Friday, August 14, 2009

A Unique Perspective

In my quest for employment after graduation, I've applied for jobs in both radio and television in 25 states literally across the country, from Alaska to California to New York City. I've just finished applying for an Assistant Producer position to WNYC's new morning program, "The Takeaway." The application process was interesting, as it didn't require filling out a form or attaching the obligatory air check, reference list and resume. Instead, applicants are required to write. There were four questions, each one necessitating a heightened level of reading/writing and thinking. I won't tag anyone in this, but I found each question thought-provoking, and my answers even surprised myself. Feel free to give it a read if you like.

Question A: What is your unique perspective? You’re sitting at the daily morning editorial meeting with 10 colleagues. You’re all planning the next day’s broadcast, and each of you brings a different perspective to the table – whether due to your varied backgrounds, interests, skills, education, or life experiences. At that table, what is your unique perspective? What sets you apart from the others? And what about your background, interests, skills, education, or life experiences have shaped that perspective? Tell us in 500 words or less, and please be specific.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with learning new information. Attending college in Eastern Kentucky, I was privy to the stories of hundreds of individuals—each with their own moving, tragic tales of drug-addled rural mining communities, corrupt politicians buying votes, and genes that never stray too far from the pool.

Along with each of these heartbreaking stories were dozens more about individual perseverance, moments of triumph, and a hunger to change the self-destructive habits of the people around them. It wasn’t long before I changed my major from Jazz Studies to Journalism, and began working tirelessly in the newsroom of my local NPR affiliate station. Each story drove me to learn more, to read, to interview, to write, and to share that information with all of our listeners.

From the age of 18, my short four years of college were as devoted to journalism as they were to studying. As Kentucky’s Hispanic population rapidly expanded over the years, I picked up a Spanish minor and learned to communicate with Mexican immigrants and migrant workers as I had done in high school. With a bi-lingual edge, I had the opportunity to learn poignant information previously unknown to my colleagues and others in the community. My hunger for storytelling became insatiable, and I took the initiative to work after-hours at the radio station to meticulously craft personal feature projects, which aired weekly.

Along with a full class schedule, work at the radio station and frequent roles in theatre productions, I also took it upon myself to learn all about the craft of television broadcast journalism. Before long, I had taught myself how to operate a camera, capture creative images for news packages, and compress a healthy amount of information into a 90-second news package. I was soon promoted to lead anchor for Morehead State University’s student-ran TV station, and subsequently promoted to Assignment Editor the following semester. My fascination for politics prodded me into personally scheduling an interview with Governor Steve Beshear on the second Tuesday of each month during Kentucky’s general assembly and each month thereafter, where I got 15-20 minutes to ask him about pressing state issues.

This was still not enough to quench my never-ending thirst for learning and sharing new information. I soon began my own personal project online, The Faux Radio Show.

After booking guests, I joined online communities and personally promoted each upcoming episode of my program, and soon gained a devoted regular listening audience. Many times, audience members frequently called into my programs to ask questions to myself and my guests. It has since become a wonderful 21st century tool for provocative citizen journalism. Presently, I have succeeded in my goal bringing the show back in September to interview Bestselling Author John Perkins live on the air about his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”

As such, my unique perspective is that of a passionate journalist with a yearning to learn more and share with others using whatever means necessary.

Question B: Where do you get your information that interests you? Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

I believe opening dialogue with others who have opposing views is key to understanding and self-improvement. Without being challenged, we cannot grow as intellectuals, and will never be forced to re-evaluate our positions and values. I’ve learned the best way to persuade and make others think is to communicate your values through facts, using information gained by respected sources. For most issues, my sources include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, and NPR. For environmental/health issues, I rely on peer-reviewed sources like the Nature scientific journal and National Geographic, and the World Health Organization.

Question C: What are your favorite investigative tools or techniques for your life, job or interests? Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

For gathering new information, I find there is no better source than the internet. Online is the only place where information flows freely and nonstop, and most of my preferred sources of information are easily accessible online. However, I still believe maintaining and developing personal relationships with elected officials, citizens, intellectuals, and others is the responsibility of any serious journalist. As human beings, we depend on contact with others to ease our need for social interaction. As such, a staple of investigative journalism will always be a one-on-one intellectual conversation.

Question D: When have you worked as part of a team of people who didn’t share your background or think the way you do? Describe the experience. Please limit your response to 100 words or less.

As an actor, I’ve frequently found myself working in close-knit ensembles to achieve the common goal of telling the story as effectively and as convincingly as possible. Despite all of our differences and backgrounds, the script always brings the cast together into a single unit. For those few months, each actor would treat his or her fellow cast members as their own family; not only would we work together, but we would eat, socialize, and study together as well. Even after the play’s run was through, the relationships built with the cast would last for years.


  1. you write how we must re-evaluate our positions and the need to be challenged yet your sources are often ridiculed for being stridently left wing and for allowing their editorial content to seep into hard news stories.

    i hope that this position for which you have applied is in the editorial department such as it may be as you have a clear agenda that has no place in hard news.

    i see in the writing presented above exactly how we have arrived at this place where the media is full of wide-eyed idealists whose agenda is not to report the facts simply as they are but to allow their take on the news to be a part of the story.

    I believe you could better serve yourself and your career if you applied to some more balanced or even conservative news outlets as they may actually give you what you claim to seek. fresh perspective and an opposing view to challenge your liberal dogma.

  2. The only people who ridicule sources as well-respected and credible as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, NatGeo, Nature, NPR, and the WHO as "stridently left-wing" are angry, bitter right-wingers who keep having their backward values challenged by those pesky fact things. The Times and the Post clean up at the Pulitzers each year. The Pulitzer Prize, by the way, is given for excellence in journalism. And for the record, radical right-wing papers like the Washington Times and the New York Post (and anything else owned by Rupert Murdoch) are laughed at for good reasons.

    I'd sympathize with your position more had I cited actual left-wing sources like MSNBC, The Daily Show/Colbert Report, The Onion, or even the Huffington Post. But you just sound foolish when you point to the gold standard of journalism and call it "stridently left-wing." That is a statement that reeks of ignorance when taken into context.

    So anon, let me humbly ask, what would qualify as a "balanced" pillar of journalism if the Times, the BBC, or the Post doesn't cut it? If you were going to say FOX news or the Wall Street Journal, then don't bother.

    The only time the media is accused of being liberal is when it points out, through the continuous actions of greedy corporate CEOs, investment bankers, and corrupt politicians, that the right wing value system is irrelevant, outdated, selfish, destructive, and xenophobic. These conservatives then lash out when the truth rings too true for them. And they retreat to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage to have them tell them what they want to hear.