Friday, June 21, 2019

What it's Like to Talk about Space on a CNN TV Broadcast

My love of journalism goes back as far as high school when I really started paying attention to the news. CNN was always my favorite. Back before mobile technology made it easier, I had CNN videos streaming in the background on my school's library's computers during study periods. I still dream of meeting Christiane Amanpour.

At some point during my higher education, I considered becoming a space or science journalist. But as you may have gathered from how long it’s taking me to publish my book, I'm an exceedingly slow writer.

Five years ago over July 4th weekend, I visited my best friend who had recently relocated to Atlanta. The very first place I wanted to see was CNN Headquarters. Because it was a Friday, we were able to watch a live broadcast during the VIP tour. I hoped to someday see myself behind the camera.

CNN Center in Atlanta, July 4, 2014

(A few weeks later, my best friend and I became an official couple. We married the following year. He’s the reason I relocated to Atlanta nearly 3 years ago.)

Founding my own company gave me the opportunity and freedom to speak out and speak my mind more than I ever had before. My job became to analyze the space sector every day, living and breathing space news and progress. Journalists began reaching out to me as a source of information.

I have never been paid for a news interview. Journalism ethics doesn’t allow it and I’ve never expected it. There are great resources out there for people who want to negotiate compensation when being interviewed for documentaries and other entertainment productions, but I have yet to be asked and therefore have no personal experience regarding entertainment interviews. I speak with journalists and podcasters because I appreciate the work they do. And because it’s fun.

When I got the interview request, I dived into research. Not space research, TV broadcast research! I wanted to understand what clothing, jewelry, styles, colors, and patterns work best on camera. Blazer or no blazer? A simple necklace or no necklace? Earrings? I studied the women on CNN and noticed the current style seems to be solid colored boatneck dresses, but not owning one of those, I opted for my navy star-patterned wrap dress with simple jewelry.

Hello CNN! June 4, 2019

I arrived at the CNN Center 45 minutes early. I didn’t need to wait in the lobby long before an assistant producer picked me up and escorted me through the maze of hallways. My first stop was hair and makeup. Because I wasn’t sure about timing and expectations, I did my own makeup that morning. The friendly makeup artist said I looked all set and then proceeded to do my makeup for the next 20 minutes while the hairstylist worked behind me. I couldn’t even tell you what they did other than to add more of everything and then some. This was the first time I had gotten my hair and makeup done professionally since my wedding and I looked great!

Couldn't resist a selfie while I waited!

The assistant producer then led me to a small studio. I was positioned in a chair in front of a collection of fuzzy blue screens for background. Because the journalist I would be speaking with is based in New York City, I was directed to speak to a black screen. I had done this only once before being interviewed by HLN in a tiny Orlando studio in 2011 about NASA's planetary science budget, but admittedly I need practice. A woman clipped a microphone to my dress and adjusted the connection between Atlanta and New York.

Hello Rachel!

I know space current events backwards and forwards so I usually don’t need to prepare much for an interview. But because I am new to TV, I wrote up a script based on the type of questions I expected to be asked and did my best to repeat those thoughts in front of the camera. I had a lot to say! I took the advice I'd read about speaking in short soundbite statements to heart and made sure my prepared remarks fit within 12 seconds each, although I’m sure I spoke longer during the interview.

The gift at the end was what a CNN employee said after the interview. As he unclipped my microphone, he told me he was so excited about astronauts returning to the Moon and we should pour all our money into NASA! I advised him to tell that to his elected officials. This is the American taxpayers’ space program and every American has a say.

Of the approximately 20 minute interview, I get a few seconds of airtime during the 3 minute segment, enough for one line. I expected that, especially since one of the other interviewees was NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. It was a blast and I can’t wait to do it again someday!

The segment airs live on CNN this afternoon at 3:50 Eastern. You can watch the video on CNN’s website:

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