What do you do as a news correspondent for CBS?
Megan Alexander: I am one of six reporters for Inside Edition. There are four of us here in New York City, two out in LA, and our anchor is Debra Norville. For those of you that don't watch the show, Inside Edition is a syndicated news magazine show, so as a reporter I cover a little bit of everything. We do politics, business, lifestyle, entertainment, and medical stories. It’s 30 minutes long, and we do tape it, so we’re not live. So we get a little bit of time to put together our stories. I am actually headed into my ninth year with the show!
What is the best part of your job?
MA: You know, I think it’s just being in so many interesting situations that you would never be in. Especially our show, we really have a front row seat to pop culture, world events, and just some interesting stories. For example, we actually got to interview Guinness Book of World Records folks. So I've met the tallest man in the middle of Times Square, covered seven Super Bowls, you know, things like that I really enjoy. My colleague Les Trent and I – he’s one of my fellow reporters here – we often joke that the cover of People Magazine or The Huffington Post, we’ll joke with each other and often we’ll say, “okay, who’s going to be interviewing her?” because we cover those same stories. Or when you watch Good Morning America, you know, most likely there in a day or two, we will also be talking to those people. I think it’s just meeting all of those people that are creating headlines around the world – I’ve interviewed Donald Trump numerous times, way before he got into politics, so that’s interesting, you know? Good dinner conversation.
Would you ever have imagined that this is what you’d be doing?
MA: You know, it’s funny. I watched the show when I was in high school and college, and I remember thinking “I would love to do a show like this because of the variety.” Every day is different, and you meet all sorts of interesting people, but you just never know where life is gonna take you. And as I’ll explain, it was a lot of small steps that led to this job, which I’m really grateful for – a lot of hard work, a lot of midnight shifts doing other things, so.
So what was that first step? Where were you in college and how did you figure that this maybe was something you wanted to do?
MA: So, I grew up in Seattle, Washington, and was involved in a ton of activities as a kid. Just loved sports, loved performing, was in the school play, just a little bit of everything. I was always trying all sorts of things. But I knew I always wanted to do something in entertainment and media and performing – I love writing, I love producing, creating. So in college, there was no broadcast journalism program at my school – I went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. But that’s okay because in this industry you don’t necessarily need it – it’s the job experience that counts and I started doing internships. I did internships in radio, television, the local TV station in Santa Barbara, and, you know, just learning on the job is the best thing you can do. I was a political science major in college and my first radio job right out of college was the midnight to 6 a.m. shift at a classical music station.
And out of all the experiences that you had before coming to CBS, what do you think taught you the most? Or what was the most challenging?
MA: I would say again being on the job – I remember the first time I watched an anchor handle breaking news and just being in the room – you can’t teach that. To be in the room and to see them – the papers are flying, information’s coming in, or at a radio station, when something goes wrong and you need to fix it, those are the moments that I remember where your heart starts pounding and you’re like “oh my gosh, this is really exciting but really scary too.” Like, what about if you mess up?
How do you handle breaking news?
MA: So one of the best things that I ever heard was when I got a job in San Antonio, Texas, as a reporter/anchor after multiple jobs in radio and a part-time job in television and all these different things. Finally got that full-time gig in San Antonio, Texas, and one of the coaches that came to the television station would come and give us advice. I loved it, asking questions and they’re like, “Who’s this eager, young reporter, get her out of the way.” But I remember they said to me, “When breaking news happens, take a deep breath, get your pen in your hand and just start writing, and just say, “This is what we know so far. You don’t have to know everything, just this is what we know.” And I thought, “Okay, I can do that” and it’s just a step-by-step process as the news is coming in: “This is what we know next, this is what we know now.” And just try to stay with it and pace it, and remain calm, stay conversational, and, you know, walk the audience, walk your viewers through what’s going on. Easier said than done, but I remember those words and I think about that a lot when I’m in high-stress situations: just take a deep breath, pace with the story, “this is what we know.” So, good advice – again, easier said than done.
Is there anything that you wish you were doing more of in your day-to-day job, anything you wish you could be covering?
MA: I wish that we could do a few more, just positive stories about family and faith. Easier said than done. I’ve gotten the chance to cover a couple stories but, you know, a lot of times breaking news takes over, and we’re a 30-minute news magazine show, so a lot of those stories kinda get pushed out the window. But for example, next week I’m covering The Shack, which is a New York Times-bestselling book. It’s been on the New York Times list for forever – incredible story of faith, it’s being made into a movie, Sam Worthington is the lead and Tim McGraw plays his friend, Octavia Spencer plays God – it’s gonna be really cool and I’m covering that red carpet next Tuesday, so there’s a chance to cover some of those things. I try to pitch stories every now and then, you know, and just keep throwing out ideas. Yeah, I mean, again I love our variety, so that’s nice, I can’t complain about that.
Do you have advice for women who maybe are in a similar position as you in regards to pitching and having ideas get thrown out?
MA: Absolutely. It is very hard to catch my boss’s attention, who’s behind us, because we’re in a newsroom, so things are coming fast and furious and you’re lucky if you get ten seconds of a lot of the executives’ time, so I would say know your stuff, be confident, have that elevator pitch down. If you want to pitch a story, I’ve found, ‘okay, how am I gonna catch their attention, I need to know what I’m talking about so if they ask me questions I’m prepared.’ And then you just gotta go for it and keep practicing and when you get rejected, keep going, because a lot of times maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with you. For us, it’s time constraints, it’s other stories we need to cover, you know, things just aren’t good that day, maybe crew-wise we don’t have enough people to cover it. So don’t be discouraged, hang in there and come back again maybe with another angle on it. I think that’s true with a lot of jobs – you just need to be confident and I would say keep it concise. That’s one of the best things you can do, keep it concise. Don’t waste their time!
What do you think was some of the best advice that you’ve gotten?
MA: I think that’s so important that you never stop learning. We can’t stop learning if we want to be good at our craft and so I just try to take that mindset. You can always learn from somebody you’re interviewing, there’s everybody in this newsroom that comes with a different perspective. Whether it’s reading books and trying to get advice that way, it works.
How do you deal body image as a news anchor?
MA: Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Very true. So if you don’t want to be criticized, you know, go into your shell, go into a cave and hide, because no matter what you’re gonna get criticized if you step out there. I gotta be honest with you, this is an image-obsessed business. I knew what I was getting into, I gotta take care of myself, I got to look put together and look presentable. I can’t sit here and say, “Oh, it’s all inner beauty that counts.” I wish that were true. I think it’s getting a lot better, I think the industry is getting a lot better with celebrating women of all shapes and sizes, which is a beautiful thing. Things like the Dove campaign, all these cool things that are going on. But at the end of the day you still need to look presentable, so you know, I think there are times when I’ve compared myself to somebody else and it doesn’t do you any good. It’s hard to do – you have these magazines thrown at us and all these movies, but I just try to be the best me that I can be, know what works well on my body, know what type of clothes look best on me. I’m not gonna look good in some spaghetti-strap dress, I’m a bigger-boned girl, that’s not going to work for me. So what looks good on me and then I feel good and I can forget about it and then focus on the story.
What is the best advice for someone applying for internships in your field?
MA: A couple of things come to mind – one, attitude. A positive attitude is huge. Energy, positive energy is such a big deal. Just being interested in what you’re doing – I know that sounds silly, but just being really interested in the company you want to work for. In the interview, know little tidbits about the company or finding out about the person that’s going to be interviewing you – that shows interest, and that stuff goes a long way. So I would say attitude is important, and organization – you know, your resume looks good, it’s organized, you’re on time, maybe a little bit early. That’s really important. And then I would say persistence and determination – following up, finding out if there are some networking events where that person is going to be so that you can meet up with them, maybe have a conversation with them in a different way.