SCOTT SCHILLER: Hi, there. You're probably wondering what I'm doing sitting on the set of MSNBC with Kate Snow. But I am fortunate to be able to talk with Kate, who is Cornell '91-- a baby compared to my Cornell '81-- about life in the news business and NBC and careers.
Just a little bit about Kate. She's had an excellent career working at such varied places like ABC and CNN. And a little bit of a back to the Future, she, 2008, covered Hillary Clinton in politics. Kate comes from the ag school, and went to Georgetown for a master's in foreign service.
KATE SNOW: So nice to see you.
SCOTT SCHILLER: Thank you.
KATE SNOW: Welcome to the set. I don't know if we have really a big wide shot. Well, we have kind of a wide shot. This is the set of MSNBC. let's
SCOTT SCHILLER: Talk a little bit about your career journey. You came out of college. How did you figure out what you wanted to do? You obviously studied in graduate school. How does luck play into what you do?
KATE SNOW: The short version is, I went from Cornell to Georgetown, basically because I couldn't get a job, Scott. I mean, honest to go, I could not get. I tried to get a radio job. I had worked at WVBR, which I hope people know, right off campus in Collegetown. Commercial radio station. I had done the news for VBR. And that was really my first job in this field. But I couldn't get a radio job leaving Cornell.
So I did get into Georgetown. And I thought it would be a good idea to go on and get a degree, a master's degree, in foreign service, which is international affairs. So I did that.
Went to CNN out of there as a low-level, entry-level producer. Produced for a couple years. Kept watching the TV, the anchor people and the reporters, and thinking, I could do that, because I had done it for VBR. I had been reporting on the streets of the Ithaca, and covering city council and accidents or whatever.
And so I went to local news, at that point. I decided I'm going to take a chance. I'm going to leave this great job at CNN in Atlanta and move to a small, small, small town in rural New Mexico, which I did. And I worked for a station out of Albuquerque for three years.
And then, I was lucky enough to go back to CNN using the connections that I had, that I already made at CNN. I was able to send them tapes of my work and get back to CNN.
From CNN, I went to Washington, covered Capitol Hill. Moved to ABC to be the White House correspondent. ABC moved me to New York to anchor up here, to anchor Good Morning America on the weekends. And then NBC picked me up five years ago to basically-- it's a long story-- but correspondent, and then now what I'm doing now.
SCOTT SCHILLER: How has Cornell helped you in your journey?
KATE SNOW: A ton, a ton. I think Cornell taught me to be a critical thinker, taught me to ask questions, obviously gave me a base, a baseline of knowledge on so many different subjects. The classes that I took in communication in the ag school, but also the classes I took in the art school, are invaluable. And I took government courses. I took international relations courses.
I minored in Spanish at Cornell, which, by the way, helps me all the time now in my daily life, because there's a lot of times that I end up doing interviews-- not usually on air, but off-camera. When you're calling around, Spanish helps.
SCOTT SCHILLER: So a question that I'm sure that students have is, how have mentors factored into your journey?
KATE SNOW: A lot. A lot. I'm huge fan of mentoring. I try to help. Cornell students reach out to me a lot. Probably once a week I get an email address or phone call. And I try to answer, because I think it does matter. And I feel like I'm really lucky to have the job that I have. And I've worked hard to get here. But I know some things about how I got here. So I try to share that.
In terms of my mentors, all along the way, I've had people in the industry and outside of the industry who helped shape my path and given me great advice.
SCOTT SCHILLER: So one of the things that I want to ask you, because most of the folks who are watching this may not watch news all day long the way we did, how do you think about the news business today, and digital platforms, and how millennials consume news? And how has it changed since you started?
KATE SNOW: So much. And those are huge questions that we think about all the time, as you might imagine, Scott. It's changed a ton, even since I started. And class of '91, so everybody now knows I've been in this for more than 20 years.
And it really has changed it. Look, the delivery mechanisms for news have completely changed. There were no cell phones when I graduated. I told somebody that the other day, she couldn't believe me. She was in her 20s. She said, what do you mean, there were no cell phones? No cell phones in 1991. No internet.
And the news back then, as you and I remember, was three channels. Three networks-- ABC, NBC, CBS. That was it. There was no cable at that time. Well, there was in 1991, but when we were growing up, there was no cable.
So I think the delivery mechanisms of the way people get their news has changed so tremendously over the last 20, 30 years, that we, every single day, are struggling to keep up and find the way to reach our viewers.
So I sit here on MSNBC. I anchor every day from 3:00 to 5:00. But you notice I have a computer open on the screen in front of me here. It's buried in the desk here. But trust me, there's a computer in here, because I'm constantly monitoring Twitter and Facebook and email. Luckily, I have other folks behind me here who can help me monitor all that. But social media has changed everything, I would say, in the last five years. The way that we gather information and the way that we disseminate information.
We're often going to-- I hate to say it-- but we're often going to Twitter first when something happens. When there's been an explosion heard in Arizona, we look at Twitter to see if anybody is-- if there's any, we call it, user-generated content. People, users, just real people out there writing, oh, my god, there's been an explosion near my house. Then, we can zero in and call that fire department and do the old-fashioned reporting that we've always done. But it really has changed the speed with which everything happens.
SCOTT SCHILLER: So what's the hardest part of being in this now than it was from when you started?
KATE SNOW: Some of it is still the same. Good old-fashioned reporting and journalism, which we do here day in and day out, hasn't really changed fundamentally. We still have to ask tough questions. We still have to do research. We still have to know the topic, and be ready to ask the appropriate sharp questions when something changes.
Just this afternoon we had a breaking news story about Hillary Clinton and her emails. That whole thing about her using a private email server came back again today, unexpectedly. We didn't know it was coming. It happened during my hours on the air. So quickly, we had somebody from the Clinton campaign, and I'm doing a live interview with him and having to just wing it and ask the right questions. And that's from years of practice of doing that. So that part hasn't changed so much.
I think what has changed more is, again, the speed that everything happens, the fact that to be first, you can't just wait for the evening news anymore. You've got to be on Twitter, on Facebook, on our website, MSNBC.com or NBCNews.com, getting content out that way. And that was not in the equation when I started in this business. When I was in my 20s, all we had was the evening broadcast. I was in local news when I started on TV. And I was about getting something on the 5:00 show.
SCOTT SCHILLER: Talk for a second of a typical day in terms of the cadence.
KATE SNOW: Yeah. Typical. So it depends on the day. Monday through Friday, when I'm on MSNBC, get in-- I don't come in that early now. And I'll get to that. It's because I work six days a week. So I get in around 9:00. And we have a 9:00 AM editorial meeting. That's the beginning of trying to filter. We've all been on email. We've all been online with all the reading. And already, we've presumably all read the major stories and major newspapers online.
We get together. We think about what the day looks like. So by 3:00, when I go on the air eastern time, that's a long way away from 9:00. And what's going to be the conversation at that point of the day. What are the lead stories going to be by 3:00? We often have a good idea, because we know what events are coming. We know the President's speaking. We know campaign events are happening. But we try to map it out.
And then, the rest of the day-- sorry, I'm giving you a long answer. But quickly, we go from the meeting to prepping and starting in one direction. It often changes 10, 12, 13 times before we actually-- in terms of the rundown of our show, it'll change over and over again until 3:00.
And it'll even be changing while we're on the air, by the way. I'm constantly sitting here with scripts in front of me. And then in my ear-- see this earpiece?-- so they can talk to me. I don't even need this in right now. And they'll say, hey, Kate, we're going to skip that. And we're going to go to instead. We got breaking news on Hillary Clinton. We're going to go to the reporter in Iowa. So that's the day.
And then, Sunday's a little different, because it's a different team, but essentially the same process. With Sunday, I'm doing nightly news, which is a half hour versus two hours during the week. Shorter broadcast. We have to be a little more critical about which stories we're going to cover and what we're going to put in that half hour.
SCOTT SCHILLER: So you have a team that you work with.
KATE SNOW: They're right over there, actually. You guys can't see them. The blurry people. Hey, blurry people, wave. Wave. Can you see them? Wave again. There they are. That's the team's. Some of them have gone home. It's a Friday. Thank you.
The woman in red as our executive producer. Her name's Nikki Egan. She's fantastic. She went to Mizzou. Don't hold that against her. We have a whole team of people.
And so yeah, I sit here, and I'm the face on camera. But there's probably 30 to 50 people every day on this broadcast. Same thing I anchor Sunday nightly news on the NBC stations. And that is another whole team of people.
SCOTT SCHILLER: You got any lessons you want to pass on?
KATE SNOW: I think risk-taking is what I come back to a lot. It's OK to take risks. And in fact, it's good to take risks. I've taken a lot of risks along my journey-- and I don't mean dangerous. Not talking about dangerous risks. But like moving to New Mexico and ditching everything that I had at the age of 23. Literally. My car, my apartment, my boyfriend. I left it all behind. And I moved to this small town. I took a huge risk. It was a gamble. And it paid off.
And I think a lot of times, it's easier to go a different path. It's easier to take the cushy job or stay where you are because it's comfortable. And sometimes, you have to be willing to step out.
SCOTT SCHILLER: Well, one of the things that college students today have to grapple with is they think their first career choice is their career choice.
KATE SNOW: Here's the thing. There is no one path to where I'm sitting right now. There is no one way to go from Cornell to anchoring MSNBC and NBC Nightly News. There's a million ways. You can go through local news, like I did. You can start here. Some of the folks behind me on my team started as interns, and then became associate producers, and then became producers, and worked their way up to executive producer. That happens.
On the on-air side, it's less common to work your way up at a network, and more common, I think, to have to go slog through the fields of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in order to get back. But there's a lot of ways to do it.
Another way is to be a specialist in something. Like be a lawyer or be a doctor, and then decide that you're going to take your medical knowledge and be a contributor on television. That's how Savannah Guthrie, who's the anchor of The Today Show, she was a lawyer. She didn't have any background in broadcast journalism. But she became a lawyer first, and then a journalist.
SCOTT SCHILLER: So as I think about what you have to say here, and what we can advise kids graduating today, I know people take their careers super-seriously. But you learn over time to let the tough parts go past you.
KATE SNOW: Do you?
SCOTT SCHILLER: Well, you have to. And the words I live by are, it doesn't matter. Something that you think is a crisis most of the time probably doesn't matter when you take a step back.
And today I was on Instagram, and I came across an interesting quote. Never make permanent decisions on temporary feelings, which, when you think about it, is a really interesting approach.
What words do you live by as we close out our talk?
KATE SNOW: Oh, my gosh. That's a great question. I think when I'm on the air, I live by what you said. You can't sweat the small stuff. It happened. OK. Moving forward. If something goes wrong-- this happened yesterday. I didn't have the right page in front of me, and I went to read something. I read the wrong thing. I looked like an idiot for a second. But you know what? It's done. It's live TV. You can't go back. You can't fix it. Move on.
SCOTT SCHILLER: Well, thank you for inviting us in.
KATE SNOW: Absolutely. I love your Cornell tie, by the way. Can we get a close-up real quick of that tie? Can you guys zoom in, or no? Yeah. There we go. It's got the bear. It's fantastic.
SCOTT SCHILLER: You can buy them in Ithaca. Thank you.
KATE SNOW: Scott Schiller, thank you so much.
SCOTT SCHILLER: Really appreciate it.
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NBC News television journalist Kate Snow '91 joins NBCUniversal EVP Scott Schiller '81 on the set of MSNBC to talk about life in the news business and careers in communication.