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Carrie Lee ’89, morning business anchor, hosts externships at CNN Headline News

By Carrie Lee ’89

If you want to work in the fast-paced television news business, you have to think and move on your feet. There’s little time to spare, and even less margin for error.

That was one of the many things four Lafayette students learned during an externship at CNN’s New York City headquarters in the TimeWarner Center.

As a business news correspondent for CNN Headline News, and a Lafayette Class of 1989 graduate (economics and business major, English minor), I agreed to show the students what it’s like to work at CNN. My goal was for them to get a handle on the entire process: how news events filter into our newsroom, which stories to cover, how the pieces – content, sound, visuals – come together, and how the end product makes its way to your television or computer screen.

I first brought Carolyn Freundlich, Marie Ann Garofalo, Adam Greenwald, and Kristin Kenny to my desk in the CNN newsroom. As I met with my producer to discuss our stories for the day and begin writing scripts, they were given a private, 45-minute tour of the CNN facilities.

Once we regrouped, we sat with CNN President Jon Klein, round table style, in his office for nearly an hour. Klein spoke very openly about the evolving nature and role of television news, the competitive landscape among networks, and what it takes to have a successful career in journalism.

Over a quick lunch (and gorgeous views of Central Park), the five of us talked about how 20-somethings get their news today, their personal areas of interest in journalism, and the future state of journalism and television news as technology evolves.

Afterward, a newsroom director explained the logistics in deciding which stories to air and how to cover them. Other meetings included an overview of the graphics department (it’s always dark in the room, so that the on screen visuals in progress really pop), and an in depth look at the CNN Money web site. Bill Tucker, correspondent for Lou Dobbs Tonight, talked about the craft of interviewing, and Poppy Harlow, anchor for CNN Money, CNN’s financial news web site, discussed online broadcasting.

The final part of the day was the most fun, and, perhaps, most nerve-wracking. Carolyn, Marie, Adam, and Kristin sat in my studio, behind the news desk, and delivered a mock financial news report. Reading a teleprompter may look easy, but I think they would all agree there’s more to it than meets the eye (like listening to production cues while you’re reading, ad libbing when necessary, and looking and sounding natural). It takes practice to get it right, but perseverance is key.

And, it always helps to have fun along the way. We did.

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