By: Chaviva Freedman  | 

How Television Pre-Determined My Career

Have you ever watched a movie or television show and discovered a character that you loved? Have you ever thought, “I want to be doing what he or she is doing?” Growing up, we all have that thought cross our minds at some point, but we never actually pursue that idea  beyond that first thought. Not me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I inadvertently found my career path at a young age - from watching television.

I remember, as a kid, sitting on my grandfather’s recliner in Montreal, Canada. I was ten-years-old and I was flipping through the channels. I stumbled upon a local kids channel and noticed a scene of a teenage boy talking to what appeared to be his teacher in an office about promoting various products for his mother’s birthday. The episode continued, and it portrayed five teenagers working for a magazine as part of a media studies class requirement. As I kept watching, I began to wonder what it would be like to be in their position and write for a magazine. I wanted to know what it was like to see your name attached to something that many people would eventually read. I wanted to know the research behind each piece. I wanted to know how one simple idea can end up building into an entire article in a short timespan. By the end, that show, aptly named The Latest Buzz, inadvertently got the wheels turning in my head and started my love for journalism. It put me on a path towards making a career out of something seemingly foreign.

Years later, I was offered to write articles for my high school newspaper, the HAFTR Tattler. At age sixteen, just a few weeks into my junior year, I didn’t think that I had the capability to write a decent book report, let alone have the confidence to write an article that my peers would want to read. Although the faculty advisor thought that I was a good writer, I didn’t really believe her. It’s one thing for a paid adult to say that you write well; it’s a completely different story when it’s your own peers. For the first time in a long time, I thought back to my ten-year-old self, watching that show in my grandfather’s recliner. I remembered what it felt like to watch those characters and how they too originally felt that they couldn’t write to save their lives, and they were only able to do so because their friends and teachers gave them the confidence to write what they believed in. With my own advisor and family as the support groups for my writing, I began putting pen to paper about issues that were important to me, eventually becoming a contributing writer for the paper until I graduated high school.

The summer before I started college, I noticed someone sitting across from me on the Long Island Railroad, watching what looked like a television show on her iPad. From the bit I saw over the woman’s shoulder, I saw a set of a news station and a bunch of people in headsets. I leaned over and asked her what she was watching. “It’s The Newsroom,” she told me. “You should watch it. It’s really good television.”

That night, I started to watch the show on my laptop. The woman on the train was right - the show made for really great television. The show featured a stellar cast (Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and John Gallagher Jr., just to name a few) and a great show creator/screenwriter in Aaron Sorkin. What appealed to me the most was that the show portrayed previous national affairs, such as the BP oil spill of 2010 and the 2012 Presidential election, and demonstrated how a newsroom was able to handle all of the information before relaying it as news to the public. I loved how the show presented the “other side” that no one sees and that fascinated me. Although there were shows and films previously that had a similar concept, this one resonated with the American audience - the characters voiced the thoughts that the public thought during those crucial moments in time. After watching one episode, I was hooked.

From that moment on, I used The Newsroom as a clutch for when I needed a break from school. When I became a writer for The Observer in my freshman year, I always had the show on as background noise for when I needed inspiration for an exciting article topic or a more serious piece. One day towards the end of my sophomore year, I started getting restless. I had been miserable as a Management major for a while and my only saving grace at the time was writing for the paper. I went out to dinner with my dad one night and he said something that surprised me: “You keep doing things that don’t make you happy. All your mom and I want is for you to be happy. Do what makes you happy. Find what you love to do and pursue that.”

After that conversation, I started thinking about what truly made me happy. As I turned on an episode of The Newsroom once again, it hit me that being a Management major would never make me happy. I loved writing articles. I loved talking to people. I loved finding the heart in each person and relaying it in my pieces. I loved finding the story. And the only way to do that was to become a Journalism major. The next day, I marched into the Registrar’s office, filled out a Major Declaration form, and walked out as a Journalism major, one step closer to living out my dreams.

As I’m writing this article for The Commentator in my senior year of college, I contemplate how moments from childhood really do affect your life choices. If I hadn’t sat down in my grandfather’s recliner all those years ago, I never would’ve found the television show that gave me the initial idea of becoming a journalist. If I hadn’t sat down across from a stranger on the train at the beginning of my adult years, I never would’ve found the show that gave me the confidence to switch my major and pursue a career I’d only dreamed about. This goes to show that sometimes you should listen to your gut. You never know where that feeling will take you in life.