Television, Radio Shows, and Media. Oh, My!

Posted on: Monday, February 1, 2016


I love musicals. And I am obsessed with television.

So trust me when I say I freaked out after FOX announced it was putting on its own live musical extravaganza of Grease: Live!, in the same vein as NBC’s The Wiz, The Sound of Music, and Peter Pan.

The Wiz was the best. But I digress.

As the actors took their final bows, (especially Vanessa Anne Hudgens, following her dad’s passing) after the last musical number, I couldn’t help realizing something.

It almost seems like our society is going backwards in terms of how we consume media.

For example, radio programs were all the rage in the 1920s. People consumed their news and entertainment through the airwaves— so much so that when Orson Welles narrated “The War of the Worlds” in 1938, audiences actually thought aliens were taking over the world and called local authorities.

Fast forward to today.

Serial is one of iTunes’ most popular podcasts and serves the same function. Without giving too much away this time around, Serial melds investigative reporting with storytelling to hook listeners.

During the “Golden Age” of television, and before the creation of videotape, people gathered around for the evening news and their shows because once they missed them, they were gone. But now people are watching live television voluntarily, even if they could catch it again online.

Of course we can still watch TV on our own terms, and often times alone, because of streaming websites like Xfinity and Hulu.

Do we secretly miss coming together as a society to sit around the boob tube like “the good old days” for “quality programming”? Have we gone so far with media that there’s no place to go but back?

That, I can’t say for sure. But what I can say is that I can’t wait  to see which musical comes next.




Miki Turner

Posted on: Monday, March 2, 2015

Miki Turner is a self-described “late bloomer” when it came to finding her calling. But that hasn’t stopped her from having a number of successful careers including author to photographer to the stars and journalist extraordinaire. Trust us when we say, there’s a lot to learn from this impressive woman!

Miki Turner

GLAM Life Blog: Tell us a little about yourself!

Miki Turner:  I was born in the Midwest and went away to college at 18 to Hampton University, or what was then Hampton Institute, which was a total 180 from what I’d been accustomed to since I grew up in this predominately white and affluent suburb of Cincinnati. I spent four years there doing mainly television and radio. By the time I got out, I was the only one in my class that had a gig lined up. I had an internship at the Kentucky Enquirer and it was arranged for me by one of the mother’s of an old high school classmate. It was a general assignment job, but I knew early on that I didn’t want to go to anyone’s courthouse or board of education meetings and I didn’t want to cover any fires.

So shortly after that internship, I wanted to go back to Virginia. I found a job at a weekly and the only position available was a sports writer. That started my 10, 15-year trek in sports, but I got burned out on that. This woman who hired me initially told me, “Once you lose your passion for something, let it go.” If you’re not passionate about something, it won’t feed you in any way and she was absolutely right.

GLB: How did you get involved with photography?

MT: After I covered the marriage between entertainment and sports at ESPN, I decided to pick up photography. I’d gone to Boston University and studied with Eugene Cook. I was still shooting film at that time but then splurged and bought a digital camera, just started shooting away and came up with the concept for my first book. That was globally successful and it ushered me into a different spiritual reality in the sense that I saw the impact this book was making and having on people that read it. So I’ve had an interesting career; I always call it a series of happy accidents.

Tree ape

GLB: What inspired you to write your book, Journey To The Woman I’ve Come To Love

MT: My writing was very much rooted in adversity. I think adversity breeds good writing. I didn’t have a real job at that time and my father had gotten ill. Just being lost. And the ESPN television gig ended, I wasn’t connected enough in television to get another gig like most of my co-workers did. I went to AOL because one of my friends was heading up Black Voices and he asked if I could do on camera, then I lied and said, “Yes!” Then 14 takes later that became my gig, but I was only there a year. Again, I was in flux and trying to figure things out. All of this was happening and most notably, and importantly, my father was dying. I spent a lot of money going back and forth to see him. It was just a crazy period. But even in these rough times, I always know that it’s going to be okay.  Something really bad might happen, but you’ll recover. You just have to be patient and wait it out sometimes.

GLB: What makes a good picture?

MT: The difference between a snap shot and fine art is angles. It’s all in the angles and using the lighting, the available lighting. I hate to use strobes. I’ll try to shoot anything I can in natural light. You just need to have an eye. People who consider themselves photographers will walk around and just notice things. You’ve just got to be very visual and look for it. I teach my students to shoot in continual mode. You don’t want to miss an expression; you don’t want to miss an emotion.

Miki Turner photography

GLB: What has been your most memorable shoot to date?

MT: I shot Michael Jackson, I shot his Bad tour and it’s one of those things you forget. I was in the garage one day and I was like, “Wow, Mike.” And it’s because you do so much, you forget. It was during the film days, so I was looking at the negatives. So that was a thrill.  And shooting street scenes in South Africa.

GLB: What are some of your interests outside of photography?

MT: I love to scuba dive. I find it very relaxing and liberating. This is a quote from Alfre Woodard, “I like dinner parties with no more than ten people.” I like small intimate settings with friends where we just talk about anything. I love to travel! I love to go to the beach, especially in the Caribbean. I like the vibe, the food. I like hot yoga and to ride my bike, getting my exercise in however I can.

I watch a lot of TV and I am not at all apologetic about it. I like everything that comes on Thursday nights on ABC. And I will say this about “Empire,” though. I don’t think it’s a great show, but it is very addictive and it’s that guilty pleasure show like “Dynasty” was. I love “Episodes” on Showtime. I like those campy little TV shows on TV One, “Unsung Hollywood” and “Fatal Attraction” are sadly some of my favorites.

And I don’t shop as much as I used to, but I still love a good bargain!

GLB: What’s a piece of advice you have for aspiring photographers?

MT: It’s not about the equipment; it’s about you. You can have the best equipment in the world and take a crappy shot. Or you can have a box camera that cost you $2.98 and take a fabulous shot. I take great shots on my iPhone while riding on the subway. Photography is like the yin and yang; it’s incredibly fulfilling but it’s also incredibly frustrating.

School kids in Turks & Caicos

GLB: What’s next for Miki Turner? 

MT: Tenure! I think I’m going to keep evolving. I do love teaching and I do love the vibe here, so I’ll stick around and see how that goes. I don’t know that I want to be married, but I would like to get in another relationship. I can’t have kids because I never have food in my house.

There are another few books and another couple exhibitions in the future. I think the stuff I’m doing on the subway everyday is going to be an exhibition. I’m shooting them all in monochrome and it’s just really popping. I really want to do a workshop around the world. I want to pick a different city each summer.

Want more Miki Turner?
Catch her on Facebook and check out her work online!


Alex Witt of MSNBC

Posted on: Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Today we’re diving into the world of Alex Witt. She’s the host of MSNBC’s “Weekends with Alex Witt” and has worked with the network since 1999, covering everything from Presidential elections to foreign news. There’s a lot we can say about her but we’ll let this interview on her impressive career do the talking instead.

Alex Witt, MSNBC, Weekends with Alex Witt

GLAM Life Blog: So. You’re a USC alum (Fight On!) and now work as anchor with MSNBC, but when did your interest in journalism begin?

Alex Witt: My interest in journalism really began before I can remember. I’m told I was always asking questions, always interested in whatever was happening around me. So I think my pursuit of a career in journalism was innate. I know I started getting serious about it when I started writing stories for my high school newspaper. I studied Broadcast Journalism at USC and learned how to write, interpret and share the news. Of everything I learned at USC, probably the most valuable was how to write. I say this over and over again. But I think writing well it is the singularly most important aspect of being a good journalist. I was lucky to get some great internships during college at both KCBS-TV and KNBC-TV. Those led me to my first production assistant job and I was off and running. I worked my way up behind the scenes in various LA local newsrooms, until I got a job field producing pieces for the TODAY Show out of the NBC News Burbank Bureau. I loved every minute of every day producing.

GLB: How did you move from behind the scenes as a producer to on the air?

AW: Going on the air, in front of the camera, was something I’d thought about, but it never stuck with me enough to give it a try. In part because it meant I’d have to leave my home in LA and head to a small market to learn how to be a reporter and anchor and make the inevitable mistakes in a place where the consequences of that weren’t as high as they would be in the number two market in the country. One day, while back in New York producing a series, I was called into an exec’s office. It was suggested I should try on-air reporting. When I asked what made him think I could do it, he said, “Well, you don’t look like Quasimodo and you don’t sound like Minnie Mouse and you’re pretty much doing the work of a reporter already without shooting stand-ups and tracking the scripts with your voice.” I decided the timing was right, so several months later I got a job in the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz, CA. market, and spent about two years learning how to report from the field and deliver the news from the anchor desk. My path eventually brought me to MSNBC where I have worked as an anchor for 16 years since January 1999. I can’t believe I’ve been here that long but I am really proud of it.

GLB: We’re huge fans of HBO’s “The Newsroom” and saw that you were a consultant for its final season! What did that role entail?

AW: “The Newsroom.” I can’t say enough good things about being a consultant on that show. Aaron Sorkin is the most brilliant and distinctive playwright and screenwriter of our time. (No pressure sharing my thoughts on the inner workings of a TV newsroom!) Aaron would come up with his ideas, scenarios, and send emails asking me whether they were realistic, or how they might play out in a newsroom. For example, the Boston Marathon Bombings made up a big storyline in Episode 1 this final season. Aaron asked me to describe how my newsroom first got word of the bombings… and then how we gathered information… the timeline in which it happened… the logistics of how we covered the unfolding events of that terrible day… and so on. He wanted to gather information to make his characters as credible as possible. I wrote in detail the answers to his questions, as well as some questions reporters on the scene would ask in the various press conferences from officials. I added some logistics from Boston that day, like the area hospitals and numbers of patients and types of injuries they got. Aaron wanted as many details as possible. I think that’s reflected in the way he writes dialogue. His characters are wonderful in part because they are always so authentic. When I flew out to LA for the premiere of “The Newsroom” in November, Episode 1 was screened and it was beyond cool for me to see how Aaron incorporated my notes into his script.

HBO, The NewsroomVia The Newsroom’s Facebook 

GLB: Do you have any interesting stories from working on the show?

AW: I inadvertently made an appearance in Season 1, Episode 4. The episode covered the 2011 Tucson, Az., shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. I was anchoring on MSNBC that January Saturday. At one point, referencing the NPR report that Rep. Giffords had been killed in the shooting, we joined the chorus of networks inaccurately reporting her death. Obviously, and thankfully, she survived. However, I still feel guilty about the chaos of that day and making such a terrible mistake. Cut to July 2012, and me watching “The Newsroom” at home in my pajamas, eating popcorn… when that storyline appears. I sat up on the couch and intently watched Aaron’s interpretation of how things went down. Right up to the point when Don and Mac are in the control booth. Don tells Mac, “CNN, MSNBC and FOX are all saying she’s dead.” And Mac says, “Let me hear MSNBC.”

So guess who says in the show, “A lone source is reporting Representative Gabrielle Giffords has been killed in this heinous attempt on her life…”? Me. I yelled, “NO!” and threw popcorn at the screen, before burying my face in my hands with a resigned, “Ugh.” After talking for a couple of hours the first time Aaron and I met, he was about to make a clean getaway… until I said, “You know, Aaron.. I have a little something I want to discuss with you…” and I proceeded to explain in excruciating detail the experience of watching myself report on Rep. Giffords ‘death’ and having that difficult day now available on DVD replay forever on “The Newsroom.” Poor guy. He listened and then kindly explained that he rarely – if ever – used sound from news broadcasts in the show, adding that he wasn’t calling ME out for reporting the Representative had died. Rather he liked how I reported it and needed that to make his point for Will and the senior staff at ACN. And so began our friendship. Go figure.

GLB: What are the most memorable stories you’ve reported on?

AW: When you ask me the most memorable story I’ve reported on, it has to be 9-11 and the week following from Ground Zero. It was the biggest story of my career. It was the biggest challenge for me to not get personal or overly emotional with the story. But it quickly became apparent things would never be the same. We live with the reverberations of that day across our daily lives in every community. I’ve also covered Presidential elections, reporting from both Democratic and Republican campaigns. Election night coverage is always thrilling. I have done exit polling reports from a studio at 30 Rock, and once from the ice rink at Rockefeller Center with a huge map of the 50 states colored in red and blue as the state vote finals were tallied.

In other news, I reported from outside Kensington Palace in London during the 10th anniversary commemorations of the death of Princess Diana. I also broadcasted my show from a set offering Windsor Castle as a backdrop the day Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles. I recently held my own with Jon Stewart in a great interview for his 2014 film, “Rosewater”. It’s quite a potpourri of experiences.

GLB: Who inspires you?

AW: There are so many people who inspire me with acts of courage or compassion every day. But if you are talking about journalists, it’s got to be those who put themselves in dangerous places where terrorism runs rampant and innocent lives and individuals rights are threatened. It’s also the reporters who have a wealth of experience and articulately put today’s news into context for us. Those reports often seem to offer a sense of history repeating itself. I could name so many who have influenced me over the years. But I’ll narrow it down to two women for their consistency: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and ABC’s Diane Sawyer. They are my definition of intelligent, capable, industrious, intrepid, respected journalists.

Alex Witt, MSNBC, Weekends with Alex WItt

GLB: What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?

AW: My favorite part of the job is covering breaking news. There is no rush like being in the anchor chair with information coming at you from every direction. I love the challenge of delivering the news clearly and accurately to my viewers when it’s chaos in the studio, the control booth, all the while with my Executive Producer talking to me in my ear through my IFB. I’m sure that makes me sound a little bit crazy. But I love it. My least favorite part of the job is waking up in the middle of winter at 4 AM to get to midtown Manhattan to start my day. I never get used to it. But I am really bad at going to bed early enough to better manage it. I’ve got to work on that. Getting my hair and makeup done for air every day is also a pretty fabulous perk. “GLAM Life Blog” totally understands that!

GLB: What advice would you give to a student or young professional just starting out in TV news? You mentioned in a presentation once the importance of finding a niche. What are some other steps you would take if you were beginning your journalism career now?

AW: I think digital journalism is the key thing for up and coming journalists to focus on. Learning the nuances of broadcasting via the internet, rather than a large tv screen. The mechanics of putting a story together are the same of course – marrying words with pictures – but the trick is understanding how to capture the attention of the audience. Finding a niche… immersing yourself in one subject and making yourself an expert in that area can be helpful. But I want to add this: no matter what you set your sights on, don’t take shortcuts to get there. If you do, you won’t last in this business. It’s like trying to learn an aerial without first mastering a cartwheel before you try doing it without using your hands. Create for yourself a solid foundation and build a career from there. Put in the time… do the hard work in a small market and then move up the ladder. Make your mistakes and learn from them.

GLB: If you could choose one, what has been your proudest accomplishment so far?

AW: My proudest accomplishment is earning the respect and loyalty of my colleagues. I’ve survived 16 years at MSNBC. Hard work, preparing well, being flexible, appreciating your colleagues, and being respectful of the rigors of the industry are all key to turning a job into a career. Many of the people who work directly with me have done so for years. That’s not the norm. I’d like to think they’ve stayed because they value the show we put on the air and enjoy working with me and our team. There’s a fair amount of ego involved in the business. But that can better be translated to being confident. I love what I do and I’m good at it. That said, I never forget that anyone can be replaced. If I’m not sitting in the anchor chair one day, I guarantee the network won’t come out of commercial and point the camera at an empty chair behind the anchor desk. Perspective.

GLB: Finally, where do you see the future of journalism and the media world in general heading?

AW: I’m a little cynical lately at what I sometimes see passing as “journalism.” I can’t tolerate shoddy reporting. Sloppy inaccuracies… using gossip as a story source… copying a story from a news website and posting it without either verifying it or digging deeper into the story… not providing context when it’s needed to fully understand the story… things like that are all too common across the vast universe of news on the ‘net. But seeing what’s happening in USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism restores my faith in what lies ahead. I am so impressed with what’s available to the students in both the technology and the personnel. Every administrator and professor with whom I have spoken demonstrates the highest standards of journalism. Students are eager to learn and get out there in the working world. And I can’t wait to see what they bring to it.

You can catch Alex on “Weekends with Alex Witt”
Saturdays 7 AM ET, Saturdays and Sundays 12 PM ET —
And of course, on Twitter and Facebook!

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