As co-director of Northwestern News Network's (NNN) Executive Board, Cat works with a team of students who shoot, write, edit, anchor, produce and direct their own newscasts. In 2014, she and her team accepted a collegiate Emmy for Best Student Newscast. Cat has also interned with the New York Bureau of FOX News, where her story on female veterans' access to healthcare aired on "Happening Now with Jenna Lee and John Scott. "
How did you know you wanted to get into journalism? It is one of those incredibly corny stories. I never really knew what I wanted to do, but I loved writing and had a background in theater. When I was a sophomore in high school, I toured NBC in New York and had a chance to sit at an anchor desk. It was one of those aha moments where I thought, "Wow, this may be what I want to do." As I learned more about journalism, I discovered it was the storytelling aspect I really loved, not the on-camera aspect.
You won an Emmy for Best Student Newscast for the Northwestern News Report. What was it like winning this award? It was so validating. What I love about Northwestern News Network is that the students have complete control of the newscasts. We shoot them, write them and edit them. We anchor, produce and direct. Each show has so much blood, sweat and tears in it, so to be recognized for our hard work was amazing.
How did you get involved with the Northwestern News Report? My very first week of freshman year, I went to an info session, and I guess I just never left. Before I joined Alpha Phi, I struggled to find my family at Northwestern. You could say NNN was the sorority I joined before Alpha Phi. It has become my family, friends, mentors and mentees.
What's your favorite story you've covered and why? During the winter of 2013, I was doing a Northwestern program called Medill on the Hill. Each year 15-20 students go to Washington, D.C. and are given congressional press badges to report for Medill. On Inauguration Day, I wanted to get a different perspective, so I followed a man in a wheelchair to see how well-prepared the event was for the disabled. It was terrible. We had to lift his wheelchair up over several curbs, and he could not make it through the crowd to the disabled section. I got footage of the whole day, and I turned it into a mini-documentary. Through our connections with Medill, I was able to get that video published as the top story under national news on the CNN homepage. It was my favorite story because it opened my eyes to so many problems I had never considered, and by having it published on CNN, many others were able to see a unique perspective. Isn't that what journalism is all about?
You were featured on FOX News as well. When were you featured and for what segment? Over the summer I worked for the New York Bureau of Fox News. As an intern I was allowed to pitch stories, and I decided to pitch one about the difficulties female veterans face when seeking health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Many female veterans are victims of military sexual assault, and from speaking with them I found they don't feel comfortable sitting in waiting rooms full of men or being examined in front of them. My story was approved, so I was able to field produce a piece for the network. I interviewed one woman who had a negative experience with the VA, and I also got to feature a New York VA hospital that has a women's-only emergency room. I worked with Fox reporter Laura Ingle to draft the script, and I worked with an editor to get the video together. It was amazing to have control of my own story from beginning to end at a national network, and to see it air on "Happening Now with Jenna Lee and John Scott" was unbelievable.
What publications or magazines do you consistently read and why? When it comes to television news, no one does it better than CBS "Sunday Morning." I really enjoy long form and investigative storytelling, and their program really takes time on stories. As far as publications go, I keep an eye on Politico, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. I like to get my news from a diverse range of sources.
How do you think the digital space is transforming the way we tell stories (or is it)? It's putting a lot of pressure on media outlets to be first to release breaking news, which sometimes leads to mistakes. I think the pressure to break news all the time has also taken resources away from long form storytelling, which is the kind of work so many journalists enjoy doing. That being said, the new digital space has also given us so many platforms on which to tell stories, and so many new ways in which to tell them. It's an exciting time.
Who is one of your role models and why? One of my favorite journalists is Kelly O'Donnell. Partly because I eventually want her job, but also because she does it so well. She's a Northwestern alumna, and she recently came to Medill to speak. What I admire about her is that she worked her way up from the bottom to the top. She spent weekends at a local news station to get extra experience instead of spending time with family and friends. Now that she's on network news, people respect her for that hard work. If I get to the top, I want to have earned it.
What's your "quick pick-me-up"? I used to absolutely despise the taste of coffee, but news has gotten me into it. During late nights or early mornings, my go to is a vanilla latte.
What's your favorite Alpha Phi memory? When I was a freshman, the news director of NNN was a senior Alpha Phi named Alanna Autler. She has been one of my greatest friends and mentors over the past three years. I worshipped the ground she walked on, and I still do. When it came time for her senior will I was so excited that I might receive a T-shirt or hat. I waited patiently as she gave things away to sister after sister, wondering if she had forgotten about me. Then, at the very end, she called my name. Alanna gave me two of the shirts she wore during her on-air internship in Lansing senior year. I have those shirts with me now at my internship in Lansing, and I can't wait to be an Alanna and pass them on to little Cat.
What are your plans post-graduation? I joke that I have a loose ten year plan. I hope to start out in a small town reporting and then work my way up to a national market to cover politics and courts. Eventually, I want to work as a Capitol correspondent in DC. I'm currently studying for the LSAT, so a stop at law school may fit in there somewhere, but I'm open to whatever comes my way.