NBC News producer offers tips on breaking into media in the digital age

NBC News Executive Producer Elizabeth O'Connell (L) is interviewed by Jean Chatsky of the Today show at Temple University Oct. 3. (Photo by Daniel Pelligrine)
NBC News Executive Producer Elizabeth O’Connell (L) is interviewed by Jean Chatsky of the Today show at Temple University Oct. 3. (Photo by Daniel Pelligrine)
By Jeff Cronin

The annual Charles and Elaine Sherman Lecture started out with a question from NBC News executive producer Elizabeth O’Connell to her audience: where did you get your news this morning?

The answers included traditional outlets like CNN and the Today show, but also Twitter and Facebook.

As the executive producer for wireless and radio, O’Connell understands the diversity of the platforms through which news is consumed.

But she cautioned those in attendance at the Oct. 3 lecture to be smart about what they read or hear.

“We’re getting a lot of information,” O’Connell said. “It’s not all necessarily news.”

O’Connell discussed her 30-year career at NBC in a conversation with Jean Chatsky, the financial editor for NBC’s Today, and how she’s seen journalism evolve. And since technology has changed, anyone wishing to enter the field has to have a skill set to be able to supply the news through all forms of media.

Borrowing Glamour magazine’s “do’s and don’ts” format, O’Connell offered a series tips to the aspiring journalists in the audience, especially around the importance of completing an internship.

“It’s imperative if you want to do a news job at any media company,” she said.

Her other advice?

  • Be on time; don’t be late
  • Don’t lead anyone to believe that you know what you don’t know.
  • Find the line between persistent and obnoxious
  • Dress for success; don’t wear flip-flops

She also encouraged young reporters to always strive for excellence. “Aspire to do better than fine,” she said.

From all O’Connell said, it’s obviously a lot of work to make an impact in journalism, but she said it’s all worthwhile.

“We have a front row seat to history,” she said.

The lecture series was founded by the Shermans to benefit School of Media and Communication students and to encourage an ongoing dialogue about broadcasting, cable and satellite in a free society.