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The Carroll News chats with 2009 ‘Meet the Press’ fellow Andrew Rafferty

February 5th, 2014

andrew rafferty

1. What were you involved in during your time at JCU?

 

During my time at JCU, I was very involved in The Carroll News. I was the Editor in Chief my senior year, and Managing Editor before that and the Campus Editor. Basically as soon as I got onto campus, I got involved in The Carroll News. And that took up most of my time along with communication and political science.

 

2. Did you always know that you wanted to go into journalism?

 

I don’t think I always knew. I kind of figured it out in high school. I signed up for a journalism class in high school, not necessarily by mistake, but just because we needed to take an extracurricular class, an elective class. And the choices were journalism and photography and a couple other art and music ones. I thought photography sounded pretty cool, but by the time I got around to signing up, the class had filled up and journalism was the only that was left in terms of electives, so I kind of got forced into that one and it worked out really well. That was my junior year of high school, and I started working on my high school newspaper, and then I took it again my senior year and was really involved in our high school newspaper and knew that when I got into college I wanted to continue with it and study journalism more and write for the newspaper, do internships and all of that kind of stuff.

 

3. How did you react when you found out that you received the Tim Russert “Meet the Press” fellowship?

 

Obviously, I was very excited. It was excitement and a lot of questions, especially me being the first one. There was no guide on how you do it or what you do. It was scary, exciting, exhilarating, all of those things. It was also a little bittersweet because, and I’m sure this is the same every year, a couple of the other people who were finalists with me were good friends of mine who were extremely well-qualified and would have done an awesome job, if not better than I could have. So I felt for them a little bit, because I know everyone my year was really excited about it, especially since it was the first one. But overall, it was kind of an exhilarating thing, because not only are you figuring out a new job, but you’re also moving to a new city where I knew basically no one, and you’re going to start a whole new chapter of your life. It was on many levels a very exhilarating thing.

 

4. What was your first day like at “Meet the Press”?

 

The first day was surprisingly welcoming. I had spoken with then-executive produce Betsy Fischer, who has now moved on to a new role. So she was the only one I knew and I remember I went in there and I was of the impression that this would kind of be a slightly-above intern-type position where I’d be making copies and maybe going on lunch runs, which I was totally fine with. I knew that just being in the building would lead to so many opportunities. But I remember the first day, I was so enamored by the idea that I had my own desk. And it wasn’t anything great, but I had my own reserved spot. I met David Gregory that first day. He knew who I was; he was expecting me. He was very welcoming, and the same with Betsy. And everyone on staff was very welcoming and very quick to teach me things and also to assign me with some responsibilities. I remember thinking that it was off to a pretty awesome start just by the fact that I already had hit the ground running. And I think that first day I got David’s email address, and he and I were emailing about stuff, and it was really overwhelming in a good way.

 

5. What’s your most memorable moment during your time at “Meet the Press?”

 

That’s a tough one. The first day was really memorable. The first show I helped out with, we had John Boehner on and I think Lindsey Graham. But Boehner’s the one I remember, because when I initially started, what I would do is called the “greeter” position. You stand out in the lobby, and you wait for the high-profile people to walk into NBC, and you escort them to the green room just to make sure that they get there. I remember Boehner came in, and I was like, “I went to school in Ohio, John Carroll University,” and he said, “Oh, that’s great,” and I don’t think there was anything particularly memorable about the conversation, but it was pretty cool that I just talked to John Boehner, and I was very enamored by it at the time. So I think once you realize that you are part of it, and especially that first week with having a very high-profile person. To be able to just chat with him casually on a Sunday morning for work, that was something that I was kind of like, I’m going to text my buddies back home about. Probably 90 percent of people don’t care, but to me that was pretty cool.

 

6. What’s the most important thing that you learned during the fellowship?

 

I learned that there’s an incredible importance to shutting up and listening and learning from the people around you, but that I was prepared to contribute, and I was ready to have a positive impact on the show because of what I learned in college, what I studied and what my professors taught me at John Carroll. My education there prepared me to, not to be the greatest political mind ever of our generation, but the little things, the importance of accuracy, of thoroughness, of follow-through – those things that I learned at John Carroll, those were tremendous assets to me during the fellowship. And that’s why I think I had a very successful nine months doing it.

 

7. Did you receive any memorable advice while you were there?

 

I had the fellowship, and then I got hired and I was on staff for a little bit, and then I went out and I was a campaign embed. But I remember when I was leaving, and this wasn’t necessarily leaving the fellowship, but leaving “Meet the Press” as a whole after I had already been on staff for a little bit. One of the producers there left me a really nice note about the time I had spent there, and the big takeaway is that whether it’s politics, or journalism, or any field in life, you can still be very successful and be a very nice person and respect people from all walks of life. And that is the thing that I try to remember, is that especially when you’re dealing with politicians or people who are on TV, these types of people that I deal with every day now, you meet a lot of egos and a lot of people who have a reputation of not being that nice, and the people who are nice and the people that take the time to go out of their way to show people respect who may not be on their same level professionally – those little things stick with you. And being able to show that level of respect for people, I think that’s the most important thing, not just professionally but just as a human being.

 

8. How would your life be different if you hadn’t received the fellowship?

 

I don’t know. I told my parents that all of my eggs were in the fellowship basket at the time, and they were rightfully concerned about that, because if that didn’t come through I’m not sure exactly how things would have played out. But I mean, I always was very interested in journalism. I interned at the Buffalo News, which, that’s where I’m from is Buffalo, New York, and I interned at Cleveland Magazine while I went to John Carroll. So I think I would have definitely tried to continue pursuing it, but I don’t know if it would have necessarily been in politics. I may have tried to go work for a local newspaper or something like that. I’m not sure. But I know that I was very fortunate to be able to get it. And just being in Washington has opened up a lot of opportunities too, because there are so many journalism opportunities there. So I don’t know. I think I would have pursued journalism in some capacity for some amount of time, but it’s a particularly tough time to do that, especially if you’re trying to do it at a local newspaper, with cutbacks and budgets and everything like that. It’s tougher to break in now than it probably used to be. So this was really a tremendous opportunity.

 

9. What are you up to now?

 

I’m still at NBC. I write and report for NBCnews.com, and so I’m primarily focused on producing content for our website, but I also go out and shoot video that will be used on any platform, whether it’s NBC or MSNBC. And I still contribute to a lot of the TV aspects of NBC in various capacities, but now I’m primarily focused on NBCnews.com.

 

10. Do you have any advice for future applicants?

 

If you look at it, there’s a trend, right? Most people who have done it have done The Carroll News. And it shouldn’t be exclusive to The Carroll News, but it says a lot if you’re able to write and report, because that’s such an important thing, and obviously those skills translate to the fellowship. But I think the most important piece of advice, I would say, is to diversify your portfolio. What I mean by that is, this is a great opportunity, but unfortunately only one person’s going to get it each year, and there’s going to be very talented people going for it every year. There was another girl who applied for it my same year, and she is now a reporter in D.C. as well. And she’s on Fox News all of the time and she writes all of the time for a great website, and she was able to do that because, number one, she is extremely talented, and number two, she saw, okay this isn’t going to work out, so now I’m going to go a different route. Because there are different ways to get to where you ultimately want to be, and don’t stake everything just on this one opportunity just because it’s so apparently in front of you. Just the whole process of it, whether it’s applying for it, or even if it’s getting to the finals and dealing with members of the staff. All of the fellows have done presumably a pretty good job. I think we’re all still employed by NBC. I think that there’s a real respect that NBC has for John Carroll people. I know David Gregory has said in the past that he thinks there’s something in the water at John Carroll, which is a tremendous compliment. So, diversify and work hard while you’re there, but know that there are a lot of different ways to get to where you want to be, and there are a lot of people both on campus and off – John Carroll alums – that really want to help people get to where they want to be.