By Amanda Kraus | firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently had the chance to sit down with long-time CBS Radio news reporter Peter King. Having worked with CBS since 1994, King has covered numerous major stories — four World Series games, eight Super Bowls, more than 60 of NASA’s shuttle missions from 1995 to 2011, hurricanes, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, the Romney presidential campaign in 2008, the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti, the BP oil spill and the list goes now.
With a background like that, you can see why such an interview would be am amazing opportunity for a journalism student like myself. But through the awe-inspiring stories about shuttle launches, spring training and hurricanes, I found myself continuously drawn back to his simple words of advice and all the hard work involved in his profession. So as college seniors graduated all across the country, I thought I would share his insights, which are sure to motivate, regardless of your major or career path.
King got his start at a college radio station in New York at Ithaca College’s WICB-FM. He remained a radio jock for 20 years, working for various stations until he was let go from his job at a station in Rochester, New York, in 1993. His wife of the time was also in the field and soon found herself in search of job, as well. With the radio business changing and both King and his wife in need of new income, he recalls how they ended up moving from New York to the Sunshine State — a move that ended up opening new doors for them.
“We decided to send out tapes all over the country and whichever of us got the first, best offer, that’s where we’d go,” he said.
His wife received a job in Daytona Beach, Florida, and King took the move as a chance to transition into a field he hoped would provide “more staying power and more career possibilities.”
Transition from a radio jock to reporter was a bit of a step, but King thanks luck, faith and a lot of hard work for the opportunity. “Yes, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but also finding two news directors who thought that … despite news experience, I had what it took. They both took a chance and I have been forever grateful. But NOTHING ever ‘just comes’ to you. Ever. You have to have talent, drive, initiative. And you can’t be complacent.”
King started freelance journalism after moving to Florida, and began offering the Orlando affiliate for CBS News his stories daily. After accepting many of the stories, they began calling him for more and he became a full time freelancer a few years later in 1997, then a full-time staff correspondent in 2002.
“A lot of it early on was being in the right place at the right time, covering things for my local station that the network was interested in. When I started covering space, it was by virtue of the fact I lived here and I had easy access to the Kennedy Space Center. In 1997, I got a couple of travel assignments as a freelancer for CBS while working locally. And when I became available to them full time, those travel assignments increased greatly. A lot of breaking news, simply because I was available on a moment’s notice.”
As mentioned, King covered numerous stories on NASA, something much more daunting than many realize, as it requires an intense work ethic and a good amount of patience.
“My first wall-to-wall mission for CBS was STS 82, the second Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in February, 1997. It was the first time for me to do a live broadcast and I was nervous as hell. I was amazed in the lead up to the launch and how much I did not know, and knew that the learning curve was going to be steep and a work in progress. The shuttle manual that NASA has weighs about 10 pounds and it’s about six inches thick, but there is so much to learn. You have to plan for the unexpected, and I was relieved that when it all went well. It takes a while to develop a good comfort level with this stuff … You also learn a lot along the way. The homework involves watching the NASA pre-things that are held weeks ahead of any mission, learning as many details as you can form the text material as well.”
King has covered a variety of stories beyond NASA launches — sports, natural disasters, shootings, elections and more. With some of these stories — imagine spring training at ESPN Wide World of Sports and drives to launches through beautiful Cape Canaveral — it seem like more play than work. But King makes it clear work is always work, and lots of it.
As college students, it can be easy to look at careers and only see the “fun” aspects of it, while not acknowledging the amount of hard work required. “Covering space never loses its luster, but generally, I feel that way about most stories,” he said. “None of it ever feels like play. There is an awful lot of hard work and many long days involved … Even when covering things like a World Series, or a Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday can begin in the early afternoon when you get to the stadium to check in and go through security, then get your equipment set up. The day includes a series of live reports, not to mention all the stories you have to file after the game, which usually doesn’t end until 10:30 or 11, with all the pomp and circumstance. My last stories are usually filed at 1 or 2 a.m. So if you think all we do is show up, watch the game, then go home, you’re severely mistaken.”
Just how important is getting experience, as in internships? He emphasized that although internships are important, it’s your work ethic that really carries you.
“My internships taught me about interviewing and much about the business in general,” he said. “Important lessons that would serve me well from the time forward … I think they are vital, but you need to remember that it’s the student who has to make the most of the opportunity. Volunteer to do things, ask questions, make yourself available. Always.”