J/MS graduates adopted into Fox family

By Maxwell Barna, Tanya Tashjian and Jihan Dempster —

Love it or turn up your nose, Fox News Channel has changed the way people get their news. According to a recent article by Yahoo! News, the channel’s hard work has paid off, marked by 10 consecutive years at the top of the cable news rankings.

But Fox News Channel (FNC) isn’t a panoptic, self-sustaining machine. Rather, it’s a corporation comprised of many different people who work hard to keep things moving. Naturally, Rutgers graduates seem to fit in very well at Fox.

Mike Emanuel, Fox’s chief Congressional correspondent and former White House correspondent and National Security correspondent, is a J/MS graduate. Rich Edson, one of Fox’s Washington, D.C.-based business reporters, is also a J/MS graduate. WNYW FOX 5 Producer of Special Projects and Investigations, Erica Posse, is a J/MS graduate, too.

But there are many more, younger J/MS graduates who have also found success working for the news media giant.

Taryn Sauthoff. Photo By Avi Ramsadeen

Taryn Sauthoff, J/MS 2006, is one of the many grads who work at FNC. As the community engagement manager, she and her team are responsible for keeping viewers abreast of what’s going on at FNC.

After five years with Fox and four promotions, Sauthoff now serves on the digital team as a liaison between the editorial and development teams, helping to release content and inform viewers about what’s happening around the world.

“I get editors excited — I train people on how to use tools,” she said. “I’m a super-user in all of our content management systems, and I have to train on-air people. I have to train editorial teams, and I know everybody. That, I think, is the most fun part of my job. It’s very interesting to be that go-to person for a lot of things.”

While the digital team is focused more on spreading the word about the Fox News “brand,” Sauthoff deals in disseminating news to as many people as possible — and social media are crucial.

“A lot of the time we get news out quicker through our Twitter than we do our website,” she said. “Six years ago you didn’t have community teams. The way social media are now, I feel, is how the internet was to reporters when that started getting big.”

Since starting at Rutgers, the 27-year-old Manhattan resident has cycled through a few media transformations. She wrote for The Daily Targum and interned for PR Newswire but had a difficult time finding full-time work.

While temping, she found her golden opportunity — a part-time gig with FNC. She started as a part-time copy editor, working three days a week, she said.

After two years in promotions, Sauthoff transferred to the new media team. There she helped develop the “On the Scene” blog.

“We got reporters from all around the world to contribute to this breaking news blog,” she said. “It was through WordPress, so they could blog from their BlackBerries from anywhere.”

She then launched Fox News’ Facebook page, which now has nearly 2.5 million followers. “That was a pretty big deal,” she said enthusiastically. “We really ran with it, and it got really successful.”

Not forgetting her passion for journalism, Sauthoff eventually set her eyes on reporting. Using her experience from the “On the Scene” blog, she pitched herself to the editorial team. After enduring FNC’s extensive news test, she was given a position as a news editor and web producer on the night shift. She worked Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., she said. After two years she moved up to her current post.

Sauthoff said she has J/MS Professor Steve Miller to thank for pointing her toward a career in multimedia.

Noted Sauthoff: “I constantly think about this day in class when Professor Miller said, ‘You should be worried about how news is. You can’t just think of journalism the way it was taught 10 years ago. You can’t ignore the digital revolution.’”

Cassie Bobotas

Cassie Bobotas, J/MS 2010, said that one of the things she loves most about her job as a production assistant (PA) at Fox is that “we actually get to use our brains.”

Bobotas works with a tape producer and with the writers and producers doing hands-on work.

Every day she rises early. There is a meeting at 6:45 a.m. where the producers tell everyone what they want for the shows in the rundown. She will then spend the next three hours with an editor in the edit room looking at stories they want to feature.

“Sometimes, it’s giving them exactly what they want,” Bobotas explained, “and sometimes it’s basically deciding what we can use, which is kind of cool. It’s why I like news and why I like what we do.”

For example, when there were Koran-burning protests in Afghanistan, she had to choose the right video clips to illustrate the story.

Bobotas said, “We’d look at the video and say, ‘OK, we have protests in Kabul, we have protests in Jalalabad; this video is really compelling. Use it.’”

Bobotas, who lives with her husband in Lyndhurst, began her career at Fox in October 2010 working part-time in the community engagement department under alumna Taryn Sauthoff. She and Sauthoff got along right away because of their commonalities. Although she does not believe that is how she got the job, Bobotas said that their alma mater definitely strengthened their work relationship. In April 2011 she was hired full-time.

Bobotas never expected to switch from print journalism to television. It just happened, she said. During her freshman and sophomore years at J/MS, “I was heavily invested in print journalism,” said Bobotas, who was news editor for The Targum.

Professor Steve Miller is a big part of the reason Bobotas decided to switch from print journalism to television. Miller helped her get an internship at the “The Colbert Report.”

The internship with the show gave Bobotas a huge talking point at her Fox interview. “Yeah,” Bobotas told her interviewers sarcastically, “I worked at ‘Colbert’; he makes fun of you guys every day!”

Angelica Grimaldi

There is no such thing as a typical day at Fox for Angelica Grimaldi, J/MS 2010, as a production assistant. She finds the newest digital video for the biggest news stories on three daytime shows and two afternoon and evening shows a week.

The Staten Island resident is also in charge of making sure all the video matches the story.

The three daytime shows include “America’s Newsroom,” “Happening Now,” and “America Live.” The two afternoon and evening shows are “Studio B” and “Fox Report.”

“Basically, I’ll handle over two hours [of shows] a day,” Grimaldi said. “But my whole day will be spent on the actual video.”

Monday and Tuesday, for example, she said her primary focus is on “Studio B” and “Fox Report.” In the beginning of her day, she gets the digital video ready for “Studio B,” and she handles it live. After 3 p.m., the rest of Grimaldi’s day is dedicated to “Fox Report,” which airs from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition, Grimaldi does scripts for “Fox Report” and works directly with the producers picking stories for the show.

Grimaldi has been working for Fox since September 2010. She interned there twice during her time at J/MS, once for “The O’Reilly Factor,” and then for “Fox and Friends.” The relationship between J/MS graduates and Fox is no secret, but Grimaldi believes that it is also no coincidence. She said Fox knows the type of student that J/MS produces.

At the beginning of her senior year, she is almost certain that she was the only J/MS student interning at Fox, but as it started coming up in her classes and she began to talk openly about it, things began to change.

“I think this helped some students see another side to Fox since I became the insider, so to speak,” Grimaldi said.

The following semester, there were a few more interning at Fox, and since then there have been a lot more, she said.

Larry Abuliak

Larry Abuliak, J/MS 2006, was one of the first 20 people hired to start at the Fox Business Network, launched five years ago. The first two months were among the toughest experiences he has ever had, noted Abuliak, who is today a production assistant at Fox News Channel for “America’s News Room” and “America Live.”

“I worked seven days a week, 14 hours a day,” Abuliak recalled. “You can’t be prepared, no matter how fulfilling it is.”

Now that work ethic serves him in good stead as a news production assistant. A typical workday, according to Abuliak, first consists of a morning meeting where everyone finds out from the executive producer what he or she will be doing for the show that day. After the meeting, he looks at the rundown for the show or different segments for the show.

The line producer then puts in requests for video with each news story. Fox has a digital video system, and Abuliak looks through that system and puts shots together to go into the two shows.

Abuliak, who lives in Union, learned very early on that the TV business was extremely cut-throat. He was job-hunting for almost seven months after his graduation before he found his first job. Even Fox turned him down, at first.

He interviewed with the executive producer for Fox’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto.” Abuliak didn’t get the position, but he always kept a little piece of paper with the executive producer’s name and email.

Abuliak’s first job was as a temporary paid intern for the “Nancy Grace” show on Court TV. Then for nine months he worked as a news assistant at CNN in Washington, DC, for the “Situation Room.”

In August 2007, Abuliak found out there was an opening at the fledgling Fox Business Network. He remembered he still had the executive producer’s contact information on that little piece of paper and decided to email him.

“I literally got an email back that day saying HR will call me,” Abuliak recalled.

Georeen Tanner. Photo supplied by Georeen Tanner

Georeen Tanner

Georeen Tanner admits she was a shy and reserved J/MS 2010 graduate but somehow managed to bloom when she took a position with Fox. She is now a full-time production assistant on the “Justice With Judge Jeanine” program.

The program is a forum for former Westchester, NY, District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to give legal insights on high profile cases as well as news and trends relating to crime and justice.

As a PA, Tanner is responsible for all the videos and graphics for the show. Her other duties include welcoming guests of the show, organizing travel itineraries, and doing research for Pirro. She also makes phone calls to county jails or local newspapers to verify material.

In conjunction with her full-time PA position, Tanner participated in Fox’s respected Ailes Apprentice Program, which sets her aside from many other employees in the company. In order to get into the program, a candidate has to be nominated and must have worked in the company as either an intern or employee.

Through the Ailes program Tanner was able to attend and film the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC, last August. Tanner describes this opportunity as an “honor,” and recalled interviewing some of King’s female family members, taking time codes and video, all the while mingling with his family.

Instead of attributing all of her success to her internship, Tanner recognizes some of her J/MS classes for her success.

Kathleen Crouch. Photo supplied by Kathleen Crouch

Kathleen Crouch

On the last day of her Fox internship, Kathleen Crouch, J/MS 2010, learned she had gotten a position as a production assistant with the “On The Record with Greta Van Susteren” current affairs TV show.

Crouch has been with Fox for two years and credits the company and its acclaimed internship program for her transition into the full-time journalism world.

“It is Fox’s goal to make sure that interns master the PA job, because if a job is open after they graduate, they will be ready for a full-time entry level position after their internship is complete,” said Crouch, who goes by the nickname of Katie.

Crouch’s duties include maintaining all sound bites on the show, which airs live at 10 p.m. daily. She also manages, greets and prepares guests for their on-air interviews. One of her most important contributions is pitching story ideas. While her schedule hours are normally from 2 to 11 p.m., she can be called in at any time for a breaking news story.

“This is not the job where you can take an hour lunch break or three-week vacation,” she reported. “I’m always on the clock. I have a work BlackBerry. Once, I was called into work while on the beach on the Fourth of July, but I love every moment of it.”

She also emphasized that you have to accept the nature of the business.