Maureen’s tips for young journalists

By Ambar Martinez, 16, University HS
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"Watching Maureen O’Boyle as she anchors EXTRA, the 7 p.m. entertainment show on Channel 4, I thought how easy and glamorous it seems, with her professional poise, magnetic appeal and natural control on camera.

But I wasn’t aware of the perseverance, dedication and preparation that is required for this glamorous job until I interviewed her. She told me that education and experience are vital to success. The glamour of a TV career is far from reality, especially in the beginning. Maureen spoke with me at her home in Los Feliz. As we sat on the patio surrounded by bright green plants, I asked her how she prepared herself for this career. She told me that in order to be a successful reporter, you need a well-rounded background. Many students interested in journalism major only in communication, but she suggests that we major in anything from political science to English to history.

"Just focusing on journalism is not always the best," said Maureen. "I encourage students to do something else so they could have some expertise in something, so they could become a political reporter or become a columnist for a magazine. I encourage them to do more than just a journalism degree."

Understanding the background of news is essential in order to be a good journalist and to produce a good story.

"Journalism is not just going out, getting the information and delivering it," said Maureen. "It’s really about understanding the story’s impact on the big giant picture. It’s really important to read the newspaper. The newspaper puts everything into perspective."

While school is absolutely the most important thing to have, the second most important thing is practical experience, Maureen said. She urged student journalists to make time for volunteering at a TV station or other media organization.

"It gives you a chance to see if you really like it. It gives you a perspective on an industry that you are going to commit your life to," she said.

Maureen is so friendly, even to her dogs

Maureen really won me over when she greeted her dogs like a loving mommy.

"Buster come here, Sammy! Hiiii, hello, come here you big rascal. Ohhh, you big boy, Sammy, Buster did you guys have a good time today?" she cooed.

Maureen explained she got them from the pound. When she had quieted the goldish-white dogs, we continued.
Maureen had a lot of motivation when she was starting out. She would put together tapes of herself doing stories, send letters and literally knock on doors. She went to a TV station but the front office wasn’t open and the general manager wasn’t there yet. She waited for him and told him she knew he had a job opening and she needed a job. They talked for a long time and she showed him her tape. He gave her the job.

"It takes nerves. Confidence is a difficult thing to come by but you really become comfortable with yourself by sitting down and examining what it is that you do well. If you figure out what you do well, it builds confidence," she said.

Maureen’s early jobs weren’t glamorous. She would often work from 3 a.m. to 4 p.m. or from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. She shot her own video tapes, wrote and edited them by herself.

"But it was wonderful," she said. "It was the most exhilarating time of my life."

Reading is the most important thing you can do for yourself, Maureen advised. It empowers you more than all the money in the world. She suggested finding out more about careers by attending career day at school and by interviewing someone in the area of your interest to get a taste of what it’s like.

Fired from her first big job

Maureen was born in North Carolina. She comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters. As a child, she was always curious. She always wanted to be a reporter.
"I’m a naturally curious person. I love a job that transports me into all these different places in the world. I feel like every day, I’ve explored a whole new area of the world that I normally wouldn’t be able to explore for myself."

When she was 18, she landed a job as a TV anchor but got fired. "My first job on television, I was so bad I got fired from it. I was 18 and going to college, embarrassed because everyone on campus knew I was the girl on TV and suddenly I’m not on TV anymore. It was very discouraging."

Maureen said she was blessed because she had a boss who told her he had to let her go because she wasn’t ready, but she should never give up.

"I was so upset and defeated. I thought, ‘I’ll never go back to television,’ but his advice was the best in the world."

She encouraged young people not to give up. Maureen never graduated from college because she worked in TV from when she was 18 until her third year. Then the school suddenly cut the program, and she never got her degree.

"I normally don’t talk about this because I don’t want anyone to think, ‘Oh, she didn’t graduate from college, so neither should I.’ You still need to graduate from college."

Her parents told her that if she found a reliable job with a contract, they would give her their blessing to leave school. Starting out on her own and learning to be a responsible adult was difficult.

"My salaries were not very big. It was hard not only to be a career person, but to be a money manager too. That was difficult."

She had to sacrifice many aspects of her personal life. She had to move far away from her family to work. But all her sacrifices paid off, because she loves everything about her career now.

"Every day is different. It’s fun and not monotonous. I work with so many smart and wonderful people who teach me every day. I wouldn’t want a job where I couldn’t learn," Maureen said. "There’s always a piece of information in my show that I never knew, and I love that because I feel like I’m constantly growing."

After our interview, I felt proud of myself because she complimented me on my interviewing skills. That made me feel so much better because at first I was really nervous. But she treated me like a professional.

When we left, I had a better insight into what an anchor’s life is like. She was very inspiring. Although I had met and spoken to her before, I got to see her personal side that day. Now I know I want to be in broadcast journalism."