Feature Stories Campus Events

Producing News: Maggie Voelzke ’15 Alumni at Work, CNN News Associate, Washington, D.C. Bureau

“How amazing is it that I found this school, and it had the degree I ended up wanting to pursue? How lucky am I?”

“If I went back, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Maggie Voelzke, ’15, said. “I think every decision I made at W&L contributed to where I am now.”

So where is Voelzke exactly? She is a news associate at CNN’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.

A native of D.C., Voelzke headed back to join 10-12 recent graduates in the yearlong program that rotates them between four shows including ‘State of the Union’ and ‘Inside Politics’ as well as the assignment desk.

Her time is spent all over the office; she helps set up live shots for shows, works the prompter in the control room, compiles information on what CNN’s D.C. bureau is reporting and what other networks are reporting.

Starting at W&L, Voelzke did not have the intention to major in journalism.

“How amazing is it that I found this school, and it had the degree I ended up wanting to pursue? How lucky am I?”

She credits a first-year seminar taught by Professor Doug Cumming as giving her a jump-start into the field.

Voelzke says her first paper for the course was a wake-up call to the style of journalism. Having taken advanced English courses in high school, she wrote a “beautiful essay” with “big words and complex sentences.”

“I thought [Cumming] was going to give me my degree that day.”

However, Cumming called her into his office and indicated the paper was far from what he wanted.

From then on Voelzke began pursuing journalism, saying it was fresh and different from what she had expected.

Voelzke says the journalism department at W&L taught her work skills she uses frequently: Understanding what it means to meet a deadline and have it done early and professionally, having integrity and knowing media law.

While at W&L Voelzke was a tour guide, a resident advisor, a member of SPEAK, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and an anchor on The Rockbridge Report.

Voelzke said her decisions at W&L, even the hard ones, helped get her to where she is now.

“Even the times that were difficult, like getting an F for a fact error in class, I wouldn’t change. They help you grow.”

Offering advice for current students, Voelzke said to cultivate relationship with professors, pursue classes outside of your major and take advantage of W&L’s special atmosphere.

“Live every moment of your time at W&L. It’s a magical place. The culture, the history, all the amazing events you get to go to. That just doesn’t happen at other schools.”

Voelzke said one of her favorite memories at W&L was during her graduation week when her friends and family went to dinner at The Sheridan Livery Inn. She said they all relived the memories of their last four years at W&L.

“You make your friends there, but you also make a family there.”

Update: Voelzke took a position at FOX 5 in Washington, D.C. in November. She is a morning broadcast producer and weekend digital content producer.

– by Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder ’16

A Day in the Life of a CNN News Associate

My live shot producing schedule begins around 3 p.m. and ends around 11 p.m. Here’s what a day in the life of a CNN lives producer is like!

3 p.m. Arrive to work after a quick walk from Union Station. Check in with the a.m. lives producer, whose shift runs from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., to see what the morning was like before taking over.

4 p.m. Leave the desk to teleprompt for The Lead with Jake Tapper.

5 p.m. Return to the desk, check in with the other lives producer to see what shots have been scheduled for the evening. Producers for Anderson Cooper 360 and Erin Burnett Outfront usually send us their shot list around this time, so we make sure all correspondents, reporters and analysts who have been requested know their hit times, topics and have any other information they need.

5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is also when The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer airs! Lots of guests will be coming to the bureau during these two hours, and correspondents will need to be placed at the appropriate cameras for their live shots during the show. I manage both cameras in the eighth floor newsroom — which means I mic all the guests at those cameras and ensure their shot looks perfect before they go on with Wolf.

6 p.m. Begin pre-taping segments for the evening shows for reporters and correspondents who need to leave the bureau early. We use this hour to ensure any correspondents and reporters who have to go home early pre-tape shots for the evening shows, overnight shots for CNN International and tosses and tags that can be used for CNN New Day (our earliest show the next morning!) I help to assign correspondents to cameras throughout the bureau, make sure our server in Atlanta is rolling on their shots and then distribute information on the taping to all of CNN and CNN International so they know where to find the recording.

6:30 p.m. I spend about a half-hour at 6:30 watching and summarizing our competition’s evening shows. I watch the beginning 15 minutes of NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight and CBS Evening News then write a list of what each network covered to send out to the bureau. This tells CNN management if we missed anything great that another network covered, and also gives insight into what other networks thought was most newsworthy that day.

7 p.m. I spend the next two hours scheduling live shots for the remainder of the evening and logging big political events. Because most presidential candidates host evening rallies, I am assigned to watch and log what they say! If a politician says something notable, I write his or her quote verbatim and send it out to the entire bureau, CNN’s political unit in Atlanta and sometimes even CNN International. This job has made me into a total politics junkie!

9 p.m. Our evening guest greeter, the person who takes care of all on-air guests to the bureau, leaves at 9 p.m. and I take over his or her role from this point forward! Over the next two hours I pick up and escort all guests sent to the bureau for CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, CNN International and CNN Español. I get them to our greenroom, through the hair and make-up process and then seat and mic them in their respective studios. I have met so many fun and influential people during these two hours, and the late-night shows have a fun and exciting atmosphere that keeps me wide awake.

11 p.m. My day usually ends around 11 (although with breaking news and the presidential debates I have stayed as late as 2 a.m.!) Before I go I summarize all the digital stories written by CNNPolitics.com for the assignment desk’s evening note (a note that goes out to the bureau summarizing the day’s activities and big stories) and send them out to the desk to be added to the note.