I was not excited when I heard Hoda Kotb was the keynote speaker on Day Two of the convention simply because I am not a fan of that 9 a.m. hour of NBC’s Today show, which she hosts with Kathie Lee Gifford. However, I must say she won me over, and I think she inspired many students as well.
Fresh out of Virginia Tech, Hoda hit the road on her first job hunt, making her pitch at one small television station after another. It was rough.
“Twenty seven news directors told me to my face I was not good.”
That’s right. Twenty seven news directors rejected her. But finally, she was hired in Greenville, Mississippi. The news director there had confidence in her.
“You only need one person who believes in you,” Hoda told the crowd.
From there, she progressed from small market to bigger market TV stations. But she said she made each place her home.
“To be a good journalist, you have to go to a town and own it,” she said.
She particularly loved New Orleans, where she lived and worked for 6 years. Later, she covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked for Dateline NBC.
But some of her most valuable lessons came when she got breast cancer several years ago.
Three things having breast cancer taught her;
1) Stop wasting time. Hold on to the things you love. Let go of the things you don’t.
2) “You can’t scare me.” Her new mantra. Having survived cancer, she had nothing to fear. Ever.
During Q & A, students asked mostly for career advice. For one student, it was a bit more personal. She wanted to be a TV reporter, and she had always been brave. But her dad had been killed in a car accident, and it made her afraid. She asked Hoda what to do about that fear that was holding her back. Hoda called her up to the podium, hugged her and promised she would be okay.
This session with Dan Close from Wichita State University had a lot of practical advice. I found myself wishing the entire Beacon staff was there. Some of his tips:
- Quit being boring when asking for an interview. Who wants to talk to a boring person?
- Quit asking permission for interviews. Assume you have authority. Come out forceful without being a jerk.
- Be comfortable with silence after your question. Wait for your source to answer, even if it takes a while and feels awkward.
- GIve sources their chance to tell their story. You are doing the story regardless.
- Look for information about your source online.
- When people are being vague with answers is the time to bore in with more specific questions.
- Ask them if they have questions or opinions on the subject.
- Play psychologist. Figure out what makes your source tick?
- Bob Schieffer’s two favorite follow-up questions: What do you mean by that? Can you give me some examples?
- Don’t allow quote approval.
- Keep your readers in mind when asking questions.
- Imagine yourself winning the gold medal for interviewing. Visualize success.
- “Use your big person voice.”
- Always interview for Page One
- Use humor
- If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. You can even ask them to write something down in “two sentences my grandma could understand.”
- Listen to complainers and conspiracy freaks.