It was 9 pm and I got a call for an audition. She asked “ Ana, can you do traffic for the news?”
I responded as most actresses respond: “yes!” She replied “Great. be at WCBS at 9 am tomorrow morning.”
As I arrived at the #1 news station in NYC, I passed Gail King and Charlie Rose headed to set. I took a deep breath and fluffed my already huge hair and headed in to meet the GM and News Director.
Sitting with my legs crossed acting very calm and collected. They looked at my extensive resume filled with acting and hosting jobs but no TV news experience.
“So… you think you can do this?” asked the GM. “Absolutely. I was raised in the news station my whole life. My mom was the top news anchor in Tulsa for over 20 years. Give me some training and I can do it” I said with absolute confidence even though I had never driven a car in NYC and mostly took the subway (hence the acting part)
They needed someone pretty, willing and quick and I was available.
The next 3 weeks I spent in the studio from 3am-7am learning thousands of maps and about 100 camera shots of every bridge, tunnel, freeway, highway, exit ramp in the tri state area. Learning names like the Kosciuszko, Tappan Zee, Verrazzano, Ed Koch Queensboro and every N/S/E/W landmark you could think of. I had to read the book “Power Broker” to try to understand the history of the creation of transporation and the highway system (white flight) in the 5 borrows and still don’t understand why Robert Moses’ did what he did.
My first day: up at 2. in hair and make up at 3. Ready on set at 3:55. I wrote a one minute traffic hit every 8 minutes throughout the newscast until 9 am. Then I went home and tried to keep my eyes open until 8pm that night. Terrified and stiff…I did it this job for 6 weeks. I did my absolutely best and didn’t get an ounce of rest but I learned a heck of a lot about the 5 boroughs, history, news and myself.
Looking back, here is what I learned.
- You can say ‘no’ or you can say ‘Yes’. Yes is harder but much more rewarding.
- Even if you don’t think you can do it, try anyway. You might fail in others eyes but in your heart, you will always remember you tried.
- It’s ok to copy other peoples approach. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I watched other traffic reporters and mimicked how they spoke until I got the hang of it in my own voice.
- Production guys are your best friends and best helpers!
- Always come dressed to impress. Even when training. Wearing nice clothes is a sign of respect.
- Get better at what you suck at. I never mastered one aspect of this job: reporting the traffic on the green screen (like the meteorologists do). It was too many grids and too much numerical information for my very “right brain”. Looking back I tried harder. I wish I took classes or shadowed more reporters to learn this skill. In the end, I believe I would have stayed on longer if I mastered this critical technique.
- It’s ok to quit and it’s ok to be let go. I am so glad I did this job and learned these skills but it was not the right fit for me and we (the station) mutually agreed to not renew the contract. I secretly hated getting up at 2 am and felt my path was in a different form of media. We both were right. Glad it happened.