How She Got the Job: Elisabeth Armstrong, KATV

15151327_1249461388433818_1004580818_nElisabeth Armstrong is a General Assignment Reporter for KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas. She joined the news team in April of 2016, after spending nine months as a Morning News Anchor at KETK in Tyler, TX. Elisabeth graduated with University Honors from Colorado Christian University, earning degrees in political science and philosophy. She is currently pursuing her masters of science in bioethics at Columbia University, and also has her certification in Paralegal Studies at the University of Colorado Denver.

Q: What do you currently do at KATV?

Elisabeth: I am currently the morning reporter at KATV. The really fun thing about this position is that it is highly variable. Typically, I kick off the morning with four live shots ranging from light-hearted live interviews to breaking news… After that, I’ll often grab a look-live, and some VOSOTs or a PKG for later shows. I generally get back to the station around 7:30 and spend some time on a web copy and social media. Later, I’ll work on long term and investigative projects, book interviews, prepare the next day’s live shots, or occasionally cover a dayside story. I also regularly fill-in anchor for our Daybreak, “Good Morning Arkansas,” and Midday shows.

Q: How’d you end up back at KATV?

Elisabeth: After I completed my internships, I stayed in touch with people in the newsrooms—sending them PKGs, anchor segments, and look-lives. I was pretty hungry for critique and always looking for advice… Our news director here at KATV was always willing to give me feedback so we stayed in touch. When a position opened up here, I applied and was granted an interview. I remember walking back into the newsroom, and feeling so natural because I was familiar with the people and dynamics. I earned the position and moved out to Little Rock a few weeks later!

15174517_1249461395100484_123260939_nElizabeth Armstrong during her internship days

Q: What made you want to become a reporter?

Elisabeth: I grew up in a politically active family, and found the media’s role in elections fascinating. After the 2008 elections, I was able to get to know several journalists in the Denver market, and came to understand the responsibility that comes with framing and shaping narratives. One journalist with KUSA encouraged me not to study broadcast journalism, and instead focus on business or political science. He said you can learn everything you need to know from internships. So I took his advice, and after my first internship, I knew this was the career for me.

Q: Describe one story you have covered that has stayed with you.

Elisabeth: I have been lucky to cover some crazy stories: I have been able to share the concerns of Turkish refugees in Arkansas seeking asylum, investigate local doctors taking money from pharmaceutical companies, and be one of the first on the scene of devastating tornado damage. Even as an intern, I was able to participate in coverage of everything from a 102 car pile-up to the “Cannabis Cup.” There is one moment, actually while I was anchoring in Tyler that has stuck with me. Overnight, our team heard about a fatal car accident on the scanner and received an identity from police. After the morning show was complete, we discovered one of our station’s editors tearing up, and found out it was one of his close friends that passed away in the wreck. He heard it first from our newscast. I think that day, the responsibility that comes with what we do really hit me. Even in the age of social media, broadcast journalists are often the first bearers of news—both good and bad. So I also try to remember that it might be my voice that echoes in someone’s head as they remember a moment that changed their life.

Q: What internships have you had and why did you apply to those internships?

Elisabeth: I had the opportunity to intern at KCNC in Denver, KATV in Little Rock, KXRM in Colorado Springs, and a digital internship at 5280 Magazine in Denver. I applied for all of these internships online… I had in-person interviews for my positions at KCNC and 5280.

Q: Did you ever have to go out-of-state for an internship? What was that experience like?

Elisabeth: I am not going to lie… Moving to Arkansas while in the middle of college was extremely difficult. I moved from Denver to Pine Bluff (a town of about 30,000 an hour outside of Little Rock), where I stayed with my grandparents. They were gone for about a month, however, so I was essentially living in a state where I knew no one. It was obviously rewarding to continue to grow my writing and on-camera presence, in addition to learning the politics and culture of a different region. But it was certainly a challenge.

Q: What advice do you have on deciding where and whether to move?

Elisabeth: Finances are definitely one of the biggest factors when it comes to moving for an internship. Most broadcast journalism internships are either unpaid or minimum wage. For me, that meant I needed to balance a job on top of an internship, school, and extra-curricular activities. When deciding to move for an internship, ask yourself: Can I afford the cost of living where I am moving? I turned down an internship in New York, because I knew this would be a challenge for me. Will I have a place to live? Even though I spent hours on the road my senior year of college, I was lucky enough to have a place to live in Arkansas and a place to stay in Colorado Springs when I got snowed in, which gave me more time to focus on learning.

Q: What advice do you have on how to find the right internship?

Elisabeth: Firstly, I would encourage journalism students to apply to everything. Internships can be competitive… I know I applied to more than fifty while I was in college, and most of the time, I never heard back. Some of the internships I applied to were not necessarily what I considered the “perfect fit” on paper, but it is amazing how I always ended up where I needed to be. For your initial internship, see if you can find a structured program. At KCNC, interns worked three days a week and learned to do quite literally everything in the newsroom. On Tuesdays, the intern coordinator would set up shadowing opportunities, then create opportunities for me to use what I learned. On Fridays, I worked on the desk, answering phone calls, assisting with research, and investigating leads. On Saturdays, I went out with reporters to learn how to conduct interviews, handle live shots and standups, and write PKGs. I could not be more grateful to our intern coordinator who worked tirelessly to provide us with these experiences and the news team that was eager to be helpful. By the time I left, I had a working knowledge of how to do every position in the newsroom. It was helpful, especially when I moved to other internships that were less structured. Journalism internships are often “what you make of them,” and the skills I gained at KCNC made it easier for me to dive right into other newsrooms: I was able to conduct on-camera interviews for crime and interest pieces, coordinate with anchors/producers to write shows, work in the control room, and assist in breaking news coverage.

Q: How can aspiring journalists get the most out of their internship?

Elisabeth: I actually wrote an article about this a few months ago. A producer once told me, people get hired because they are, “at the right place, at the right time, with the right skill set.” Unlike other internships where objectives are clearly outlined, news internships are what you make them. My co-anchor told me of an intern she worked with who took personal calls, did not dress for work, and was not pro-active about going out on stories. Be sure to dive in—it’s definitely better to look stupid trying, then to not try at all. Ask questions, absorb feedback, learn how to do everything, and be helpful! Also, recognize that news is a “people’s” business. Everyone remembers what it was like to be an intern, and most are eager to be helpful. On your end, it is important to note that every single person knows something you need to learn. I was definitely overzealous (and probably slightly annoying), but stay tenacious, passionate, and curious… Generally, people will be gracious.

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