By Kolbe Nelson
All names have been changed in this story out of respect for privacy
I gotta say, Shawn Fury, one of the founders of this fine website, thinks I’m far more interesting than I actually am. He’s called me back here to put another entry in the TVFury chronicle of my time in New York City, which so far includes: how I wound up coming to the city and how I failed at making people laugh (complete with a terribly cheesy ending) once here. Today, in order to fulfill the new website mandate of one post every month or so (I’m so old, I remember when TVFury posted content every day), we’re talking about what may be the death knell for my time out here: my search for a broadcasting job.
This whole thing got started the way most things in my life usually do: because of a girl. I met Cecily at a bar one night in April of last year and we hit it off. Originally from Boston, she was working as a producer for a morning show here in town after spending some time as a low-level production assistant on the same program.
Meanwhile, I was starting to go broke. The company I worked for did outsourced ad sales for Newsweek magazine. Unfortunately for us, Newsweek had ceased print operations at the beginning of the year and we were scrambling to figure out what we were going to do next. New business ventures the company tried with different print and online publications had not been nearly as prosperous and with a good chunk of my pay relying on commission and incentive bonuses, I was in rough shape.
Ugh, it’s getting depressing just thinking about it. Let’s go back to Cecily at the bar, eh?
We went out together a few times and things went well. This was the first time since moving to New York that I had anything even resembling something that could turn into a relationship, so I was pretty pumped. One day, after a couple dates with her, my friends at work started asking me about it.
Them: So what’s the deal, Kolbs? You pretty into this chick?
Me: I don’t know, she seems cool.
Them: You’re still seeing other girls, right?
Me: What do you mean?
Them: Well, you should keep seeing other girls until you’re exclusive with her. Otherwise you’re gonna want to hang out with her more and you’re gonna wind up seeming clingy. Plus, you might meet someone you like better.
Me: Are you sure?
Them: Yeah man, you want to be cool about this. It’s New York, so she’s probably messing around with other guys anyways. It’s like Sex and the City, and you wanna be like Mr. Big.
Me: Well, I guess that makes sense.
I had never seen Sex and the City. I felt like that freshman kid on Dazed and Confused getting dating advice from the senior and this advice was dumb as hell and I really should’ve realized it.
But I had also never tried dating in New York, which was completely different from Alcester and Brookings, South Dakota, where everyone and their dog knows who you’ve gone out with the night before. So, with the help of Tinder and OkCupid, I started seeing other girls. Still, Cecily, for some reason or another, was the one I enjoyed hanging out with the most.
She told me about her career, how she had gotten kind of lucky and picked up her job with the help of a friend right after she graduated from college. Up to that point I had never thought about trying to get into broadcasting in New York. Sure, I’d worked as a sportscaster back home, but I thought you needed years of experience and otherworldly talent to even be considered for anything above an internship out here. This is, after all, the Mecca of Broadcasting. Cecily started to break down that idea. When I saw some of her work, I thought it was great, but I felt like I could compete with it.
At the same time, my sales job was wearing on me. I didn’t really like it much to begin with and with the money not there, I started to flat out hate it. So, I reworked my resume and production reel and set out to get a production assistant job (the lowest level on the totem pole) at a news organization in the city. I applied to every position I could find online and tried to network, sending emails to anyone and everyone, even Brian Williams of NBC at one point (I didn’t hear anything back).
I didn’t want to get Cecily involved with it, for a number of reasons. Things were starting to get a little weird between us and we weren’t clicking the way we were at the beginning. Part of me thought it might be because I was seeing the other girls, so I broke it off with them. That, of course, made me want to hang out with Cecily more, especially since I still hadn’t made a great deal of friends in the city yet. And, as my coworkers predicted, I started to get overly attached.
One night, we were talking and the topic turned to “us.”
Her: Hey, you’re cool with keeping things light, right? I just don’t want to get too serious when I’m really trying to focus on work stuff and my hours are crazy right now.
Me: Oh it’s totally cool, I can be like Mr. Big.
Me: Well, ya know, Mr. Big from Sex and the City.
Her: Kolbe, what are you talking about?
Me: I have no idea…
Her: How’s work going?
Me: Eh, not too well… I’m not making money and I feel like what I’m doing doesn’t help anybody.
Her: Oh…. That’s…. Too bad…
Me: Yeah, maybe I should become a garbage man. At least they help people.
Her: Oh, Jesus…..
That was the real beginning of the end for me and Cecily (shocker, right?). At that point I figured I might as well ask her if she could help me in getting back into news. She said she would do what she could, but I knew she wouldn’t be my best advocate. She was still in the beginnings of her own career and whatever limited help she could give to someone trying to get their foot in the door would almost definitely go to friends she was much closer with rather than some idiot guy passing through her life.
I spent most of the rest of the relationship trying to pretend I wasn’t that into her in order to avoid seeming clingy, but that just made me seem like a jerk. We stopped seeing each other entirely at the end of the summer (summer dreams ripped at the seams, amirite!?!?). I’ve tried to text Cecily a few times since then, just to see if she’d like to grab a beer and maybe catch up, but I understandably don’t hear much back. I wish I could’ve met her at a different point in my life — there really was just something about her, but those are the breaks of the game, you guys.
THE VETERAN NEWSMAN
The lack of success I had in my love life mirrored the lack of success I had in my broadcasting job search. Nobody was responding to my emails, nobody was responding to my applications. I did catch a break in November when I picked up a higher paying sales job at another company, but aside from a part-time freelance gig for a startup Internet news service, the broadcasting gods hadn’t smiled favorably upon me.
Then there was Norm.
I met Norm through LinkedIn while trying to network and get my name out there amongst the New York news crew. He had been in the business for 40 years and had gone through the ringer when it comes to news. Another native New Englander, Norm spent time as a news director in Florida, worked as a reporter for UPI and did radio in Chicago. He had been, in his words, both a survivor and victim of budget cuts at different points in his career. When I met him he was working freelance out of the NASDAQ, producing affiliate spots for CNN’s business division.
He told me he liked my work and that I definitely had the skills to make it happen in New York, I just needed to find an opening and know the right people. I asked Norm if he could help me meet the right people, but unfortunately his circle didn’t really include the decision makers I needed in my corner. Still, he said he was glad to help.
For the next few months Norm would send me links to jobs he thought I would have a shot at. I’d apply, but hear nothing back. At one point he put in a recommendation for me at CNN. I did a phone interview with an HR rep and it seemed to go well, but the rep said she didn’t have any openings at that point and that I should email her every now and then to see if that changes.
I was pretty dejected, but then Norm sent me a link about a TV news job fair in the city. All the major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and a few local stations, would be there. I felt that if I could just talk to these people, I would have a shot. So I put all my eggs in that basket.
The fair was a mixed bag, with me competing with about 300 other job seekers, some just out of college and some having been in the business for years, for face-time with HR reps. At ABC, the first network I talked to that morning, my nerves led to a not-so-fun exchange with the HR guy.
Me: This is really the first time I’ve done one of these fairs with so many people so I’m not really sure how it works.
HR: Oh, well I’m not really sure how it works either.
[I felt a look of panic rush over my face. The HR guy had an expression of annoyance]
Me: I can do non-linear editing!
Me: But I can also do linear editing! So, ya know, if there’s a zombie apocalypse and you gotta kick it old school, I can do that too…
HR: I don’t think we really have anything you’d be a fit for right now…
Other networks, like NBC and News12 in the Bronx, were much more receptive. And when I left I felt satisfied overall with how things had gone.
That night I emailed Norm to let him know. His response caught me off guard.
Him: Kolbs, that’s great! Bad news though, CNN laid me off last week, so I don’t know how much help I’ll be on that front moving forward.
Me: Oh God, Norm, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?
Him: Fuck em. I’ll be fine. I’m in LA right now; let’s grab a beer when I get back.
So, a few weeks later, Norm and I sat down at a bar, had a few beers, and just talked. We touched on everything. He told me about his favorite baseball team, the ’67 impossible dream Red Sox, and I told him about mine, the 2006 piranha Twins. He told me about what it was like working in a New York newsroom on 9/11. I told him about shooting Flyers games at the old Sioux Empire Expo Building (his stories were 20 times better than mine).
Norm told me I should stick with it out here, but that I shouldn’t keep spinning my wheels for too long. I was already thinking the same thing.
A few weeks prior, I decided I would quit my sales job, jack up my hours on my freelance gig, and focus more on applying to positions and networking while living on a shoestring budget. I set my deadline for the middle of July, the end of my lease for my apartment. If I don’t have something by then, I said, it’s goodbye, New York, and I’m on my way back to South Dakota before hopefully finding a news job somewhere else in the country.
Since then, I’ve tried some different approaches, posting my video resume on Facebook and Twitter with the glimmer of hope that someone would see it and forward it on to someone who might be able to help (because out here more than anywhere else, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know). I was so embarrassed by the post on Facebook that I eventually took it down, but not before picking up a few decent leads from friends with connections. Some were in news, others in corporate media relations, and that’s close enough to my area of expertise that I’d gladly do it to stay in New York.
At the end of the day, regardless of how things turn out, I’m glad I did all this. Not many people get a chance to go for their dream, but I did. And as cheesy as this ending is, knowing I won’t have to deal with as many “what ifs” and “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” is good enough for me.
I sure hope I don’t have to leave though.
About the author: Kolbe Nelson is a valued contributor to TVFury and a funny young man who could one day be a bitter old man if NYC finally crushes his spirit. No, no, he’ll be okay.