August 23, 2008

Today Show Brings Back Megan Zaroda ’07 in Beijing

She appeared in live weekend segment

A few weeks ago, Megan Zaroda ’07 landed a spot on the Today Show to show off the capital’s burgeoning nightlife scene to weekend anchor Lester Holt. A friend of a friend of a friend who worked at NBC plugged her as the “white girl who spoke Chinese,” she explains.

“When the program didn’t run on its scheduled day, I was doubtful it ever would,” Zaroda says. “And when it was finally released, and I saw the online version that only featured me and my new friends for about 3 seconds, I figured that would be the last national broadcast I’d ever be in – but I was wrong.”

Zaroda shot off a thank-you email to Holt for including her in the broadcast. Since the two were now “drinking buddies,” Zaroda jokingly asked whether Holt would be able to introduce her to his other “buddies” – the Today Show talent – later that week.

What she got was not just a “My pleasure” email. Instead, her witty email had landed her a gymnastics finals ticket, a guest pass to the Today Show set on the day of star swimmer Michael Phelps’ interview, dinner with the Today Show talent, and another segment gig – this time, a live, unscripted interview about must-have Beijing souvenirs Aug. 23.

“When I did the nightlife spot, I never would have thought I’d later sit in the stands with Lester watching an American win a medal, share a burger with [Today weekday co-anchor] Matt Lauer, or even do another Today Show segment,” Zaroda says. “It just seems that one surreal moment rolls into the next.”

Though seeing Phelps and other Olympians on set was enough to make her star struck, the conversations she had with the Today Show crew were almost more interesting, she says. For Zaroda, these insights made TV personalities into real people.

“Over a beer, I learned that if Holt gave up his career, he’d be a bass player,” Zaroda said. “[Weekday co-anchor] Meredith [Viera] calls everyone ‘sweetie,’ [weather anchor] Al [Roker] is the comic tease of the bunch, and none of them can understand why Chinese babies wear split pants not diapers.”

Zaroda co-anchored Lafayette’s first election broadcast in 2006, but her second Today Show role left her in unfamiliar territory – winging it on national television.

“The host has his prepared questions, but I’m just going to be holding up souvenir after souvenir, trying to sell the American public on why a kitschy Mao watch or a strand of sea pearls is their best bet to beat the ‘All I got was this lousy T-shirt’ habit,” said Zaroda beforehand. “Doing that unscripted and live, knowing that my friends and family are back home watching, is a bit nerve-wracking. And besides, it gives away my Christmas present ideas!”

Zaroda works in Beijing as the publications manager for Our Chinese Daughters Foundation Publications, specializing in educational materials about Chinese culture. She is also a food critic for the city’s expatriate magazine, The Beijinger, and does English consulting for local businesses.

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