Meeting people

Today a woman at one of my shoots was asking me a bunch of questions about my job. She pointed out that I must meet all different types of people-some really crazy ones. I told her that yes, I do meet some crazy people. But more often than that, I meet normal, typical, nice Staten Islanders.

One of the best and worst parts of my job is getting to meet these people. I say that because I really like meeting people who do a lot for the community, or even those who are just on the scene of something newsworthy. Sometimes I even enjoy meeting the crazies because I get a good story out of it (more on that in a later blog post).

But the worst part has to do with all my own issues. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m loud, friendly, and outgoing. But that’s only around people I know well. If I don’t know you well, I’m usually shy and reserved. Often times, I’m even socially awkward around people I don’t know. So coming into contact with new people every day is difficult for me.

The thing about this job is that you can’t let something like social awkwardness get to you. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to do my job. So being a news assistant has broken me out of my shell quite a bit. I’m now so used to going up to people I don’t know that I don’t even think twice about it. It has made me more outgoing and more willing to speak up. Even though it has been painful at times, I’m glad for it. Having to talk to random people at a gas station and ask them to let me interview them on camera gave me more life skills than my college classes ever did.

Sometimes it still gets to me, but I like to think that I’ve come really far since I started just over a year ago. I’m letting more of my own personality show through immediately when I meet someone, and I think that can only lead to good things (unless they hate my personality-but that’s their problem).

I’m hoping that I can progress even further in the future, and that one day standing out on the boardwalk or at a gas station asking random people about their political beliefs won’t even faze me. Until then, if you see me and my camera, be nice and come over for a chat-I’m friendly, I promise!

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A new language

When you go into any job, there’s a new set of words/terms you have to learn. My job in particular has some weird ones. Here are a list of my favorites:

B-roll or vo: background video that is played while the reporter is speaking

SOT: sound on tape, aka sound bites

tag: the last line of a story

vosot: a 45 second story with vo and one or two sots (hence the name)

package: an approximately 2 minute story

MOS: man on the street, or random interviews (more notably, my least favorite thing to “go get”)

EDL: I’m not sure what this actually stands for, but it’s the draft version of a package

nabe: neighborhood

track/tracking: a track is the voiceover on a news story, so if you’re tracking, you’re recording the voiceover

logging: transcribing an interview (as an intern at NBC, I did a lot of this)

dubbing: putting stories onto tape (I also did this a lot during my various internships)

stand-up: when a reporter is on camera during a package

rolling: taping

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I use most (and the ones that make my family and friends ask what the heck I’m talking about).

The True Definition of “Excitement”

A few months ago, I was at my best friend’s graduation party. I ran into a girl I had gone to high school with but hadn’t seen in a while. She was there with her boyfriend, who seemed like a nice guy, so I started talking to them. Of course they asked about my job, so I made a quick quip about how it was great, as long as I didn’t get shot.

The boyfriend’s face broke into a grin, “Really? That’s awesome!”

I was perplexed.

“No, really,” I replied, “I go into dangerous situations all the time. Like shootings and stuff. I could actually get shot.”

He wasn’t getting it. Try as I might, I could not convince him that as cool as it looks in the movies, real life chase scenes are not that much fun.

He’s not alone in his idealistic view of my job. A lot of times people will tell me how great it is that I’m doing what I’m doing. And of course, I agree. But no one seems to understand the risks that come with it.

People always tell me how exciting my job is. And it’s true. But maybe not in the way they think.

Yes, I get to do something new every day. Sometimes I get to do things that really help people (just this week I helped out with a story that got a disabled kid bus service), and I love when that’s the case. But sometimes I have to do things that just seem creepy or wrong.

I’ve had to knock on peoples’ doors after they had a family member die or have been robbed. I routinely stand outside courthouses waiting to film murderers and thieves. I often go to the sites of shootings (in fact, I was at one today). Earlier this year, after Whitney Houston died, I was sent to wait outside her mother’s apartment to see if I could get a comment (I didn’t, and the whole experience made me sick to my stomach).

Recently, I got a rare “exciting” experience when there was an alleged rape on Staten Island by a cop. I was told to go knock on the suspect’s door and see if anyone would talk to me. Now, this is not my cup of tea, but I do what I’m told. Luckily, I had my trusty intern John with me, so I had backup.

(A little background information about me-I’m small. Not skinny, but short. I could probably take out an attacker if he/she was an inch or two taller than me and weighed less than 170 pounds. John the intern is also short. We are not the kind of people you would pick for a prize fight.)

So, we pulled up to the house, and immediately noticed an incredibly large man sitting outside the door. He was probably at least six feet tall and close to 300 pounds. He looked menacing. John looked petrified. I told him that we would just go up to the door, ask politely if anyone wanted to talk to us on camera, and then leave at the first sign of trouble.

We slowly made our way up to the man. He was smoking a cigar. I felt like I was in some sort of movie, and the ending would probably be my own funeral. But I had to do my job. So I asked him if anyone wanted to talk to us.

“No,” he replied, in a tone that made it clear we were not welcome there.

John and I turned and went straight back to the car. I decided to call the office and let them know what was going on.

“I’m so glad you had John with you,” the girl who answered the phone said.

I almost laughed, because John looked like he was about to run screaming from the scene the whole time. (This is not to say anything bad about his character, because he is a really nice person. But he was honestly terrified by the whole thing, as he should be.)

As I was talking on the phone, two more men came out of the house to talk to cigar-man. They were even larger than he was and scarier looking. Or as John put it, “they looked even rapier.”

They stared at our car, which made me feel super uncomfortable. So we left. I don’t want to think about how it could have turned out differently, or what would have happened if it was only me who approached them.

The point of the story is, I routinely put my life in danger for the job. Whether it’s standing outside trying to film a tornado or going to an active crime scene, I do things that most people would consider “unsafe” in the name of journalism. The job is never boring, and it certainly provides me with interesting stories, but it isn’t as glamorous as the movies make it seem.

So next time you plan on telling me how wonderfully exciting my job is, think about what your definition of “exciting” is.

So I started a blog…

Hello everyone! My name is Allison Cohen, and I’m real live journalist (or so I like to tell people). Basically, I’m a production assistant for a 24-hour cable news station in NYC. I work mainly in Staten Island, which also happens to be where I was born and raised. I graduated just over a year ago from Vassar College, and I’ve been working in the news biz ever since. This blog will detail all my crazy adventures, the ups and downs of living the “life of a journalist.” The road is not always easy, but it’s always filled with new and unusual experiences. I hope you all enjoy reading about my hectic, sometimes bizarre, life.