Alumni Q&A: Kristen Conner, Anchor and Reporter for WHNT News 19

IMG_9197Kristen Conner is an anchor/reporter for WHNT News 19 in northern Alabama. In 2017, she received the Edward R. Murrow Award for her work on the 30 min. documentary A Rescue Mission. She graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a B.A. in Communications and Journalism and a Minor in Political Science. You can follow Conner on Twitter at KConnerWHNT

Can you describe your job at WHNT News 19 and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

As Sunday anchor, I am part of a weekend team with limited supervision and a smaller staff. I act as a manager often, assigning reporters stories and sending out crews on the news of the day as it breaks.

My typical day in this role begins in the afternoon. I come in, work with the producer to read through the shows, make suggestions as needed, and research stories and make calls in order to decide how to handle news happening throughout the day. Then, I get up in the chair and anchor the show with the meteorologist and sports anchor. We typically do two shows on Sundays.

During the week, I shift back into a reporter role. I come into the afternoon meeting with researched and vetted pitch ideas. After I’m assigned, I’ll grab my gear and head out.

As a multimedia journalist, I set up, shoot, interview, write, edit and then present my own stories on multiple deadlines. We have a 4pm, 6pm and 10 p.m. newscast. It’s a busy day, but you’re always doing something different, new, and often exciting!

Watch Conner’s Story: Tennessee Valley Marvel fans react to death of Stan Lee

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Alumni Q&A with Emily Kostic, Director of Marketing for Canvs AI

Emily Kostic portraits_SOCIAL_25Emily Kostic is Director of Marketing for Canvs AI. She graduated from Rowan University in 2010 with her B.A. in Journalism and a specialization in Women’s Studies. 

Briefly describe your job. What do you do on a daily basis?

I work for a tech startup focused on AI-powered topical and emotional analysis of social media content. In short, some of the biggest media and entertainment companies in the world (e.g. HBO, NBCU, Viacom, et al) pay for access to our data so they can better understand how people feel about the content they’re putting out into the world.

As Director of Marketing, I’m in charge of the overall branding, positioning, and lead gen for the company. Essentially, one of my core responsibilities is to incentivize and encourage adoption of our products among relevant key stakeholders throughout the media and entertainment industry.

What is one thing you love about your current job?

I thoroughly enjoy working in tech. It’s extremely interesting to me to work for a company that’s working hard to redefine how companies tell stories and develop new revenue opportunities using our data.

What is one of the biggest challenges of your current job?

Explaining what I do for a living when I come home to visit family. Ha, kidding! But seriously, in general, I think working in tech can be a bit of a challenge. You’re essentially raising your hand to say that you want to push forward the “traditional” way of thinking for any given industry. That can often lead to a lot of head scratching from the people around you. Don’t get me wrong — that can certainly be fun — but often times, constantly having to explain (and re-explain) your position on an entire industry can be a bit exhausting.

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Alumni Q&A with Renée Ernst, Producer of Social Publishing at CNN

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Photo courtesy of CNN

Renée Ernst is a Producer of Social Publishing at CNN. Ernst graduated from Rowan University in 2008 with her B.A. in Journalism. Previously, she managed social media at the Huffington Post and The Record. Follow her on Twitter at @renee_ernst

Can you describe your role at CNN and what you do?

I am part of a large dynamic team that focuses on pulling key moments from CNN on TV, finding viral content that is being shared on every social media platform, running the accounts of the show pages (like AC360) and publishing the content to CNN’s main social media accounts. We also plan social strategy and look for new platforms to use. I help oversee what gets published to the main CNN social accounts.

I understand you took a break from journalism for a few years. What did you do? And what made you want to come back?

I begrudgingly left the media in the first place. Journalism has been running through my veins since I was in high school, so the decision to leave was not made lightly. I was young. I learned a hard life lesson at the first newspaper where I worked full-time as a breaking news reporter. The resulting takeaway was not to give up, especially when someone senior to you says you can’t hack it. During my two-year hiatus, I worked on my master’s degree and worked for the government, but I found myself missing journalism more and more every day. When the opportunity to return presented itself, I did not hesitate to come back.

Can you talk about the process of building the social media presence at The Record?

It was daunting at first. When you work at a company whose priority (at the time) was print then digital, it can be quite a mountain to climb. The Record was just starting to acknowledge how important the web site was when I took over the paltry social accounts that existed. So, I was not even on the radar of those running the newspaper at the time. I had an incredible boss, who believed in me and supported my campaign to make social media matter in the newsroom. I got reporters involved, and then we had the biggest story of the year: Governor Christie’s staff orchestrating traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge.

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Sports Broadcaster, Teacher and Author Fulfills Super Bowl Dreams

EdBenkinBookIn recent weeks, Ed Benkin, a sports anchor for KYW and WIP Radio, has seen the fulfillment of two Super Bowl dreams.

The first is the publication of his new book, The First 50 Super Bowls: How Football’s Championships Were Won, which came out at the end of December 2017. Benkin, who teaches a sports broadcasting course at Rowan University and is an almnus, said vintage footage from the 1970s and 80s inspired him to dig deeper into the history of the big game.

The second is that Benkin will travel to Minnesota to cover his first Super Bowl in person. Even though he expects to be working nearly 24/7 in the week leading up to the game, he plans to “soak in the atmosphere” of one of the biggest days of his career.

“It’s kind of hard to top the Super Bowl in almost anything,” said Benkin. “It’s so much more than a football game.”

Follow Benkin’s Eagles Super Bowl coverage on KYW106094WIP and on Twitter @EdBenkin

Rowan alumnus Trymaine Lee named MSNBC correspondent

Congratulations to Rowan alumnus Trymaine Lee (2003), who was recently named as a correspondent at MSNBC. Lee has worked at The New York Times, Huffington Post, and most recently as a national reporter for MSNBC.

Lee was one of several members of The Times-Picayune newspaper to win the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News reporting in 2006 for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

To find out more about Lee, read a Rowan University profile and follow him on Twitter @trymainelee

Alumni Q & A with Ashley Kalena, Manager of YouTube Strategy for National Geographic

Ashley Kalena works as a Manager of YouTube Strategy for National Geographic. She graduated from Rowan University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism. In 2008, she earned her Master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

She will participate in a Student Alumni Association event called Sips ‘N’ Tips on Wednesday, November 8 at 6 pm in the Student Center Pit at Rowan University.

Describe your job. What do you do on a daily basis?
I manage YouTube for National Geographic.  Pretty much what that means is that I write and implement the strategy for all three U.S. based channels and then act upon that strategy.  I also run the content development for YouTube, which means at any given time I am working with producers, editors, production companies, and talent to make video content that’s right for the platform.

Can you share some of your work that particularly proud of?
This is going to be very hard to narrow down!  Earlier this year, I executive produced a live aftershow in LA discussing the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots, with live feeds from three locations.  It was hosted by Soledad O’Brien, had 11 guests who all offered different points of view on the conversation:

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Neil deGrasse Tyson multiple times on video projects.  I’ve produced at least 35 videos with him.  I’ve even been in a few with him!  Including this one, where I played the game Heads Up with him.

In June of this year, I hosted and co-hosted two lives from Napa Valley for Get Outdoors Day.  I was also the Executive Producer on these shows as well.  It was a really cool experience.  I put volcanic ash on my face for all to see!

What is one thing you love about your current job?
I am very creative and very organized.  My job calls for both these traits so I’m constantly being pushed to challenge myself in new ways.

What is one of the biggest challenges of your current job?
One of the biggest challenges I face is not being able to control resources or budget – this comes from above me.  So, I always have to get creative with how to spend the money I do have and make use of the people around me in the best possible way, because they are great resources too.

Briefly explain how you arrived at this point in your career — from Rowan University to the present?
During my last year at Rowan, the broadcast specialization was added, and I quickly realized this was the area I wanted to pursue.  I took as many classes as I could that year to prepare myself.  Since Rowan didn’t offer a graduate program at the time for broadcast journalism, I applied elsewhere and got accepted to Syracuse University.  I received my M.S. from the Newhouse School.  From there, I got offered a job in Washington DC, at Travel Channel, where I worked for two years.  I then took a position at National Geographic, where I’ve been for over seven years, in various roles.

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists studying at Rowan University?
There is not set path for journalists.  Storytelling can exist in many forms and on many platforms. You have to be able to adapt with technology and trends, while still staying true to yourself, your integrity and your journalistic intuition – those skills will apply to whatever role you find yourself in.

Alumni Q & A: Nery Rodriguez, Multimedia Journalist at Jersey Sports Zone

Nery Rodriguez is currently a multimedia journalist for Jersey Sports Zone. He graduated from Rowan in 2017 with a B.A. in Journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @RUneryrodriguez

NeryWhat’s something you love about your job?
I go somewhere different each day. The fact that I don’t punch in or sit in an office, and I get to work from home is a plus to my job. But I really enjoy that every day I will be interviewing someone new, seeing different scenery and I get to interact with players and coaches from different communities. The other part of my job that I love is I get to see high school talents that are committed to big time college programs. It’s great to watch them grow in terms of their athletic careers and people as they start a whole new chapter of their life.

What skill(s) have you learned at your job that you believe will help you or has helped you in the field you are in?
I’ve learned how to be a better video journalist — camera positioning, where to stand, head room, etc. But some of the most useful information is common sense and learning to not get overwhelmed such as if something doesn’t go your way. If you miss a shot or you don’t have a great standup, you have to keep going. Aim to do a great job every time, but if it’s not your day don’t be discouraged and hang your head.

What is your biggest challenge at your job?
The biggest challenge I have at my job is trying to educate people on our site and what we do. Jersey Sports Zone is a company that started out just filming high school sports in Monmouth and Ocean County as “Shore Sports Zone.” This year the company went state wide, and I was hired as one of their first employees.

How has Rowan’s journalism curriculum prepared you for this job?
I love Rowan. I owe my talent and everything I have received from this job to my many professors. The curriculum prepared me for real life scenarios and helps me at my job every day. You can’t teach experience, but everyone at Rowan makes sure you have a good understanding of what to do when those key situations arise.

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