February 26, 2008

Katherine Sobotka ’08 Spends Externship Working Behind Scenes at ABC World News

She worked with producer Barbara Friedman P’11 on production related to presidential primaries

Katherine Sobotka ’08 (Medford, N.Y.) is majoring in government and law. In January, she served an externship at ABC World News where she got to experience her major harmonized with another of her interests – journalism. Externships are two-to-five-day experiences job-shadowing volunteer alumni during the January interim session. Sobotka worked with Barbara Friedman P’11, a producer for ABC World News. The following is a first-person account of her experience.

When I found out that I would be taking part in an externship at ABC World News with Charles Gibson, I had no idea what to expect. While of course I was immediately excited at the thought of working behind the scenes at a major news operation, I was still pretty nervous. In addition, having to wait to be personally escorted into the office building did not calm my nerves in any way.

However, the second I saw Barbara Friedman I immediately felt comfortable and at home. I could not have asked for a better host. Instead of sitting me down in a cubicle and having me do boring paperwork that is usually associated with interns, Barbara immediately introduced me to the world of journalism.

The three days I spent at ABC were so packed that we barely even had time to eat lunch. However, the intense and always changing environment intrigued me the very moment I got there. I was fortunate enough to come at the time of one of the most emotional and critical primaries and was even able to help Barbara on her production team.

The most interesting production that I worked on covered the Michigan primaries. Not only did I increase my knowledge about politics, but I was able to watch Barbara and her editor communicate with correspondents based in Michigan.

I was able to help log an interview between a correspondent and five ordinary Michigan retirees who were discussing their concerns for the disastrous Michigan economy and the candidates they believed would pay attention to their neglected state after winning the election. Being able to help produce actual clips that aired at 6:30 was a satisfying experience unlike anything I have ever had before.

When Barbara found out that I have a passion for writing, she did everything she could to introduce me to the producers over at the operation. I met with several friendly and informative people who spoke to me about writing for ABC and my future. News does not just concern the attractive correspondents who inform you of what is going on. There is a whole different world behind these correspondents, and I was lucky enough to experience it.

Seeing firsthand everything that goes on behind the scenes for a half-hour show has completely changed my perspective on television. Now, for every station I watch, whether it be ABC, CNN, or MSNBC, I can relate what they are doing to what I did during my externship. When a clip shows up of foreclosed houses for spots on the economy, I know that all these networks use what is called B-roll. I have conversed with graphic artists and spent plenty of time with the editors who put together the clip. News is now completely different for me and while it has lost some of its mystery, it has become even more appealing.

Barbara and my externship at ABC News opened up the door to a number of possibilities for me. While I have always been interested in journalism and writing, I have met so many people there who all hold fascinating jobs that never seem to get boring. With the news constantly surrounding us, this externship has made me realize that this is something completely worth pursuing in the future.

Sobotka is a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority and works as a writing associate with the College Writing Program.

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