My internship started with tweet at the WGN Back to School Kids Fair in 2014. I used to go the fair every year as a child, not for the free backpacks or to meet the mascots. I went to follow the producers and talent around. I was so fascinated about how live television worked.
So, in 2014 I went to the fair with my little brother. The day before the event, I tweeted a “Throwback Thursday” to one of the anchors of the top-rated WGN Morning News. She asked if I could take an updated picture. So in the 30 seconds she came outside to speak with me, I mentioned I was studying journalism, working at WGN was my dream, etc. And she said I should come by the studio for a show at some point.
I pestered her (well, I’m sure annoyed) for months and in January I finally was able to visit the studio right before I went back to school in South Dakota.
Then it was a few months of phone tag and emails with the internship coordinator, two interviews and in the spring I got the offer.
I remember my first day being deathly afraid and also very excited. I was at WGN, those famous call letters World’s Greatest Newspaper. It was a dream come true.
Here are some of the highlights of my experience:
The Blackhawks coverage was just good timing for me. Two people were on vacation and the Chicago Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup final and eventually won the cup.
I was put in charge of the WGN Morning News sub-brand social media accounts and helped a ton on the WGN News accounts while our department was understaffed.
The fact that I was trusted to post to 180,000+ people on the Morning News accounts was such an honor, but also terrifying. The WGN Morning News “voice” isn’t like anywhere else. It’s snarky and funny, but also serious. To achieve that balance is difficult. I met some awesome people at Channel 9 who helped me write in that voice and I learned to push the limits just a bit.
While two separate broadcasters, WGN Radio and Television still fall under the Tribune Media company. Unfortunately WGN Radio historically hasn’t been strong in my demographic, and honestly I didn’t listen to it much before I started at WGN-TV. That changed when I started at ‘GN and I am now will be a life-long listener.
My first week, I happened to be driving to the store and heard a show called WGN Girls Night Out with Hannah Stanley. Unfortunately I only heard the end, but the last segment just drew me in. It’s called Moment of Gratitude. The host, producers and whoever is in the studio shares something they are grateful for. I had just finished my first week at TV and I was so grateful that my boss was not only teaching me a lot, but also let me DO THINGS. Which is something I’ve been told is rare in DMA #3. I called in and shared my moment of gratitude.
Then, a few weeks later I ran into Hannah at the WGN Radio Walk of Fame induction ceremony. Lucky for me I got off work at 11 a.m. and I had wanted to see the ceremony, so I drove into the Loop and watched near Tribune Tower. I chatted with Hannah a bit and witnessed radio legends get recognized for their achievements at the station.
A few weeks later I messaged Hannah on Facebook. I asked if I could sit-in on one of her shows. She said yes and then asked if I would produce a segment.
Not only did she let me produce a segment, but once I got there I was also able to co-host with her for three hours.
It was a blissful moment for me to sit in the Allstate Showcase Studio on Michigan Avenue, talk on those airwaves and to meet someone who CARED and was willing to show me the ropes.
If you want to listen to Hannah’s show, tune to 720-AM or go to WGNradio.com Saturdays 7–9 p.m.
I got to produce a ton of content for the WGNtv.com and social media. Not much is featured on my author page, but I was able to write a few of my own original stories when I wasn’t adapting broadcast stories for web or working on social media.
Here are some of the stories I did -> http://wgntv.com/author/michael-geheren/
I also got to do a demo read at the anchor desk:
Being in the newsroom most days and working in web didn’t get me out in the field much. But, when I did go out it was both fascinating and exciting.
Around Town with Habitat for Humanity
I got to develop some construction skills, help a good cause and do social media from the field.
Crime coverage with Nancy Loo
I wanted to make sure I went out with a reporter at least once during my experience. My boss said she would try to get me paired up with one, but I really wanted to go with Nancy Loo. Way before I started, I always admired her social media skills and interaction as a reporter. While many reporters are trying right now (some in just the last few weeks of my internship) to fully grasp social media, Nancy has been ahead the game for years. I wanted to see why…and how she managed both social media and reporting in the field.
I wish I could have spent more time with Nancy and her crew, but I learned a tremendous amount in just a few hours.
Back to School Kids Fair 2015
Full circle for me, I got to work at the 2015 Back to School Kids Fair. One of the anchors decided to do a quick segment about my previous experience at the fair, so that was fun:
It was a great day and brought back so many memories.
More important than all the fun and games was — the people. I cannot begin to explain how amazing these WGN’ers are. They all seem to really want the best in me. The web team was great. You’re supposed to learn a ton at an internship…right? I feel like I gained more knowledge about digital journalism and social media in three months than my entire educational career.
Another thing that surprised me was the genuine people in this market. I didn’t think the talent would talk to me or even really acknowledge the intern. However, I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. These professionals are the best of the best, but they understand there is another generation of journalists learning.
There are so many people that made an impact on me, I cannot count.
Besides the professionals skills I gained, what I also learned in this experience is that I am doing exactly what I want to in life.
Looking ahead to what’s next, but I am so grateful for this experience.