Check it, Peons: Your CNN Humiliation Compartmentalized

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Yesterday I received an e-mail from a student at the University of Michigan who wanted advice on the CNN VJ Program. (I'm telling you, I have a connection with Michigan these days. I'm getting my ass there soon for a visit.)
Here's what he wrote:


I came across your blog and wanted to know what your experience was like as a VJ. It didn't sound like the experience was that good. Would you recommend it to a college grad (2008)?

My main goal is to become a general assignment reporter. I'm a news assistant at a local station now and could probably move up to a reporter in a year. I know i don't need the CNN VJ thing. But it sounds like an interesting make some good contacts for the future, anyway.

Your thoughts?"

I gave him my advice, and asked if it was okay to post his e-mail to solicit answers from other former VJs.
So c'mon everybody. As reformed peons, we should pass along whatever knowledge we've gleaned from our CNN drudgery.
Plus, we are approaching graduation season, so let's offer up some solid information (or at least funny pearls of wisdom) to all the peons, Type-A producers, techie fatties, Teleprompter-reading drones, sarcastic directors and intrepid reporters of tomorrow...


creegsl said...

Do they still make Dockers?

Another VJ Graduate said...

The weird part about being a VJ is that it seems miserable while you're doing it. But when you talk to directors, producers and other people who are doing well in the company, they all tell you how much fun they had as VJs...and later on, you realize what they meant.

vjdutton said...

Excellent point about the Dockers! Even though Joe Kinstle has left CNN, I'm sure his fearsome sartorial mandate is still entrenched within the fabric of VJ Land.

DF said...

I was fortunate to have never been a VJ, so I didn't have to suffer the Docker's humiliation.

However, it does seem like a good way to get into the news business. Unless you're very, very lucky, or have some high-powered friends, your first news job will be at a small station. And, trust me, that's ok. You have to start somewhere, so if you're going into entry-level work, CNN provides a tremendous learning opportunity.

The news business is one of those where you can't get hired until you have some experience. But, you can't get experience until you get hired. So, take a chance, and learn what you can.

You will not be a VJ forever, and I can guarantee that what you learn will serve you well since CNN is very ahead of the game technologically. Also, having CNN on your resume will impress your next employer.

Remember, a VJ is not a career job. It's a start, and I'm pretty sure it beats working at some very small station in some very small town. Plus, you get good medical, dental and life insurance benefits.

Remember: Dockers are optional.

Anonymous said...

What's great about working as a vj to "get your foot in the door" is that you can work for ALMOST minimum wage, then go out and report the local news for LESS than what you were making at CNN! GOODTIMES! When my friend went to work in Jackson, TN, she made almost 7 grand less than her VJ job...we were making $23K at the time.

It's so refreshing to know there are still starry-eyed youth. Who wrote that email? The next Katie Couric? ("I want to be the next KATIE COURIC!!!!")

Personally, I want to be the next ROZ.

Anonymous said...

$23K? You were living on easy street. Try being a VJ on $17.5K. Awww yeah! It's all a blur of Dinty Moore stew and Ramen noodles.

"PROMPTER"!!! said...

I remember people telling me I'd look back on my vj days fondly.

Fuck that. I choose to remember my first promotion fondly. Fortunately, it came three months after my initial vj hire.

As a vj, I also made 17.5, and could scarcely afford to eat. Dinty Moore was a luxury. I remember being told that I was "paid in sunshine". Being that I couldn't perform photosynthesis, the Georgia sunshine wasn't curing my steady hunger.

It was a good opportunity for me, though. It is very much what you make of it. I gained the skills I needed to move on, then swiftly did just that.

Despite my surly mood regarding initial salary, I'd recommend the program to anyone interested. CNN (Time Warner) is a good company with many opportunities for an ambitious graduate to explore.

J said...

I say, go for it.

I also made $17.5, and often dined on plates of corn and rice from the Hard News for dinner. I got "stuck" in playback, when they decided to freeze all promotions, only to bring brand new people straight into Feeds. I dated and was dumped by three fellow CNNer's, all of varying success. I learned about everything I absolutely didn't want to do for a career. I had lots of friends, and an equal amount of enemies. I was still young and immature, and had no clue what I wanted to do in my life.

I was a VJ for one year and three months..four times longer than what I was told in my initial interview. It was my first taste of corporate bullshit and red tape. That said, to this day..12 years after I was first hired as a VJ, the name CNN on my resume still gets the most attention. My experience there has gotten me into doors that I believe would not have been opened otherwise. I was able to take the name, and hopscotch my way through the communications local TV News, through PR and Advertising, and finally, Marketing. Nothing gets me more attention or questions than my time at CNN.

It is what you choose to make of it. I have chosen to use the hell out of it for the next 20 years. Joe and Floyd should be getting royalties!


UMstudent said...

hey, thanks for all of the advice. I was wondering if any of you have any contact information of recruiters???


Anonymous said...

I'd say Roz, but she's gone.