Jessica Ashley facebook twitter babble voices pinterest is a single mama in the city, super-savvy editor, writer, video host and shameless shoe whore.
read more »
Mama Needs New Shoes
Subscribe to Sassafrass by RSS or Email
Follow by RSS feed


Follow by email to have Sassafrass' blog updates delivered to your inbox:

Mama Likey

This area does not yet contain any content.
Search Sassafrass

Once upon a time I was an intern

Many years ago, before I spent my days and wee hours in front of a laptop, I spent my days and wee hours in front of a line editing machine at my college television station, all around campus and town interviewing people for the college newspaper, huddled over a light table for the college yearbook and tucked into a tiny booth for the college radio station. I was a journalism major to the geekiest degree.

My senior year, I was simultaneously the producer of the news (have I mentioned once or four-thousand times that I hired the lovely Jenna Fischer, now Pam from The Office, to be one of the anchors of the program I wrote, directed, edited and produced? I even have the scripts to prove it), had a weekly radio show, was Sports Editor of the yearbook (I know, I know) and was a contributing reporter for the paper. I loved it all so much and was so immersed in every aspect of on-campus media that it never occurred to me to be less involved.

At the time, my ambition was to be a columnist for Details magazine.

I was convinced I could interlace a bit of compelling
feminism into interviews, investigative reporting and sassy insights on
relationships with enough humor and fact to really reel those frat boy
readers in.

This, of course, was before I crash landed into the
interwebs and even before a graduate school professor of mine suggested
I look into writing online (to which I scoffed, saying I was a nerd but
not THAT much of a nerd, although I apparently am well beyond THAT much
of a nerd now).  Even though I was dedicated to print way back then, I
was all lit up about the possibilities of broadcast media. I loved the
editing, I adored the story-boarding, I was challenged by writing
scripts instead of articles. I would tell people I was going to see my
byline in a magazine one day but I also hoped to hear it on radio or TV
as well.

That spark came from an offer to intern at WGN-TV,
and even though I was clear with the HR team about my first love of
magazine writing, it was a position I couldn't turn down. I was hired
to be a pitifully-paid, crazy-hour scheduled, hard-worked newsroom and
production intern. I was terrified, I was amazed, I was in awe.

I worked on a public affairs show called People to People,
booking guests and writing scripts and editing teasers and bumps
between segments. The show aired at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings, so no
one I knew ever saw the results of my steep learning curve.

I also worked on the News at Nine,
running scripts to the anchors, sitting in the chaotic control room,
going out with camera people and reporters and hunting through the
vaults, file cabinets, purses, desks and trash for video tapes that
inevitably disappeared an hour before air time.

One of the anchors I worked with was Allison Payne.
Oh, how I adored Allison Payne. She was friendly and funny and
frequently showed up in the newsroom with her hair in curlers.  She'd
flag me down from the news desk to bring her make-up compact to her
during commercial breaks.  Once, she took me out on an interview,
stopping back at her house to offer me snacks and words of advice about
being a woman in the business.

She was candid and spoke with a
clarity that made her likeable as well as authoritative. I admired her
professionally and the more I peeked into her office with a question or
a hello, the more I wanted to be like her.  To this day, when a driver
lets me turn left or pull in front of them, I offer up a peace sign
like I saw Allison do so many times from her little white compact car.
It just seems like a kind counter to the chaos of Chicago traffic. And
that's how Allison seemed to be to me, in traffic, in the loud and
dramatic and sexist newsroom, in front of the camera.

Allison Payne's had some health struggles this year. Little
strokes that have impacted her career and how she interacts with other
people sometimes.  Her recent trip to Mayo Clinic for extensive testing
was and the reports of her return to the News at Nine has been big news
in itself around here.

After my internship, I returned on school
breaks to work in Community Affairs and on other shows at WGN-TV. Then
I decided it was best for me to find my way out from behind the booths
and newsrooms, to grad school and in another career direction. Still,
that experience, as challenging and frenetic as it often was, pushed me
forward. It ignited some confidence that I could write more, work more,
do more.

I owe some thanks for that to Allison Payne, not for
any particular reason other than letting me watch how she conducted
herself in her own part of the journalistic world. Today, I am grateful
her health is optimistic and she will be back on the air tonight, where
I think every WGN viewer would agree she belongs.

Welcome back, Allison. And peace.

« Wise words from your mother (well, if I do say so myself) | Main | Lil E Explains: "Life" and times in utero »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>