How Pulling Paper Apart Helped Me Discover My Career Path

perforated paper

One of the first pieces of advice I give to anyone wanting a job in sports broadcasting is to get an internship. Better yet, get lots of internships. I have a degree from the University of Arizona in media arts and a minor in journalism, but it’s the practical experience I got that gave me an understanding of the business and helped me determine my career path.

My first internship was during my junior year in college. I spent an entire semester ripping scripts for the nightly newscasts at the local NBC station in Tucson, Arizona. Technology has made script distribution far more efficient, but back in the early 1990s it was a job that gave any intern an immediate taste of the frenetic pace of a newsroom.

After the anchors, producers and director had finalized writing the stories that would be read that night, the producer would give the signal for blast off. A ginormous printer would fire up and spit out hundreds of pages of continuous paper with perforated edges that held multiple layers of colored paper together. Because the news business is so fluid, the print dump wouldn’t happen until just before the newscast, which meant the intern would have only 15 or 20 minutes to prep and deliver the scripts. First, I would number each page so it corresponded to the matching story in the producer’s rundown. Next, I would find the small slits on the bottom of each page and tear them apart. Then, I would rip off the edges on each perforated side and separate all of the pages into color-coordinated piles that I would distribute, depending on color, to certain people. Blue and pink would go to the anchors, the director got the yellow pile, green would go to the producer, etc. Missing the deadline wasn’t an option, which meant I often was running into the control room minutes before airtime to ensure everyone had their paperwork.

It was a big job for someone like me, a 19-year-old, who had no idea what she was doing! Put the scripts out of order, and if the anchor had to rely on them instead of the teleprompter, they would read the wrong story on live TV.

Despite the pressure to get it right under such a tight deadline, I was surprised how calm I could stay and I actually enjoyed the rush. Not everyone did. It’s how I came to learn that instead of crumbling, I could perform under pressure, which as it turns out, is a critical and necessary personality trait for being in front of a camera on live TV.

Many internships put students directly in the middle of the job. I suggest finding something that offers you that kind of opportunity and then carefully consider what you like and don’t like about what you are doing. I loved the intensity of getting ready for a newscast, I thrived under pressure and I valued being part of the teamwork that was required to put thirty minutes of television on TV, and I learned all that from pulling paper apart.