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Internships give Weber backstage pass to broadcasting

Lauren Weber '04

Philosophy student Lauren Weber ’04 is not your run of the mill senior. Success in academics, serving with Peer Mentors, a sister of Gamma Phi, working with the Humanities Center, and enjoying a normal college independence represents only a part of how she has chosen to experience the world.

From the villages of Fiji to the studios of New York’s national television shows, Weber is taking full advantage of internship opportunities while at Lehigh, discovering her weaknesses, strengths, and passions.

Weber took on her first internship at a London think-tank during her first Lehigh summer break.

At The World Development Movement, she participated with an intellectual team that passes the day striving to find solutions to challenging Third World problems. Weber worked closely with their press secretary, preparing for the world G8 conference in Geneo. It was no small task.

“It was at The World Development Movement that I realized how much I enjoyed journalism,” says Weber, “and how highly influential good journalism can truly be. It can be very effective in moving issues.”

Influencing change was no new challenge to Weber. She spent two summers during high school in Fiji, where assisting the locals in developing their village was more than just an exotic foreign adventure. The experience served to anchor her personal pursuit to grow, to broaden her exposure to the world around her while at the same time serving others.

Out of the classroom, into the newsroom

Weber's next summer internship was here in the states, working on the summer concert series and audience coordinating for Good Morning America (GMA).

“For my first television experience, it was fabulous,” says Weber. “I met the bands, helped coordinate the audience and greeted VIP guests. However, there was not much below the surface, and I was curious as to what else was out there for me, specifically in broadcasting.”

During an interim year of study at Columbia University in New York, Weber called on her still warm contacts at GMA, thinking they might have additional intern needs. With the new war starting in Iraq and the resulting drain on media teams, she guessed there would be room for one additional intern, at the very least. Her guess was on the mark.

Returning to GMA in December, Weber joined the fast-paced, deadline-driven lion’s den of the news department. She started with the first news hour crew as an assistant chasing stories, engaging in research, and on occasion, assisting staff in booking guests.

It wasn’t long before Weber was assigned to GMA’s senior producer Lisa Sharkey, who handed her more responsibilities than she was initially comfortable with.

“I only choose someone who is a diamond in the rough that I can turn into a gem. Lauren was one of them,” Sharkey says.

“Being thrown in cold water you either learn to swim or you sink,” says Weber. “Oh, and did I ever swim. And I am a better person for having gone through it. That producer taught me the core of what I now know about the business.”

“She clearly has been bitten by the television journalist bug,” says Sharkey. “It was a great way for Lauren to get out of the classroom and into the newsroom.”

”It's what you do with what you love that counts”

Weber continued with the show into the summer, and on occasion, worked with Diane Sawyer’s staff. Answering phones and other tasks was a welcome variation in pace from the heat of the producing arena. Yet, as much as she enjoyed the break from the rush, it only took one semester back at Lehigh for her to yearn once again for the excitement of network programming.

“I missed the fast-paced environment,” Weber says. “So I applied for an internship at Regis and Kelly to see what entertainment television had to offer. Although quite different from the other broadcast experience, I’m finding it just a different kind of exciting. I am very happy at the show.”

As if one internship wasn’t enough, Weber simultaneously did a stint at a documentary company, a pace she found to be painfully slow and absent of the immediacy of news and entertainment she had grown to crave.

“Internships have taught me that it’s what you do with what you love that counts. As long as you are doing what fuels you, and everyday makes getting up at 5 a.m. a rewarding experience, then it’s OK.

“I learned that broadcast, even though not pure journalism, has value. Regis and Kelly make an impact on millions of viewers every morning at 9, they make people laugh and feel good about the new day. Isn’t that just as important? I think so.”

Hitting the ground running

She also discovered how unpredictable the journalistic entertainment environment can be. During the preparation for a show exploring the rise in divorce rates of senior couples, the producer dropped an article form the New York Times titled “Gray Divorce” in Weber’s lap. She was asked to locate three people over the age of 60 who had recently left their spouses after at least 25 years of marriage, interview them, and fly them in to New York City in the next two days.

“Needless to say,” says Weber, “I was running down as many sources as I could find. In the last desperate moments of Tuesday pushing Wednesday, I found two people over 60 who had just been left by partners. They flew from the middle of nowhere and the story went down!”

As Weber was hosting the two new-to-the-lonely scene seniors, an introduction to the unpredictability of production was about to hit home. As the two guests talked while waiting in the Green Room, they began to feed off each other’s emotional pain and everything came a bit unglued.

“Instead of being excited, they cried together; wallowed in their stories of being left by their life-long companions. It was a nightmare. That experience taught me quickly how much things change and you have to hit the ground running when they do!”

The middle ground provided by internships between college and a full-time career can induce more learning and engender a range of interpersonal and professional skills that otherwise might be earned through trial and error in a full-time position, where error is too costly.

“My internships have given me a chance to learn more than individual tasks of the positions,” Weber says. “I learned that I will continue to make mistakes—some are OK and some are not—so details are pretty much everything.

“Most importantly, I learned I don't know everything and that many jobs, especially those at the bottom, are incredibly humbling and being humbled is what everyone needs at some point in their life to be a better person.”

--Lance Orndorff

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004

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