh with the team. The day of my trial, the Mueller report was released, so it was pretty exciting skimming through the document and make sure that what was being put out by our team was verbatim what was in the document. I loved it!

I also had a more formal interview with one of the producers from the research team and a senior broadcast producer. Then, I waited. It was only a week, but it was a really long week, from my perspective. I think in journalism and media fields in general, the silence is so triggering, making you question your abilities and your sense of how things went. For me, I felt like things went really well, so if I didn’t get it, I would have felt like I was really misreading people, which would have been even more terrifying. But thankfully, it didn’t come to that and I start soon!

Do you have an idea of what you’ll be doing in this new role?

From my understanding, the research team, in the latter half of the day, is doing a lot of fact checking and copy editing of scripts that are coming into the show. But in the beginning of the day, they’re fielding requests from producers who need more information about certain reports or datasets. So it’s a lot of off-air reporting, which really attracted me.

Sounds like it will be a great fit for you! Bringing it back to Digital Studies for a minute, now that you’ve been out of college for a year, is there something from the certificate that has stuck with you?

The first thing that comes to mind is the website I created in the capstone course. I actually just showed it to a coworker the other day who was applying to jobs. I edited it when I got to CBS and I’ve realized just how important it’s been to have that online presence.

Also, one of the things I’ve come to realize is that understanding data is super important. Even though I don’t do it in my day to day now, I do sometimes get a file or spreadsheet and so I need to be versed in how to manipulate the data or make it into a visual to really maximize my potential and opportunities in journalism. One class I took, J677: Data Visualization, was all about data – and how to use it for news properly and how people falsely manipulate data. We learned how to use Tableau and Excel, which was extremely valuable. I could just feel and see how the information from this class was something that you could sell yourself with because everything today is about numbers and data.

For me, doing Digital Studies was a way to sort of, hedge my bets in a way. As someone doing the reporting track in Journalism, doing the Digital Studies Certificate meant that I’d be able to navigate a bunch of different environments if being a beat report ever became infeasible. It’s such a valuable certificate and I’m so glad I added it on to my major.