How to stand out and inform with Emmy-nominated journalist Shannan Ferry
Lara Schmoisman 00:05
This is Coffee N.5. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee N.5. Hello, everyone. I’m so excited to be here live on Facebook today. And also welcome back to coffee number five. Today, I’m so excited because I’m meeting my personal or love that is journalism. And it’s fantastic to get to talk to people that you have some kind of background, but you know what, sometimes he talks to people that you have no clue what he’s talking about. And that’s why I invited today. The incredible Shannan Ferry. Did I say it right? Because I always am so used to people saying my name wrong that Lara Schmoisman is like a tongue twister for people. So I want to always make sure that I say it right.
Shannan Ferry 00:59
You got it. You’re perfect. Awesome.
Lara Schmoisman 01:02
So I’m so excited. You’re here. And how did you get into this? I have to ask that, because that’s a tough market. Yeah,
Shannan Ferry 01:11
it is it it’s a tough market. And I always enjoyed speaking and talking to people, meeting new people hearing what they’re about and writing. So news always seemed like there’s New York City, the sirens of New York City in the back. But um, you know, news always seemed like something that I was interested in, I just didn’t know how possible it was the path to get there. Because I don’t come from a family that’s in television or news. My parents have a plumbing business, something totally unrelated to what I
Lara Schmoisman 01:40
I’m sure you know, a lot a lot about plumbing.
Shannan Ferry 01:43
I know how to stop, you know, a flood from happening in your bathroom. That’s something that I grew up with learning how to. But yeah, no news was not something really that I knew what kind of path to take. But there actually is a path that you can go to school for study broadcast journalism. And that’s what I did at Hofstra University and just make connections that way through school through internships, and eventually landed at near one where I’m at now.
Lara Schmoisman 02:07
That’s incredible. I mean, so I will quit occasion. Like we always say, it is worth it, to go to school and to learn a few scales here and there. Yeah, I
Shannan Ferry 02:17
mean, it was great, especially for the connections. I mean, some people debate with journalism, what’s better going to school or just trying to get right into the business? I think there’s no wrong way to do it. For me, I really, I needed that education in order to make those contacts get my chance my shot. So meet someone who was willing to give me my shot. And a lot of cool experiences through that, to you know, do interviews, get your feet wet? So for me it was but you know, what, some things, some different things work for people, some people do it without education, too.
Lara Schmoisman 02:50
Well, I mean, it’s a tough skill to talk yourself in front of a camera. It’s not easy.
Shannan Ferry 02:58
It, it gets a little bit easier over time. But sometimes, you know, you never want to watch yourself or hear your own voice. It’s difficult to watch the clips back sometimes. So yeah, it can be it’s a bit of an adrenaline rush. But I like it. I think sometimes the best way to do it is obviously be prepared and have your your notes, but just talk from the heart and see what comes out. Sometimes I think the more challenging thing is rehearsing in your head and trying to say things so perfectly, because we’re not perfect, people aren’t perfect. And journalists aren’t perfect either. You know,
Lara Schmoisman 03:34
what we were talking before about that you have been a journalist is you have to go through so many different topics, even in one single day, and you’re human, and you’re not an expert of everything. So the only thing you can do is to try to prepare yourself and trust the right questions. So how do you prefer the right questions?
Shannan Ferry 03:59
Well, I think you brought up that is the perfect point is that we aren’t experts on every topic in the world. So we do have to ask those questions. When I’m asking questions, I just try to think of what would my viewer want to know, you know, if I’m newly learning about this topic, chances are my questions are going to be very similar to the questions of the viewers. The viewers probably aren’t an expert on every single topic that you cover. So you want to ask general questions that the questions that are begging to be asked. And of course, you can get into more details along the way. But I think asking good questions is one of them. And then also, as we were chatting about before, the best way to be prepared for breaking news is to keep up with the news because maybe you won’t know anything about you know, this shooting that just happened in one part of the city. But you’ve covered shootings in the past and you know, how many shootings The city has been dealing with recently the latest NYPD protocols here in New York. So there are certain ways that you can Put yourself in a good position to be as prepared as you possibly can be when something happens at a moment’s notice. And you need to be live on that topic a couple of minutes after you first learned about it.
Lara Schmoisman 05:11
Okay, I need to ask you this question because I want to know, how’s your day, your day in your life like you, you have shifts? You need to be ready every day at five to cover whatever it happens. How does it work?
Shannan Ferry 05:24
Yeah, so it’s, um, it’s pretty organized. I have to say, since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been on the nighttime breaking news shift primarily. And the way the day starts there. You call in we have a meeting at three o’clock we discuss all the stories of the day. If I have a pitch or something that I think is really newsworthy, I’ll say it, my colleagues will weigh in. And with Coronavirus. I mean, there’s always been something topical to cover that day. Rarely Is it difficult now to find a newsworthy topic to cover. And from there, once you decide that story, I mean, sometimes it takes a little bit longer than others. But if we have a story coming out of that meeting, that’s when I start making calls, trying to set up interviews for that topic. And people are often surprised, you know, say I get my story at four o’clock, I’m trying to meet up with them by five o’clock, so I can get it on the air by six o’clock. And then do another story for 10 o’clock. It’s all very fast paced. So as soon as that assignment comes in, you are working the phones. I’m posting in Facebook groups a lot trying to find someone that matches the story that I’m doing or could speak to the story that I’m doing. And then we’re doing live reports in between. If there’s a really big breaking news story that happens, we will switch to that there’s always the chance that you could put in all of these hours on one story, and then you get moved to something else. So you never know what the day is going to bring. But on a normal day, you know your story. You’re finding those characters, because the best stories are coming from the people that it impacts. You know, they’re like I said there are a million Coronavirus stories. But why should people care? Well, because this, you know, change in policy affects this New Yorker, that’s when you’re one my station is really about finding that human perspective behind the story. So yeah, it’s all in a day’s work. So if I’m ever calling anyone who’s watching for a story around for chances are I’m trying to meet up with them in the next hour to go on camera, do an interview. It’s very fast paced.
Lara Schmoisman 07:26
And what about if someone has a story that they want to pitch you how people will reach out to you?
Shannan Ferry 07:32
Yeah, anywhere. I mean, I have my email, it’s really important for reporters to be accessible lists, their email address lists, the best way to contact them on social media, leave your direct messages open so that you can reply to people, because a lot of the best stories do come from pitches. And if there is something that I’m pitched that I want to pursue, I can talk to my managers about it and try to find a time where I’m not on a breaking news shift, say, to go out and do that story. So I think if if anyone has a hunch or something that they think you know, they should really be out there. Go ahead and pitch it to me pitch it to anyone who’s in the news business, because that’s how we find some of our our best and greatest stories. It’s helping the very people who we serve who who watch us.
Lara Schmoisman 08:17
Yeah, absolutely. And someday, I have to ask also, because I know, we’re humans, like we say before, and it’s hard, we have opinions, we all have opinions how he he can hold back and and not say it many times, what do are you really want to say? What do you what is the line for you?
Shannan Ferry 08:39
I think for me, it’s always just remembering the fact that there there are places for opinion, journalists, opinion, journalists serve a purpose. They are educated in their field, and they are allowed to give their opinion for someone like me a general assignment reporter, it is not my place to say what I think because my goal is to put the story out there, make it completely down the middle so that the viewer can decide what they think. So I think just listening to people is a big part of it. If you have a really controversial story, I want to make sure I have both sides of that argument and equal time for that argument. And strictly stick to the facts. And sometimes Lara, it’s interesting you point that out because there are certain words that can imply a certain kind of bias, you have to be very good at even if it’s a small word, I could really change the way someone interprets what you say. So it’s definitely I’ve learned a lot. And I just do my best to listen to both sides,
Lara Schmoisman 09:41
which was let’s give us some examples. What are those trigger words?
Shannan Ferry 09:46
No, that is a great question. We think about that for
Lara Schmoisman 09:49
Because of the fact saying like you I believe or I think you’re already implying for example.
Shannan Ferry 09:56
Yeah, and I think that’s why attribution I guess is so Important, I can’t think of a word that implies, but you just gave an example. But, you know, attributing it to someone makes it that’s a way to step away from the bias, right? Because this every person has an opinion to your point. So if you’re saying Joe Schmo believes this, not Joe Schmo is experiencing this, even just saying that that person is experiencing this issue, that kind of could imply that you’re agreeing with that person, right, if it’s something controversial. So I think attribution is super important in that case,
Lara Schmoisman 10:34
I mean, when in your generation, and I can see last year and pandemic in the in the last year that there is the rise of a lot of coaches, that they coach this coach that and but cannot call them experts, it’s something that we will go to a coach, just to get give them like that expert point of view? Or what do you what do you look in someone Where is an expert?
Shannan Ferry 11:01
So if I’m looking for an expert, I’m looking for the body of work, a lot of people can claim that they are a lifestyle expert, that they are a dating expert that they are any sort of expert under the sun. But where does that expertise come from? Have you worked at a company that specializes in lifestyle? Have you written about the topic?
Lara Schmoisman 11:24
That’s exactly my points? Like I see, again, all these coaches, how can you validate your work? If you do have that experience?
Shannan Ferry 11:32
And then yeah, and it’s it’s such a good point, because in this age of social media, too, everybody has this ability to market themselves in whatever way they want to be known. So if someone wants to go online and say, Hey, I’m an expert at this, put me on TV, there’s nothing really stopping them from doing that. So I think it’s up to the journalist to do a dive on their experience of what actually makes them an expert.
Lara Schmoisman 11:55
Exactly. Like even I can see there are so many social media coaches, how can you coach something that is constantly evolving? I have an issue with that personally, because how can you teach something that as we speak is changing.
Shannan Ferry 12:13
Yeah, I think some people now that they’re working in roles, like I think back to 10 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine, or it could have even been longer than that. The fact that a job right now is social media strategist. That’s something that we never knew, you know, at least when I was growing up, that was a job that did not exist. So I think some people they do have that background where they work in social media,
Lara Schmoisman 12:38
and that’s completely fine. And are they at my agency, we have social media strategies, which are super important, like social media managers. But the strategies is something is someone who understands the platform’s constantly is looking at their algorithms under change, and also is using the voice of the brand. And Monica manipulated in using the native language of the platform that they’re going to be using, and what is going to work for the target audience of that platform. But there’s, I’m using social media as an example, because it’s what I know. But the question is, I mean, but at the same time, how can you be a coach of someone on something in something that is evolving all the time, and that’s why my strategy is all the time and I do myself, we keep up to date the algorithms and we keep up to date, the new trends, I wouldn’t be felt comfortable coaching some one and say, Oh, I’m coaching me about this. And then next month is gonna be a different algorithm. And a different trends is the same that for you, would you be able to coach someone for doing news this in to this week’s news? for next week’s news? No, you need to keep yourself informed?
Shannan Ferry 13:59
Yeah, yeah, you have to keep yourself informed. I think there are fundamentals of my field that I’m sure it’s the same for social media and the internet and marketing and trends that are kind of fundamentals of the business. But it’s very true, you have to keep on top of a very evolving market, a really evolving industry. And every day our industry is changing. So
Lara Schmoisman 14:22
yeah, this is the same with technology. So tell us when you go in on the field because you’re not going by yourself. You have a theme, sometimes myself but usually with a team. Okay, so how is your team built?
Shannan Ferry 14:37
So, in a typical day, you have someone who operates the live equipment, the truck, that’s how we’re transmitting signal to our station, that’s when you see news trucks, you know, kind of around wherever you live, that’s how we’re getting our signal there. And then we also have the photographer and myself. Now granted, there are times where I just go out and shoot everything myself or I, you know, you can set up a tripod now and just put your hand out and, you know, use your microphone. So there are ways to do it by yourself. But the team typically consists of that and the teamwork between all of us, I find to be really helpful because you have someone to bounce ideas off of sometimes there’s a question that I don’t think of that even my, you know, live truck operator thinks of, and he’ll weigh in at the end and ask that question. So we’re all working together. Sometimes we’re split up, you know, if there is a big fire going on, and I’m trying to go find the victims of that fire, but the fire chief is available to give an interview, we’ll have one, one section of the crew go there while I’m doing something else. So it’s it’s very much it seems like the buzzword here is fast changing. And that’s the same thing for the crew, our situation is constantly evolving, and we can be switched to different stories.
Lara Schmoisman 15:56
Are you always working with the same crew?
Shannan Ferry 16:00
It switches up sometimes. I mean, typically, it’s usually the same few people, at least on the shift that the breaking news shifts at night. But it varies a lot.
Lara Schmoisman 16:08
What’s next for you in your career as an encore now on a separate quarter? I mean, do you want to be an anchor, you want to keep being on the field?
Shannan Ferry 16:17
I think, um, I love both. I love anchoring. And being in the field, I think I’m, you know, I want to continue doing what I’m doing. I love breaking news. But the features and the human interest stories are really great to. So I don’t really know exactly, you know how the future lays out. But I love anchoring reporting, meeting people telling people stories. So I think the long term goal for me is to continue to do that and really get better at that. Because every day you learn something new and you learn how to do it a little bit better ask a question a little bit better, make that other person feel comfortable? A little bit more. So I think just with time, a lot of that come so I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. In New York City. There’s been so much news lately in New York. I know, right? There’s always news, but this year, Oh, my God.
Lara Schmoisman 17:08
So I have one more question to ask you before we finish today’s episode. I mean, for me, it’s all about storytelling. And when someone either pitch you a story, or you need to start telling a story for meals, how would you compose? Because I know that you put on a tale. And although you have a beginning, a middle a conflict at the end? How does it change that storytelling in the news?
Shannan Ferry 17:38
So a good story always has a character, right. So there are ways to tell a story about the fire that just happened, the police shooting that just happened, whatever it may be, you can give the facts and the figures of any story. But having that character, that person who has been affected by it is the most powerful way to tell it. And I think for people who are pitching news reporters, something they need to keep in mind as well is what is this news reporter covering? I get a lot of pitches for things that have nothing to do with New York City have nothing to do with what I cover. And I know that people just pitch, pitch it because they figure why not? Let me give it a try. But if you read up on that reporter anchor that you’re pitching, you would know that they would never cover something that you’re pitching, you know. So I think just understanding if you do want to pitch a story, understanding what that reporter covers, and why it’s relevant to what they cover is super, super important. I think from a reporter point of view, what we look for is truly that human impact. Why should people care about it? Who is this affecting? Why should journalism play a part in this? What can we do? Do we need to hold the city accountable? Do we need to hold an agency accountable, there are so many different things that a new story can do to elevate but in
Lara Schmoisman 18:55
this process of the storytelling. What I found very, very fascinating is that in journalism, many times, you don’t get that climax climax, or you don’t have the development of the the end of the story. You don’t have the conclusion. You have the.dot.is is coming next. So how do you live out there?
Shannan Ferry 19:19
I think sometimes we don’t sometimes we will revisit if we do have a conclusion to a story. And we got involved in the beginning I think sometimes we will go back and revisit that person. It just depends on the story. You know, if there is I keep going back to a fire but it’s the thing that comes into my head comes into my head first. If that family was displaced from their home and then we find out this amazing organization is donating a house for this family. We will go back and revisit it and that will kind of bring the story to a close but oftentimes, you know it depends do people want to be on TV do they want their story to be continued? Sometimes all that person wants to is the issue to be presented? Or sometimes that issue doesn’t get solved? You know, we can go help someone with something present an issue, call the city about it, ask elected officials, what are you doing to help? And sometimes it takes years before there can be an actual conclusion to the story, or sometimes it doesn’t. I think every situation is so unique and so different. It’s a difficult question to answer. There’s no you know, definitive answer, I guess, I should say,
Lara Schmoisman 20:26
I promise. Last question. So, one more thing, like I mean, you’re so clear for you so easy to speak in front of the camera is your mannerisms say so you’re, you’re so well prepared for it. So if someone if because now with these days, as everyone gets in front of a camera in YouTube, in tik tok, what are your recommendations to talk in front of a camera?
Shannan Ferry 20:52
It sounds a little cliche, but I think if you are, if you’re not talking to someone, pretend like you are talking to that person who you love, or who you feel you’re most comfortable with. For me, that’s my mom, I feel the most comfortable with my mom. So if I’m ever feeling guarded, on the air, I kind of think of her because she’s the one who like makes me let my guard down makes me feel like it’s okay to just be who I am. And I think people often want to present themselves a certain way on social media. And to be honest, I don’t know about you. But that’s something I can relate to. I mean, we’re all struggling to find a balance, I think, between being this persona that we want to be seen as on social media and our real selves. But I think thinking of the people that make you the most comfortable imagining that you’re talking directly to them, will help anybody who’s trying to make a name for themselves in any industry, or just stand out on social media stand out a little bit more, because I think what people can relate to is someone who is relatable, and someone who is a little bit vulnerable, and has their guard down a little bit. So I’m not saying I’m the expert on it, because I’m certainly still trying to figure it out, and trying to grow as well. But that’s the that’s what I tell myself when I find myself, maybe a little bit standoffish or not fully being who I am.
Lara Schmoisman 22:12
That’s great. And I love how humble you are, and that they are willing to share all this stuff with us. So thank you so much, Shannan for being today with us here on coffee number five. It was such a pleasure to have the time to talk to you. And again, people in the chapter notes we’re going to have all Shannan’s information so you know where to find that find her follow her I was fine. Follow her. I was putting everything together. We should create a new word for that. And thank you again for being here having some coffee.
Shannan Ferry 22:44
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so appreciative and I actually do have coffee. So
Lara Schmoisman 22:49
Thank you for joining us. If you like the show, remember to leave a review. I will really appreciate it. If you want to know more about marketing and and myself follow me on Instagram. My handle is Lara Schmoisman was so good to have you here today. See you next time. catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.