By: Melina Almanza
Every day at 10 a.m, I sleepily push the door into the WriteGirl office in Downtown LA. Still hazy from getting up at 7 in the morning and dealing with Alameda traffic, I wake up with the enthusiastic good mornings from Katie, the WriteGirl office manager, and Jackie, the WriteGirl marketing intern. Besides the warm people and the funky office, what are some of the perks of being a WriteGirl intern?
- The people you meet
- Free coffee
- Behind-the-scenes field trips
This summer I worked on donation outreach, event planning for workshops, helped with marketing for the Holiday Fundraising Campaign, wrote social media tweets, and even researched potential locations for workshops. But the field trips that WriteGirl was able to organize for us were one of the things that I looked forward to most.
Going on these field trips has been essential to having a bit of insight on careers I may want to dip into. On July 31st, a couple interns and I Ubered to Burbank, home of television and movie studios. We met in a complex of buildings that housed major television networks, and I thought I would maybe to run into Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin. Uniquely enough, iHeartMedia was the only building that had its bright red letters on top of its doors.
While I was intimidated by the fancy corporate look, inside the building we were greeted by the very enthusiastic and welcoming Alex Gervasi. As On-Air talent for 102.7 KIIS FM, she gave us an amazing tour of the studios of 102.7, 92.3, and even the AM radio stations. From the seat where the one-and-only Ryan Seacrest sits, to the desks where the interns work, and even to the private room where up-and-coming artists give intimate performances, the tour was a whirlwind. We got to put faces to the women of iHeartMedia and hear about how they got to their present careers. Listening to Alex Gervasi speak about the many places she had to move to before settling in Los Angeles made me admire her perseverance despite having to relocate to areas that don’t sound as appealing to me to live in.
Meeting women in the workplaces where men are the dominating gender is very inspiring yet alarming to see. As Robin Bertolucci, Program Director at KFI, talked about her experience and how her gender affected her career, it came to my attention that women in these fields are still outnumbered by men.
Seeing how Robin and Alex are so passionate about what they do motivates me to seek a career I am passionate about, despite the obstacles I might encounter. Here’s what WriteGirl mentee Zion Flores, 18, had to say about the iHeartMedia field trip:
"Today I was intrigued by the personal testimonies as to how professionals get their start in the radio industry and what sacrifices they had to make to build a career for themselves - like moving to a new city or a new state to achieve their goals."
The ABC7 studio tour was exhilarating to be a part of. Getting our own badges from security made it seem so official that I knew I was about step into a very professional and hectic workplace. As soon as Teresa Samaniego, VP of Diversity and Community Relations, led us through those doors, the entire environment became fast-paced, concentrated, and serious. Working at ABC7 means you have to be quick on your feet. People had eyes on the 15 TV screens surrounding the room, making sure they didn’t miss any breaking news from any corner of the world.
Many of the mentees were struck with curiosity and amazement of the pace at ABC7. Here’s what Isabel, 16, from Oak Park Independent High School had to say about her time at ABC7:
“I was surprised by how quickly we became immersed in the world of news. To me it felt familiar but exciting. I saw a whiteboard scribbled with ideas; the phrase “dead animals” caught my eye. Within minutes we were in the broadcast room and the anchors were getting mic’ed up and scurrying to the stage...‘2,000 dead animals were found in a warehouse.’”
But the moment I was waiting for and secretly freaking out for was when we walked into the studio where the news is filmed. I was the first one to scurry towards the news anchor seat – I felt like I was at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I was seeing what seemed like props and artifacts of the news we see on television. This time I was on the other side of the screen.
Meeting the women of ABC7 was intimidating. These women looked like bosses – confident, and in power. When we settled in the conference room to meet Renee Washington, Assistant News Director at ABC7, she kept repeating, “You HAVE to be a good writer.” This advice made me realize how important writing could be for a lot of careers. And here I thought the only professional writing I would be doing in my adult life would be 10-page essays for my upper division classes!
The biggest takeaway I got from this field trip came from the reactions the staff had when they saw ABC7 veteran and current WriteGirl mentor, Liz McHale, visiting the halls again. Many people recognized her along the tour and shouted in excitement and joy. They showed genuine happiness to see Liz again and that just shows the impact she had in the workplace, after working at ABC7 for 11 years:
“I was happy WriteGirl chose ABC7 for a field trip to give the girls a taste of what goes into putting a TV newscast on the air. It's not as easy as it looks. We got some great insight from Teresa Saminego, Renee Washington and Ruth House and I was happy to be able to answer some additional questions. I couldn't agree more with their advice that working in TV news requires strong writing skills and a dedicated work ethic.”
If there ever is something I want to achieve, it’s to leave a positive imprint in the places I work. Whether it’s in your professional or personal life, it’s important to have presence.
Where do I see myself?
As much as I was in awe during these field trips, I think these places are great for dipping your toes and learning the ropes of the industry. They can teach you how to be alert, have personality, and most of all work hard. Maybe I’ll consider applying to intern at places like these next summer in order to create a pathway into the film and media industry. I appreciate WriteGirl for providing these visits – definitely not your typical high school trip.
Melina Almanza is a rising senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently working on her Sociology degree with a minor in Feminist Studies.