Ellis (Yahui) Liang ’15, New York Public Radio

For a public radio lover, having a Princeternship at New York Public Radio (NYPR) was like visiting heaven. NYPR is the public radio station that serves the metro New York area and consists of WNYC AM and FM (public radio news stations), WQXR (a classical music station), and WNJN (a set of NJ public radio stations that were recently bought by NYPR).

Ivan Zimmerman ‘80, General Counsel for WNYC, started the day off by giving me a tour of all three floors of the station’s headquarters, from the cubicles to the radio archives. Knowing that I was interested in journalism, Ivan brought me into one of the recording studios, where I heard a familiar voice reading the news. It was Soterios Johnson recording “Morning Edition”! It was so surreal hearing a voice I have listened to nearly every morning embodied in a real person. Later, I even got to see Brian Lehrer host his show and watch as the producers performed all the behind- the-scenes magic, like screening callers.

Ivan also brought me to a news department meeting, where different editors, producers, and radio journalists updated each other on the stories that they were working on and brainstormed ideas for the upcoming weekend.

The majority of the day, however, was focused on the legal issues that NYPR faces. As Ivan is one of only two counsels for NYPR, he has to handle a diverse range of legal matters.

Ivan Zimmerman and Ellis

More than 50% of his work is dealing with contracts, Ivan told me. For example, in the afternoon, he had to read over a contract that dealt with maintenance work at the NYPR headquarters. Janna Freed, the other counsel, had to rewrite part of a contract that dealt with property rights of an artist who was going to perform on WNYC.

Another part of his job is related to underwriting. Underwriting, in the context of public radio, is the sponsorship of the radio station, and in exchange the station will mention that business or organization on the air in its programming. The tricky thing about underwriting is to make sure acknowledgements don’t veer on advertising, which can threaten not only NYPR’s tax-exempt status but can cause the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revoke the station’s licenses. Ivan’s responsibility is to make sure NYPR’s underwriters don’t unintentionally make “WNYC is sponsored by X company” sound like “WNYC thinks you should buy X company’s products.”

Finally Ivan’s daily work included many other responsibilities. For instance, Ivan advised one journalist about the ethics and legalities of interviewing patients at a hospital. Earlier in the day, he had to resolve a dispute with another company that was going to produce a music show using a name that NYPR had already trademarked.

For someone who squirms at the thought of public speaking and would be a horrible trial lawyer, I was delighted to learn that as a general counsel, one could delve into the intricacies of law without dealing with all the arguing and stress of litigation. (In fact, when NYPR goes to court, they hire an outside firm to represent them.) The work is also very flexible—Ivan said he comes to work anytime from 9 am-10 am most days and leaves from 5 pm-9 pm. But what I like best, and what has made being a general counsel at NYPR one of my dream jobs, is the environment. The funky furniture and colorful, open office space reflect the creative work produced in the NYPR headquarters. And unlike a large law firm, at NYPR one can walk up two flights of stairs and suddenly be immersed in the fast-paced, exciting environment of the “Morning Edition” production studio or listen to an inspiring performance by a Chinese opera singer in the “Soundcheck” studio.

If you like winning high-profile cases and working at a prestigious firm, perhaps being a counsel for a media outlet isn’t for you. But if you like solving complicated problems and giving advice to others in a creative environment, being a counsel may be your dream job, too.

P.S. Another thing that made this Princeternship so fun was Ivan. He is really chill, super nice, and dispels all lawyer stereotypes!

 

Kenny Anhalt ’14, ESPN

Through the Princeternship program I had the privilege of shadowing Bryce Gama, a director of Business Strategy at The Walt Disney Company’s ESPN. From the outset Bryce was extremely warm and informative. He welcomed me to join him in several meetings, providing background information as needed and carefully explaining answers to each of my questions. Throughout the day I was introduced to many of Bryce’s coworkers, who generously discussed why they find their jobs fulfilling. My learning during the experience was qualitatively unique in that I gained information that cannot simply be found on a website. By spending time in Bryce’s office environment I witnessed the idiosyncratic atmosphere of The Walt Disney Company. Thus, by exposing students to open professionals in their everyday workspace, the Princeternship program provides a phenomenal opportunity for Princeton undergraduates to learn about a career they hope to pursue.

Elise Dubuque ’13, ESPN

As soon as I had handed in my last final exam, I made my way into New York City for a very different kind of experience. For my Princeternship, I shadowed Bryce Gama, an economics major and member of the class of 2001 who is now a Senior Director of Business Strategy at ESPN. As soon as I passed through the large double doors of the ABC building I was confronted on every turn of the hallway with a logo—either of a network, TV show, or other media product that I was familiar with. It was this familiarity with the product that was especially exciting for me as I prepared myself for the day’s meetings.

Meetings—this is probably the word I would use that most aptly describes Bryce’s work as I followed him. It is through these numerous meetings that Bryce, as part of a team, negotiates agreements and advises the sales force on decisions regarding digital assets, cable, and satellite space. While there is less of a direct focus on athletics that one would assume comes with a job at ESPN, the job was still very exciting in that the decisions his team makes have an important effect on media consumers, a group in which I consider myself an avid member.

In the first meeting I attended, Bryce and his team were discussing the status of a new product. While the specifics of the meeting must remain confidential, Bryce and his colleagues in Affiliate Sales and Marketing did not hesitate to involve me in all parts of the discussion. The next meeting, which focused on information that was considerably less sensitive, consisted of Bryce and fellow team members analyzing how changes to the extension of the company’s deal with Comcast triggered changes to other accounts. What I noticed in the meeting was how everyone in the office had a clear passion for their work that made for an office culture that was friendly, inviting, and overall highly enjoyable.

Bryce Gama and Elise

Next, I accompanied Bryce and two other colleagues to lunch. We compared our experiences at Princeton as I picked his brain about his path to his current work. Both he and his colleagues shared invaluable advice about pursuing opportunities in sales and marketing and in particular stressed the importance of maintaining a passion for what you do. I came to see how this passion translates directly into a positive work environment. What struck me as especially refreshing in this particular experience was that Bryce and his colleagues merged hard work with laughter, and although their team was relatively young in years, they took on responsibilities and made extremely important strategic decisions involving ESPN’s media assets. Again, I cannot speak directly about much of the proposed strategy I witnessed within the office, but I can stress that I was able to learn a lot about the specifics involved in making network bids and solidifying network deals.

Overall, the Princeternship was a highly enjoyable experience. It provided an invaluable glimpse into a line of work involving marketing strategy and media assets that I would have had no access to otherwise. I especially welcomed the numerous conversations I had with different colleagues within the office about how to utilize my liberal arts degree and different ways in which I might explore my own potential career path. Now, each and every time I turn on SportsCenter or check the ESPN app on my phone I’ll think back to my Princeternship experience and consider the business strategy involved in making it possible for me to access information on my beloved Boston sports teams from anywhere.

 

Cosette Gonzales ’15, ABC News

While attending the Princeternship Orientation, I remember our career services representative told us students, “Remember to be flexible during the Princeternship experience. Some Princeternships may be more chaotic or hectic than others.”

Indeed, later my alumnus would describe his job as “chaos, but a good chaos, a functional chaos.” Thus, I definitely did not know what to expect from this Princeternship experience, but I was excited to begin. I commuted via subway from where I was staying in New York City to ABC News’ office, which is near Lincoln Center and west of Central Park. The alumnus I would shadow, John Griffin ‘99, is the Special Projects and Mobile Editor at ABC News. I learned quickly that my days did not have a set routine, but instead varied greatly depending on issues in the newsroom. Usually we would figure out our agenda for the day by checking his very busy email inbox. Many turn to him when they have something that needs troubleshooting, earning him the nickname GRIFF: “Gripes Resolved in Fast Fashion.”

After greeting each other, he toured me around ABC News, and I saw rooms full of monitors, teleprompters, video feeds, green screens, cameras, and lights. The newsroom where he worked was full of computers and monitors. The sounds of ringing phones, journalists calling sources to interview them for their latest piece, keyboards clicking away, and iPad alerts all reverberated through the air.

On his computer at his desk space, Mr. Griffin showed me Chartbeat and Newsbeat, which show real-time ABCNews.com web statistics about where traffic is coming from. He told me about the importance of SEO or Search Engine Optimization, and how you want to keep the “bounce rate” low, improve linkage by using Facebook or Twitter, and package the story to fit search keywords. He also taught me about sponsorships, how different companies or organizations purchase ads and how ABC News has to meet a certain impression goal and keep track of pacing. Additionally, you do not want to associate some sponsors with certain articles. For example, if someone is reading an article about Occupy Wall Street, you would not want to have a banner of Goldman Sachs on that same webpage.

Later, on TVs around the newsroom, I noticed the ABC News channel had the headline: AIRCRAFT HIT BY EXPLOSIONS and felt alarmed. That is, until I noticed the words “DRILL…DRILL…” scrolling horizontally across the screen. I learned that broadcast companies often hold news drills, which are used to test operational readiness and communication in case one day there is an actual unexpected emergency that needs broad coverage. Anchors in the newsroom and on site improvised and reported as though this explosion was a real event, and the TVs showed “footage” of the event. News networks have to be careful, however, to not make people think this is real news and cause panic by showing this coverage on live TV.

My alumnus then gave me journalism tips. He emphasized how for breaking news, it was important to try to get your article out there first, although accuracy must not be sacrificed. He showed me some humorous web writing headlines. About Osama Bin Laden’s Death: “Has Bin”; about Steve Jobs being forced to issue free cases for a poorly-functioning iPhone 4: “Let Them Eat Case”; about the U.S. Army unwittingly supplying trucks to both sides of the Afghan war: “Oh, Truck,” and others: “Slipping on Greece,” “Obama Culpa,” “To Russia, With Flub.” He taught me about “the art of the tease,” how it’s not always best to tell your audience when you can tease them. Pose a question, involve the audience, try to make it about the viewer, and raise the stakes, such as: “Is even more of your income now at risk?” For broadcast writing, use active words, called “the flying -ing.” “However,” he said, “don’t sacrifice facts for cleverness.”

My workday ended early that day, but I was told I could return at 6:30 pm for some optional work. I decided to go back since I would be able to do more hands-on work. I entered the Digital Media Room, which was full of monitors, as well as sound and editing equipment. Mr. Griffin showed me the four-minute long news briefs ABC News would make for mtvU, including episodes of “Don’t Know Much About History” series with best-selling author Kenneth C. Davis. My alumnus showed me the basics of how to use Avid NewsCutter Software. “You just have to learn how to get used to it over time, and with practice, you can play it like a piano,” he said, racking between different keys on the keyboard with ease. He taught me about audio and video layers for the sequences and splicing. I helped him do a little bit of editing for one of the clips by ending cuts before large audio gaps in order to keep the dialogue’s fast pace.

The next morning I printed out PowerPoint slides in preparation for ConEd (or Content Editor) training, which I also attended. ConEd is used to generate articles and manipulate the homepage. After that, I got to do some hands-on work using WordPress, which ABC News generates their blogs from, and spent the next few hours editing author credit on articles.

ABC Newsroom!

Before lunch, we explored the studio labyrinths within ABC News and got to see old sets that were ripped apart to be used for later productions in the spring or summer. I saw where they used to shoot “The Tony Danza Show,” as well as the current set they use for the food show “The Chew,” and the now empty set for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” We wandered through old control rooms and previously used make-up and dressing rooms.
 

As we came back to his office space, I saw a woman walk by who looked vaguely familiar. “Was that…Barbara Walters?” I managed to say. “Yup,” my alumnus responded without even looking and returned to his email. Later, Diane Sawyer would film here to have this newsroom as a backdrop.

Michelle, a publicist at ABC News, came by (she later was kind enough to give me a cap with ABC News printed on it). Mr. Griffin helped her fix the HTML coding of webpages displaying ABC News’ Emmy Nominations for 2011, which were created so that judges would be able to see the material clearly. For example, one of the entries was an interactive virtual Westminster Abbey created around the time of the royal wedding.
 Mr. Griffin and I ended our last day with lunch at Shake Shack (where I had a delicious “purple cow” grape soda float). He emphasized, “don’t ask what you can learn how to do yourself,” and how it is useful to have knowledge about how to do a wide variety of things, not just have one skill. For instance, even though he does not know all the intricacies of the HTML language, he taught himself the practical applications of HTML. He also told me about how it is important to find a job that fulfills you in not only a moral sense, but also in an esoteric, soulful sense.

This Princeternship was a great opportunity since it provided me with valuable and interesting insight into the field of broadcast journalism and editorial and I would definitely recommend it to others. Mr. Griffin was very friendly, helpful, and informative. Although I am considering applying my passion for writing more to creative writing, video games, or film, the ABC News Princeternship taught me valuable lessons about writing, communication, software programs, and the role of entertainment and news media in today’s world.

Amanda Bestor-Siegel ’12, ABC Television

On Monday I went to the studio where “Private Practice” shoots – Raleigh Studios, in West Hollywood.  As soon as I arrived I met Gregory Van Horn ‘87, the wonderful production designer who I was shadowing for the week.  He brought me upstairs to the fourth floor of the office building, which is where all of the “Private Practice” production offices are.  Raleigh is also the home of two other TV shows, “Castle” and “The Closer,” so the three shows all have office spaces and a number of soundstages for shooting on the lot.

Gregory first brought me around all of the different offices so I could meet the many different people who work behind the scenes on the show in the production, props, set decoration, accounting, and several other departments.  I also met everyone in the art department, which was to be my home for the week – Kevin, the show’s art director, Cate, the set designer, and Ditte, the art coordinator.  All of them were so welcoming and helpful throughout the week – they really went above and beyond in showing me around and answering the many questions I had about art department work and the TV industry in general.

I spent Monday getting to know the many different places at Raleigh.  Gregory and Kevin first brought me down to Stage 1, one of the many soundstages that Private Practice has.  There I was able to walk around the set for the practice, and get a close up look at all of the incredible work the art and set decoration departments have done.  Gregory and Kevin explained to me how the backdrops work (essentially, these are very large blow-ups of photographs of L.A. that get placed behind windows on the set, and which can be altered with lighting to portray either daytime or nighttime).  They also showed me some of the work they’ve done for this season in particular – for example, the surface of the reception desk in the practice was changed this season to one with a more shell-like design on it – and the different walls and glass windows in the practice that can be moved to create additional room and visibility for the camera.  Finally, we went to one of the most exciting places on set – craft services!  This is the very long table on set that has all of the food you can ever imagine, which the cast, crew, and production staff can snack on throughout the day.  Throughout this brief tour, I asked Gregory and Kevin a lot of questions about the different art-related jobs (production designer, art director, set designer, set decorator, etc.) so I could get a sense of how they differ and what areas I might be most interested in.

After the brief tour of Stage 1, we went back up to the art department office.  I looked around at many of the drawings and collages that have been pinned up around the office and in the hallway.  For example, all of the main characters have their own poster in the hallway that shows drawings and photographs of their houses, along with details like carpet materials and wallpaper color options.  I was also given the opportunity at this point to read through all of the scripts for the rest of the season (episode 5.17 had just aired, so there were four to catch up on after that).

Gregory had a friend visiting the set in the late morning, so the group of us went back down to the lot at this point for a complete tour of all the different stages.  It was amazing getting to see all the sets in person and to see how complex all of them are, because there are definitely some details you miss when watching TV.  “Private Practice” has five soundstages at Raleigh (in addition to a stage at the Sunset-Gower Studios, a short drive away).  Stage 1 holds the practice, Stage 10 holds the hospital, Stage 14 holds Addison’s and Sam’s (two of the main characters) Malibu houses, and Stages 7 and 9 contain a number of different character’s houses and smaller rooms.  In addition to getting to walk through all the sets, I also learned a bit about etiquette on TV/ film sets – for instance, always keeping your phone shut off, walking very quietly (or just standing still) when the camera is rolling, and not entering or exiting the stage when shooting is taking place (there is a red siren light outside the door of each stage to let you know when this is happening!).

After the grand tour of all the sets, it was time for lunch.  Monday was a double-up day, meaning the show was shooting two different episodes at the same time.  During lunch we went to the production meeting for the new episode that had just started filming (5.21), so I got to see how the AD’s and production office schedule the shooting days and communicate with the many different departments in making sure that everything gets done for the episode on time.  After the production meeting, I left Raleigh to go to ABC Studios in Burbank and fill out general internship paperwork for them.

On Tuesday morning, Kevin brought me down to the set to watch a bit of shooting on the hospital set.  I got to meet Jim, the first AD on the show (who basically runs the set during shooting), as well as many other people who work on the set.  I was amazed by the number of people who work on shooting – from lighting to sound to camera operators, grips, hair and make-up crew, costumes crew, etc.  There were many people scattered throughout the set, some working right next to the shooting and others (like the Director of Photography and the writers of the episode) watching the shooting on TV screens that show what the two different cameras are shooting at the moment.  Kevin and I stood with Chuck, the video playback technician (whose job is awesome – he makes the medical equipment monitors in the hospital rooms show different images and stats for patients as needed during the scene) and watched the shooting of a scene in one of the patient rooms.

After watching shooting, I went back up to the art department office.  Gregory showed me all of the set drawings that Cate makes for the show, and he explained to me how they represent different types of walls and sets on the drawings (for example, walls that need to swing out to make additional room for the camera are marked differently than walls that remain stationary).  Gregory also showed me “Perspective,” a production design magazine made up of different articles written by production designers about their work.  I spent some time reading different copies of the magazine, which was really fascinating as far as learning about how different production designers approach their work in both film and TV.  After lunch I went back to the set to watch some more shooting, this time on the Malibu set.  Watching shooting on the Malibu decks is really interesting because it’s incredible how much of the work is done in post-production (the entire beach and ocean are created by a blue screen right in front of the constructed deck).  I continued to meet a bunch of the people who work on set and learned more about how they got involved in their respective areas of work. 

Greg VanHorn and Amanda

After watching shooting I went with Kevin and Gregory to Stage 7, where they were working on a smaller personal project.  We walked around the set for Violet’s and Pete’s (another couple on the show) house and Kevin and Gregory talked to me more about the different jobs in creating the look of each set (for example, if a lot of greenery is required on a set they might hire someone specifically to place the greenery).  Tuesday was a pretty light day for the art department, so at 5 pm when everyone went home I went back down to the set to watch more shooting at “Malibu.”

On Wednesday morning I got to go on a bunch of set decoration runs.  First I went with Jill, the buyer, to the props house at Universal Studios and to Alpha, a props house devoted specifically to medical props.  The Uni props house was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.  It was enormous, containing different floors for drapery/ fabrics, furniture, and every kind of fixture and small prop you could imagine.  I walked around with Jill and saw the process through which she marks any items that the set decorator, Melissa, might want for the show.  Jill also showed me around the set lots behind the props house, which can be rented out to people who are filming, such as the western town and the European square sets.

After Uni we went to Alpha, where Jill was getting a few boxes full of different pill bottles to fill a new medical cabinet on the hospital set.  Spending the morning with Jill was really fun and also really informative, because she taught me a lot about the differences between the art, set decoration, and props departments and unions, and she was very helpful and eager to clarify all the questions I had about the different jobs that exist.

Almost as soon as I got back to Raleigh, I went right back out again with Ditte to the sign shop at Uni.  Kevin has a lot of graphic design experience, so he designs the new signs and posters that are frequently needed on the show sets.  The sign shop at Uni then renders them into signs, so Ditte and I went to pick up a number of the finished renders.  I continued to have some really great and informative conversations with Ditte about the different art-related jobs in the industry, and how Private Practice compares to other shows (for one thing, its shooting schedule is very efficient!).

In the afternoon I helped Kevin and Ditte tape up new signs outside the patient doors on the hospital set.  I learned that the art department isn’t allowed to actually affix the signs onto the set, because that’s the painters’ job.  I hadn’t realized until this week how segmented the different unions are and how specifically the jobs on the show are divided up between people, so it was really interesting for me to see how many different people create the look of the sets at every stage.

At the end of the day I stayed late again to watch shooting, this time in the practice.  It was a very large scene with all of the main cast members, so shooting took a longer period of time.  Once again, everyone on set was very kind and it was interesting to see all the ways the set can be changed between takes to accommodate filming the same scene from different angles.

Even though my Princeternship was only originally going to last three days, Gregory was very generous in allowing me to come in on Thursday and Friday as well to continue observing everything.  On Thursday he and Kevin brought me to Sunset-Gower to show me around the other sets they have – Charlotte/Cooper’s home, as well as an extension of the practice (it’s interesting how the same building in TV-world is actually split up on two different sets in the real world).  They pointed out some of the parts of the set that we rarely see on TV, like the bathroom in Charlotte/Cooper’s home and the shelves in Pete’s office.  On Thursday afternoon, I went back to the art department office and read many of the old scripts of the show.  It’s fun to see how episodes I’ve already seen translated from page to screen, and all of the scripts in the art department office have set lists and drawings in the back as well that taught me more about how set plans are visually notated and organized for each episode.

On Friday morning, the art department received the list of new sets that needed to be created for the final episode.  Gregory, Kevin, and I went into downtown L.A. to the L.A. Center Studio to look at some possible sets to use.  Like the backlots at Uni, L.A. Center Studio has a number of sets in the building that can be rented out for different shooting needs, like a courthouse, a jail set, an office space, and much, much more.  After walking around the sets here and choosing some to be used for the new episode, Gregory and Kevin took me on a brief architectural tour of downtown L.A.  On Friday, we received the new script for the season finale, so we spent the end of the day reading through it (it was a very exciting goodbye present for me!).

I cannot express how amazing this week was and how grateful I am to Gregory, the art department, and everyone else I met at “Private Practice.”  I came into the week with a very strong interest in art department work, but I needed to learn more about the different jobs that are available in the TV/ film industry and which I would be most interested in.  Everyone I met was incredibly accommodating and open to answering all of my questions and teaching me about what they do on the show, and I came away with even more excitement about possibly going into art department or set decoration work after graduating this year.  Thank you, “Private Practice!”