New York University - Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture & Communications
As a multimedia broadcast journalist for NY1 in New York City, Colleen Hagerty covers everything Queens and Staten Island. From Hurricane Sandy to Fashion Week, she regularly reports stories as a one-man band — shooting, writing and editing her own segments.
The energy and ever-changing opportunities inherent in this type of work are what hooked Colleen on broadcast journalism when she first interned at a NY news network. “For many people, the unconventional schedule of TV news can be a deal-breaker, but for me, it was just extremely exciting,” she says.
Often working alone and being the first — or only — person arriving at a scene, it's up to Colleen to make the call as to whether to stay in a potentially dangerous situation or not. She's learned it's important for her to make the call and go with her gut. "Being decisive and confident in my convictions has not been the easiest skill to hone, but I think it may be the most important." We couldn't agree more.
(Journalism) forces you to step out of your comfort zone, which has definitely changed my life for the better.
How did you discover your job?
As an undergrad, I held multiple internships with major news networks, but I wanted to give local news a try during my last semester. A professor suggested I apply to NY1, and I was accepted as an intern for the station’s transit reporter. I loved the dynamic atmosphere, and I made my desire to work at NY1 known very quickly. When a position opened up after I had graduated, they reached out, and I was hired!
How do you organize your day?
I wake up around 7 a.m. to check my emails and check in with my station to see if there are any breaking stories to check out. Then, I head into my office to grab my gear and set off to my first story. On average, I go out on three shoots a day. Then, it’s back to the studio to write and edit the segments.
Of course, this schedule can get turned upside down the second a new story pops up on our radar!
What is it about working in TV and journalism that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I have always loved writing, so I always knew I’d end up in a field that allowed me to do that in some form. For most of my teenage years, I actually planned on pursuing a career in fashion journalism! But, at the end of high school, I took a course on broadcast journalism, and I was selected to be one of the school’s on-camera anchors. I had so much fun doing this that I catalogued it in my mind as a potential career path.
When I headed to NYU, I stuck with my original goal of working in fashion. I had a column on CollegeFashion.net and later worked for a startup lifestyle company, sampling fun new products and going backstage at Fashion Week. My favorite part of this job was helping develop the site’s video production department, and I had an amazing time shooting, hosting and editing videos with celebrities and fashion designers. This reminded me of how much I enjoyed working in television, and I decided to take a step away from fashion and focus more on broadcast journalism.
Interning at TV news networks, I was instantly hooked on the energy and ever-changing opportunities in front of me. I think a huge part of realizing the industry was the right fit was discovering how little I minded working the crazy hours and late nights required of job. For many people, the unconventional schedule of TV news can be a deal-breaker, but for me, it was just extremely exciting!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Spending my days running around in the field, I meet a ton of people and make a ton of important connections. That said, having the time to follow up with all of those people and pursue their interesting story ideas can be tough when you’re chasing down breaking news your entire shift! I am always replaying my day in my head before I go to sleep — what I covered, who I met — to make sure I am leaving no source or lead unattended.
Also, and I believe this is universal no matter what field you are in, I have spent many late nights reflecting on my work to break down what I did well that day and what I can do better tomorrow.
Lastly, as a night owl, my best story ideas tend to pop into my head around 2 a.m. each night. Go figure!
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Absolutely! News is an all-consuming industry since it is literally happening 24/7 — and because of that, I can’t say I have a “no-fail” tactic!
What I do try to do is make my free time as distant from work as possible. Do I still check my work emails before bed each night? Sure. But when I am out with friends or at dinner, I try to keep that work phone tucked away. Before working at NY1, I used to tune into the news each night before bed. Now, if I do that, I get stressed out! Instead, I let myself indulge in some guilty-pleasure shows (I’m looking at you, Scandal). And when it comes to my days off, I make seeing loved ones — and getting some extra sleep — top priority over keeping up with the news. I think this keeps me from getting burnt out and allows me to enter each work week more energized and focused on the job.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
Working at a local news station, a number of our stories come from tips we receive from viewers. Often, the person calling will be facing a personal issue, whether it is dealing with red tape, trying to receive funding or assistance from a city agency, or that they are being discriminated against at work. I have covered a number of these stories, and through following up with the agency/office/landlord in question, actually have been able to fix the viewer’s issue. Being able to actually create change in my community is an incredible feeling and certainly a career highlight. That said, I have such high aspirations for the future that I think my true “I made it” moment is still ahead!
What are some of the rules you live by?
Not having specific shifts and working odd hours definitely takes a toll, so my No. 1 rule is to try to listen to my body. Working as a cameraman or a reporter is an extremely active job, from carrying equipment to rushing around for multiple stories, so you really need to be healthy to do it! At the end of a long day, I try to do whatever I think will really help me settle down — sometimes it’s going to the gym, sometimes it’s digging into a pint of ice cream, and sometimes, it’s just heading straight to bed.
I also just try to always be nice. It sounds silly, but it’s easy to forget sometimes at the end of a long day or when you’re scrambling for the same story as three other teams of reporters, all working on a deadline!
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in both TV and journalism?
First, I would say perseverance, because most good stories don’t just fall in your lap — they often require a massive amount of preparation, research and communication. For some more hard-hitting or investigative pieces, you will deal with people shutting doors in your face, ignoring your calls or doing their best to dissuade you from doing the segment in the first place! You need to have the desire to see through any piece you start, even when the path gets rocky.
Curiosity about the world around you is also essential. I think the best stories are the ones where the reporter is earnestly interested, because he/she will really dig deeper and find the unique details that can connect with the audience.
What is one of your favorite stories you’ve reported on? Why?
It is so hard to narrow down! I have different favorites for different reasons. For example, I love covering Fashion Week since it’s a throwback to what launched my career, and those segments are always so much fun. At the same time, I’m also a politics junkie, so covering the New York City mayoral election this year was a huge rush for me.
That said, I can definitely say the coverage I am most proud of was the work I did during Hurricane Sandy. Stationed out on Staten Island, I was working a shift that started at 3 a.m., so my team and I were some of the first people to really survey the damage as the storm died down. It was terrifying and devastating, and I will never forget the faces of people I met during those days.
My station was one of the only media outlets actually on Staten Island during the storm, so it was up to us to share what was happening and explain just how dangerous the situation was. Being able to give a voice to the victims of the storm was an incredible responsibility, and it is certainly the most important work I have done so far.
If a college woman is hesitant to get into journalism, what would you say to encourage her to make the jump?
You will never be bored! Each day is a challenge in the best possible way, since it is so unpredictable and you never know where the day will take you. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone, which has definitely changed my life for the better. I’ve noticed that being exposed to so many new things at work has made me more open to trying new things in my personal life, such as new cuisines or activities.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received on the job?
Go with your gut. A lot of my job is making judgment calls, whether it’s deciding if an event warrants coverage or determining if both sides of a story are told fairly. When it comes to breaking news, I am often the first person to the scene, so it’s up to me to report back if I think a live truck and full team should be sent.
Perhaps most important of all — working alone in the field, it's up to me to make sure I am not putting myself in any dangerous situations. I was given this advice after hedging one day about staying at a scene that I was not sure was safe. My producer told me the choice was mine — I am the person at the scene, so it is up to me to make the call. “Go with your gut.” Being decisive and confident in my convictions has not been the easiest skill to hone, but I think it may be the most important!