Monday, April 7, 2008

Friend Speaks at Hofstra

CBS 2 Vice President and News Director David Friend spoke to students earlier this evening at Hofstra University about how to get a job in the business. The talk was held in the Long Island campus' converged newsroom, called the NewsHub, just down the hall from the station's Long Island news bureau. Friend was originally supposed to speak at the university on March 10th but a big story regarding the governor broke and he had to reschedule the event.

Friend started off by giving some background of himself: He graduated from Columbia University's School of Journalism 30 years ago and sent out resume tapes but got rejected everywhere. (He even said he saved those rejection letters until a few years ago.) He ended up getting hired at WPIX-TV as a non-staff news writer and had been there for 12 months when he considered jumping ship and joining the Associated Press. The news director at Channel 11 told Friend that his career would advance much more quickly if he stayed in television. He ended up following that advice, remaining with WPIX and eventually became a producer. "I wanted to have control over the product," he said. "The true crafters of the news and information that goes out over the airwaves are producers."

He uprooted his family from Westchester and moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to help launch the "Extra" entertainment program, which debuted the following year. He eventually realized that it was not a very fulfilling career and moved his family back to the east coast in 1997 to join CNBC, where he would rise to senior vice president of business news programming. He now admits that he did not know much about financial news at the time. "I like to tell people that I got my M.B.A. on the fly," he said. He became CBS 2's news director in June 2006.

Friend explained to the students that he always gets a rush knowing things before other people and having the responsibility of informing everyone else. "It still gets me excited," he said. He added that he enjoys local news over cable news because it has more of a chance to make a difference in people's lives. "It truly is our calling to be the voice of the people," he said.

As a way to teach students how to land their jobs, Friend played some resume tapes, pointing out what worked and what didn't. He said it's the first ten seconds or so that has to grab his attention to force him to keep watching. "If you're not energetic, why should I watch?" he said. If the tape starts off with a montage, he prefers if it's kept tight, under 30 seconds, because he wants to see how the applicant constructs a story.

The ability to write well is something Friend said he really looks for. "It's not brain surgery, it's fundamentals," he said. "It's telling stories and asking good questions." He also strongly encouraged students to do internships that interest them. As for the resume, he said that it's important not to have any spelling or grammatical errors on it. He looks at experience and particularly education and says that some sort of a connection to the New York area is always a plus. Friend also looks for well-rounded employees who read a lot and are worldly. "You've got to know a little about a lot, not a lot about a little," he said.

The topic of new technologies and new mediums came up. Friend cited a recent study that said around 55 percent of the news viewing audience still views local news to be important. "That's comforting," he said. As for his station's website, "I view as an enhancer of our news product," saying that he doesn't think it takes away from the television audience. He's seen the changes happen over the course of his career. When he first got into the business, Friend said the newscasts generally covered the news of the day; today, immediacy is vital as breaking news is covered instantly.

When asked about how he balances his career with his family, the married father of three said that it wasn't a tough choice for him. "I always put my family first," he said. The fact that there is not much traveling to do in local news makes spending time with the family easier.

The entire 70-minute talk was streamed live and is available via Hofstra University's NewsHub Live:

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