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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Michael George

Class of 2004, Bachelor's

I was born in Palm Springs, CA. When I first got to USC, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. One day, I saw a flier for ATVN in the library, and on my 19th birthday (yes, I remember the day!), I auditioned. I instantly knew I'd found my passion. I spent the next four years of college basically living in the ATVN newsroom, working as a reporter, anchor, and executive producer. After school, I got my first job in TV as a political reporter in Bismarck, North Dakota. After that I spent four years as a reporter for WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and three as an investigative reporter for WFTS in Tampa, FL. In 2013, I started my dream job: reporter for WNBC in New York!

What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:
-Be ruthlessly critical of your own work. Watch reporters and anchors you respect and learn from them. Recognize what your weaknesses are and tackle them head on.   
-Be willing to pay your dues. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to get to a top market. Many people starting out don't want to move to small market towns, but that's where you improve the most, and (at least for me), those were some of the best years of my life!
-Focus on being comfortable and conversational on camera and in live shots. It could be the biggest factor in getting you your next job.

What were your duties at ATVN? :

I started out as a news anchor and sports reporter. After that, I worked for two years as ATVN's executive producer. In my last year, I went back to reporting and anchoring.

How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:
ATVN beats any internship or class. I learned how to work under deadline in a newsroom environment.  Shooting and editing skills are crucial at your first job. Most importantly, I learned to love reporting the news at ATVN.
High standards. Expectations at ATVN were always high, and that meant that I needed to get better to meet them. Storytelling and writing ability are also key.

What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:

Love the journey. If you dream of being a network news anchor and nothing else, you'll be miserable for the 10 or more years it may take to get there. Instead, love the idea of moving somewhere new and going outside your comfort zone.

What should graduates keep in mind when negotiating their first job?:

Make it for as short a time as possible. Small markets are trying to sign people for longer periods of time nowadays, and many students coming right out of college will agree to anything. A 2-year contract should be the max you agree to for a first job, and if you can get an out clause after the first year, go for it.

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