Saturday, July 18, 2009

Alvarado '10, Crump '10: In NY with Dan Rather

(This entry is #4 in our series on summer 2009 Aggie journalism interns.)

Nicole Alvarado '10 and Daniel Crump '10 are interning with Dan Rather at his HDNet news program, "Dan Rather Reports," in New York. They are the first interns at the show who are not from Sam Houston State (Rather's alma mater) -- and that's due in large part to Alvarado, as you'll read below. (Alvarado was the Batt's editor-in-chief for 2008-2009; Crump has done podcasts for the Batt.)

Crump and Alvarado (pictured below with another HDNet intern and fellow Aggie Kenny Ryan in Times Square) are getting a wide range of assignments, including some directly from Rather.

From left are Heather Itzen, Daniel Crump and Nicole Alvarado, all interns at HDNet's "Dan Rather Reports," and May 2009 A&M graduate Kenny Ryan, interning at New York's WOR 710 NewsTalk Radio. Itzen is from Sam Houston State University.

I asked Alvarado to talk a little bit about the internship so far, what the best experiences have been, whether she has any advice to pass along, etc., and she was kind enough to write about it for us. Here it is!

So far, we have done a wide variety of things. As far as traditional, daily journalism goes, they just make sure that we are up-to-date on the goings-on of the world. However, they don't send us out on assignments since the show itself is more of an investigative endeavour (even though production has halted for the month of July, yet will resume in August, under mandate by Mark Cuban, the owner of HDnet), and often focuses on international pieces.

What we are mostly involved in is a wide range of learning experiences that vary from making copies of episodes to DVDs to have for a library, to running errands for Mr. Rather, to attending recording sessions with him for the show. However, our duties have mostly fallen within the department of research, as far as the show is concerned. That, and every once in a while Mr. Rather will assign us individual assignments of his own accord. For example, yesterday he had us all watch "Nothing But The Truth" and write up a 2-page response on the issues of privacy and source protection in journalism.

I am LOVING my time here in New York. This kind of journalism is exactly what I want to do and I love that this city literally never seems to sleep.

As for how I obtained this internship, the executive producer of the show, Wayne Nelson, came and talked to the staff of The Battalion, the student newspaper at A&M, for one of our 400 meetings. At the time, I was editor-in-chief of the paper, and as I was listening to him describe what the show was about, I became entranced with the idea behind it. After he spoke, I approached him about it and asked him a few more questions, then invited him back to the newsroom, where I proceeded to show him my resume and portfolio, then hound him until I had heard something back from him. Needless to say, I got the internship, which was a phenomenal opportunity because normally, there is only one intern who is secured through a program that Mr. Rather set up at Sam Houston decades ago. We are the first interns not to come through that program.

The best experience has just been how intent everyone here is to us learning how to do everything. Advice I'd give to aspiring journalists: never give up. Pursue something with all you've got, whether it be a story, a source or just a job, plain and out. Don't take "No" for an answer. I effectively got Mr. Nelson to set up an internship program that wasn't even in existence for this show, but it wasn't easy. Try and accumulate all the experience you can because if there's one thing everyone is looking for, it's someone who can do everything and do it well.

Best experience? Man....there are so many. The other day, when we went with Mr. Rather to a stand-up, when he records the introductions, segues and conclusions to the show in a studio, they allowed the interns to sit in afterwards and filmed us reading the first segment from the teleprompter. That was a really cool experience. That, and honestly, just going into work every day and realizing that holy cow, I work with Dan Rather. The man comes into the office, knows my name, seems to take a real, personal interest in his interns, is always thinking of fun stuff for us to do...one of my favorite things he does is every time he sees us, he always greets us by name and asks us what we've learned today. He seems so adamant that one never stop learning, and earnest in his efforts to help us grow. About a week ago we watched a documentary on him called "Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers" and it was simply phenomenal. The man has seriously been present at every major historical event since Hurricane Carla--he is an icon, an integral part of history and a milestone marker for journalism. If I could ever be half the reporter he is, I'd feel fulfilled.
I have a blog that I've been keeping about the stuff we do both at work and our experiences outside of it, in New York. The link to that is: http://n16alvarado.wordpress.com. On there, I have the sites for my photos and videos blogrolled, so people can look at those as well. I update about once a week and try to keep people up-to-date on all the tasks I do at work, as well.


I personally worked on the "Private Prisons" episode that aired just a few short weeks ago, as in, the research I did directly contributed to the production of the show. Also, that was the first episode with the interns' names in the credits, which was pretty exciting, needless to say.