University of Oregon - Bachelor’s Degree, Journalism, Focus in Electronic Media + Minor in Business
Lauren Ridgley really began her career as a sophomore in college when she was interning with “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Even though it felt like a long shot to her at the time, she ended up scoring the gig. Following her stint at “The Late Show”, Lauren quickly climbed the ladder, working as a promotion producer at KOIN in Portland and KIRO in Seattle. She then moved to Denver, Colo., where she worked her way up a different ladder, this time to a management position at only 28 years old. She’s now an Emmy-award winning promotion manager with CBS4. Talk about drive! Read on to find out Lauren’s best advice for breaking into the television industry.
When someone believes in you, you don’t want to disappoint them. It elevates your game.
Have you always wanted to be a producer?
I always knew I wanted to work in TV, but I started out college with the goal of becoming a news reporter. I quickly discovered I belonged on the other side of the camera. My passion was split between advertising and news, and I wasn’t sure which direction my career would take. I picked video production as my focus because it’s versatile enough to play a role in both fields.
How did you begin your career path and get to where you are now?
Without me knowing it, it actually began in high school. I was a photo editor for the yearbook and wrote feature articles for the newspaper. From that experience, I decided to major in journalism in college. During my sophomore year of college, I applied for an internship at “The Late Show with David Letterman.” I applied on a whim and knew it was a long shot -- but I landed it! It really sparked my passion for television production and also got my foot in the door for my first job as a promotion producer at KOIN in Portland. It wasn’t too long before KIRO in Seattle called to talk to me about a promotion producer position. Seattle was my news promotion “boot-camp,” which consisted of long days, breaking news and writing and producing spots in a matter of minutes. After more than two years in Seattle, I was ready to move up the ladder so I took a position at CBS4 in Denver, Colorado. I was blessed to find a boss who saw potential in me and wanted to see me grow as a producer. From day one, he’s been preparing me for a management position, offering me guidance and advice when difficult situations arise. After two years at CBS4, a management position opened up and although I was only 28 at the time, he took a chance and promoted me.
Was there any one person or situation that helped you along your path?
First, my journalism teacher in high school, Lorraine Stratton. Much of what I learned about writing came from her. In high school, you’re able to get much more one-on-one time with teachers, and it made all the difference.
Second, my News Executive Producer April Thomas at KOIN in Portland talked me through some very difficult times. No one tells you that your first job will include a lot of people second-guessing you. I had a boss who had a knack for making me feel young and inadequate and April would pull me aside and say, “You’re good at this. Don’t give up.” If it hadn’t been for April, I may have walked out the door in frustration.
Third, my current boss Ed Cushing, who I mentioned above. He’s been my biggest supporter and has allowed me to take the reins on many projects. When someone believes in you, you don’t want to disappoint them. It elevates your game.
What is your typical day like?
OUTSIDE SWEEPS (Eight months of the year): I describe my department as an ad agency and production house all rolled into one. Our main client is the station, so anything that’s branded with CBS4 is our domain. I write, storyboard, direct, produce and edit spots for the station. I also manage the team of producers to ensure all our projects are moving forward and they have the necessary elements to complete them. I’m always juggling three or four projects at once. One day I may be out with the crew shooting a promo, and another day I might be meeting with our graphic designers or finding the right music for a spot. Some days I spend the entire day in an edit bay, our jargon for a dark room with high-end video editing equipment.
INSIDE SWEEPS: I arrive at work at 1 p.m. and head to the news editorial meeting to learn what the 5 and 6 p.m. producers are working on. I then write promos that will air inside of “Dr. Phil,” “Oprah” and the “CBS Evening News.” I incorporate sound bites and often have the reporters cut teases from the field. After promos are written, the anchors will cut their on-camera portions. I edit all the pieces (graphics, anchors, video and soundbites) and send it to our commercial server. Presto! A compelling promo to entice viewers to tune into the 5 and 6 p.m. news. I then repeat the entire process for the 10 p.m. news.
What is something about your job that other people might not know/realize?
Television promotion is an entire niche of the journalism field that I think many college students aren’t aware of. If you love television, news and advertising, this is a career that has a little bit of each.
What have you discovered about yourself through your job?
I keep getting better at it. I started out headstrong and stubborn, a bit of a know-it-all. The more I learn, the more I realize there’s always something new to try. I’ve been humbled by this discovery.
What is the best part of working as a promotion manager?
The satisfaction of seeing an idea through to a complete spot. It may start out as a vague notion and through planning, creativity and sometimes sheer luck, it transforms into a powerful message. I’m constantly having those “wow” moments when I watch TV -- and it’s incredibly rewarding when it’s my own work that makes me stop what I’m doing and pay attention.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
I’ve learned a good manager cultivates talent and wants you to grow. If you are working under a boss who doesn’t share your long-term vision for your career, learn all you can and move on. I’m trying to apply this as I move into the management realm.
What did it feel like to win an Emmy?
Surreal! I worked really hard on the winning spot and just to get nominated was exciting. Most people don’t get big shiny awards for doing their job. It’s a great perk!
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today?
I was raised by a working mom, a dentist who got her Doctor of Medical Dentistry during a time when females were a rarity in the field. She’s inspired me to see gender inequities not as a challenge, but an opportunity. I’ve seen the “boys club” and it exists in nearly every workplace, but the idea of breaking into that club should be exciting, not daunting.
What inspires you?
The people I work with. They’re constantly impressing me with creative ideas. We feed off each other. I’m constantly thinking, “I wish I’d thought of that!” and it pushes me to work harder so I can bring great ideas to the table.
What are five words that describe you?
Social. Driven. Brash. Humorous. Confident.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Work to live. Don’t live to work.” I was working myself to exhaustion in Seattle and there came a point where I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore. I’m a workaholic at heart, so it’s not always easy for me to find balance, but creating time for my personal life has made me a happier person and, ultimately, a better producer.
What advice do you have for those who desire to work in your industry?
Get an internship at your local TV station promotion department. Call the creative services director or promotion manager and ask. Believe me, we don’t get many college students, so it’s a great opportunity to stand out and get your foot in the door. Apply to any and all internships that interest you, even the ones that seem like a long shot.