Name: Jennifer Madigan
Occupation: TV News Reporter/Producer
Place of Residence: Ottawa, Ontario
Employer: The A Channel
Interests: Anything outdoors (skiing, skating, rollerblading, surfing – when possible), reading, dance, photography
Favourite Quote: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” - Sir Winston Churchill
"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."
What are the gigs?
Madigan works in front of the camera, on the camera, and behind the scenes. She does everything from capturing and reporting television news stories as a videographer, to booking guests as a morning news show producer. It goes without saying that she is kept busy with a multiple list of responsilities. And it's absolutely essential that she can adapt to different work situations and use a wide range of equipment and technology. In addition, a sense of initiative helps get her job done. “As a videographer my job is to find story ideas, and then shoot and edit my own stories,” says Madigan. “Sometimes I get sent out with a cameraperson and then I just have to worry about finding our contacts, doing the interviews, writing the story, and then helping the editor put it together. It’s nice to have an extra person with you, especially during complicated stories. But I also enjoy the creative control when I get to shoot and edit on my own.” Any extra time is spent helping other producers with their story writing, or looking for new story ideas.
What's in a day's work?
As a reporter, Madigan's day starts with catching up on the days news from various sources. By 10 a.m., she is meeting with the other staff and reporters of the six o'clock news to decide what story will be covered that day. “Once your story is done and you’ve finished your 'live hit' your job is done for the day,' says Madigan. Working behind the scenes can be more time demanding. Keeping up with the pace of a steady news show requires a lot of stamina—and you go home only when all the work is done says Madigan. “In the morning there are newscasts every 15 minutes for the first hour-and-a-half and then every half hour for the other hour-and-a-half,” says Madigan. “As a morning show producer I get to work at 4:00 a.m. I spend the first two hours scanning the wires, CNN, papers, radio...as well as the previous night’s newscasts for story ideas. Then I decide what I want in the show and have the editors cut them for me. Then I write, write, write.”
Whatever happened to 9 to 5 jobs?
“This job doesn’t end when you leave the building” says Madigan. “I’m always looking for ideas and guests as I go through my daily routine. I also help with special projects like producing Remembrance Day specials and Election specials.”
Who is the boss?
As a reporter, Madigan works closely with producers and assignment editors at the A Channel in Ottawa. There can be some freedom in choosing stories to cover, but a reporter's story ideas are not always aired. “The real creative freedom comes in the field,” says Madigan. “You can put your story together however you see fit (although it is usually vetted by a senior producer before you get into an edit bay to cut it together). As a videographer you get to be really creative because you are picking the shots you think will work best with your story and you get to edit it all together. You’re encouraged to come up with visual metaphors.”
“As a producer you have total creative freedom,” says Madigan. “The News Director is your boss but you ultimately have control over your show from day to day. A show like the morning show is fun because you can basically think of something you want to do and do it! Outrageous and fun are part of the game! Want your hosts to rappel from your building – no problem! Just find somebody to help them do it!”
Why you want these jobs:
They are incredibly diverse and offer opportunities to meet with a wide range of people and do a wide range of slightly crazy things. “This summer I walked through a hemp maze, learned about soya underwear, followed the path of police dogs into a swamp (in heels), spent the day waiting with firefighters, and baked cookies in a hot car,” says Madigan. Television press credentials can also get you through a few doors or behind a few velvet ropes. “As a reporter I get out to events that I wouldn’t normally go to,” says Madigan. “I also get to tell the story of people you might not ever meet. Everyone has a story and I love pulling it out and presenting it.” And being nosy and inquisitive is strongly encouraged. “In this job it’s my duty to ask all the questions you might want answered,” says Madigan. “I have a lot of questions!!”
Why you might not want these jobs:
It's a tough industry, says Madigan, that involves constant, tireless devotion to telling great stories. “I always loved telling stories. That may have come from a father who loves to talk!” If you are shy, meek, risk averse do not apply. “I’ve always tried to go out on a limb for this job,” says Madigan. “From writing bizarre cover letters to get noticed, to doing unpaid internships in London, England, and leaving my job in Ottawa to do a three-month contract in London, Ontario. I try to take any opportunity that comes to me. Things are rarely easy in this industry so why make things harder for yourself?”
C'mon, got any tips?!
“Take chances!” says Madigan. “If you want something, just go for it. And if you are doing an internship don't just sit back. Ask to do more. Do what you can to really get the most from the experience. The same goes with school.” While studying journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Madigan also worked as a teaching assistant for a television reporting course.
So, how about Katie Couric's groundbreaking recent promotion?
“For so long the heavyweights in news have been men,” says Madigan. “Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Peter Mansbridge...have been the faces for their networks and you turn to them during major world events. I think it will be interesting to see how Couric does in that position. I can’t remember a major news event when I’ve watched a woman lead the coverage.”
Talk the talk:
Just keep it real and keep reeling in those viewers. Apparently, an internal CNN memo in the fall of 2002 encouraged anchors to use fresh slang to hook younger viewers. Words such as “flava” and “ill” were suggested.
(From the American Journalism Review, November 2002).
Walk the walk:
It's worth it to check out the Global Television “Broadcasters of the Future” awards, “a series of scholarships designed to encourage and aid talented and enthusiastic Canadians toward establishing or furthering a career in the Canadian broadcast industry.” (See Canada.com for more info and to download forms).