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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Thanh Tan

Class of 2004, Bachelor's

She previously worked at The Texas Tribune in Austin, KATU News in Portland and KBCI-TV in Boise, Idaho, as a general assignment reporter. While there, she specialized in covering politics and the Idaho Legislature. Thanh’s favorite assignments include reporting on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Sun Valley and traveling throughout Asia in 2005 to report on then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s trade mission with a delegation of Idaho businesses and government leaders.

Thanh graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with degrees in International Relations and Broadcast Journalism. She developed a passion for journalism through several years of internships and freelance gigs with KOMO-TV in Seattle, ABC News Nightline in Washington, D.C., National Public Radio’s Day to Day and CNN in Los Angeles.

Her work has received numerous awards from the Idaho Press Club and the Idaho State Broadcasters Association.

She is inspired by the words of legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow: “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”


What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:

WRITING-- Self-explanatory. News directors value this skill-- so will the people tuning in to listen to your newscast. You’re basically a storyteller-- learn to develop your own style and presentation.

NETWORKING-- Knowing people who recognize your skills is essential. Comes in handy when you’re looking for that first job. Sometimes, knowing someone from the ‘inside’ is enough to get your tape out of a pile of hundreds of applicants.

ADAPTIVE CAPACITY-- Learn how to roll with the punches and be flexible. Take the initiative and intern for different newsrooms. Shoot and edit your own stuff- most likely your first job will require you to do some one-man-banding. I find myself picking up a camera once in a while at my job. Every time I do-- I think of how grateful I am that ATVN encouraged me to shoot my own material. My station’s chief photographer and editors probably feel the same way! 

What were your duties at ATVN? :

Playback / Assistant Director / Writer-Shooter-Editor / Reporter / Anchor

How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:

DEADLINE PRESSURE-- Time management is an essential skill in this craft. ATVN gave me a good taste of what to expect in the “real” world. Between setting up stories, shooting video, writing, and editing-- ATVN forced me to work quickly and value accuracy. A tough combination that takes practice. Remember, you’ve got to turn your packages on time. If you don’t, you’re screwed. There’s no better place for a college student to practice time management than ATVN.

WRITING-- ATVN was the only place during college where I was able to report my own stories for air. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I freelanced for a station in Seattle during the summers. The skills I learned at ATVN served me well. I got to take on some GREAT stories in a big market, thanks to my ATVN experience during the school year.

TEAM PLAYER-- TV news is all about team work. We’re all in this together. ATVN taught me the importance of communicating and cooperating with EVERYONE in the newsroom. Whether they were working on-air, with graphics, technical directing, or editing, etc.... my teammates helped me become a better reporter. 

What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:

- Seek out mentors in college and after! I came to my station in Boise specifically because I knew the station’s managing editor/senior editor is an amazing journalist who led a team that received a duPont Columbia AND a National Edward R. Murrow award. Not bad for a small station in Boise, ID. I’ve been here three weeks and he’s helped me TREMENDOUSLY.
- Don’t look to work for a station with the highest ratings. Look for quality of content and potential. Actually, it’s pretty fun to be the underdog station in town!
- Understand the essential role journalists play in a free society. In particular, broadcast journalists. You’re not there just to be a pretty face. You’re there to be a truth-teller, and to use the visual medium as a way to educate and inform the public. That is a HUGE responsibility that should be taken seriously.
- Read, watch, and listen to as much news as you possibly can. This includes tuning in to what the competition is doing.
- Read the U.S. Constitution. Understand why freedom of the press is so important. Sounds nerdy, but it’s soooo important! Plus, it makes for great conversation.
- Watch, read, and listen to the BEST news sources: Nightline, 60 Minutes, New York Times, and NPR. You’ll learn what good journalism is and develop a critical eye/ear.
- Watch the films ‘Broadcast News’ and ‘Network’-- then think about what you’re getting yourself into. There are all sorts of ethical issues we need to be aware of. Plus, these movies are fun to watch. 

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

- Send lots of tapes out. You’ve got a LOT of competition!
- Follow up with an e-mail or phone call to the news director.
- Contact USC alumni working at stations you’re interested in-- it helped me!
- Do your research on the company and know what you’re getting yourself into-- good or bad.
- Don’t ever settle with the first draft of a contract. You may be getting paid nothing and feel that you have no leverage-- but there is always room to negotiate. I think I was able to negotiate an ideal agreement because I was respectful to my news director and gave him reasons for my requests. DO NOT BE RUDE!!! 

Any other comments?:

- INTERNSHIPS THAT LED TO PAID WORK--I interned/worked/freelanced with KABC, KOMO, NPR, Nightline, and CNN throughout my college career. Just being in a news environment will teach you a lot and motivate you. I still have contacts at those places and they have helped me get to where I am at this point in my career. I still keep in touch with them on a constant basis.

- ATVN. I never would have exceled at these news organizations if I had not become involved with ATVN during my freshman year of college. I learned the basics there. Also, I was able to put several reporter packages and stand-ups on my reel. When you’re looking for a job-- it all comes down to that 5-minute demo tape!! Thanks to ATVN, I had some decent stuff to use. It was enough to get me a job I absolutely love in an ideal market.

- Living in Los Angeles. Do you know how lucky you are to have LA as your news “lab”???? There’s sooo many great stories there related to politics, crime, culture, arts, entertainment, etc. It helped me transition into my current position as a general assignment reporter. 

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