Interns get real-world experience on national stage

Jill Goodtree, Olivia Currey and Richard Lipkin are interns for the university’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. The three public relations majors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications had the opportunity to work for CNN during the television network’s two “town hall” events at the UofSC law school, leading up to the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries held in South Carolina in February.

We asked the three to share a little bit about their experiences.

Q: What were you feeling before the event started? What did you expect?

Jill Goodtree: Before the Town Hall, I was really excited to have the opportunity to work for CNN. I turn CNN on almost every day, so it seemed unreal to be able to actually work for them at a major television event.

Olivia Currey: I was excited. Nervous, of course, because I didn’t know what the heck I was getting myself into. But it was fun. The CNN people were great to us. We were talking with reporters, producers, writers and they were great people who have these successful titles.  

Richard Lipkin: I was excited to feed off the energy radiating from the candidates and their supporters. It was so satisfying to be around passionate people who want to be involved in politics. The night was an appetizer that teased my palate, but left me hungry for more.

Q: What was the coolest thing you saw?

Jill Goodtree: The coolest thing I saw was the CNN workroom that was set up upstairs in the law school. About 40 people were packed into one tiny room, all busy with updating CNN social media, creating content or doing an analysis of Web interaction. Everyone was so focused on the quality of their work that it seemed like a hive full of busy worker bees.

Olive Currey: I left the Democratic town hall early; I waited for Hillary Clinton to come out then left to walk to my car. I was face-timing a friend to show him how you could glimpse into the auditorium and when I walked to the side of the building, Bernie Sanders gave me a wave as he was driven off. It was a total surprise!

Richard Lipkin: There was a moment where actor Danny Glover walked through the lobby, and I remember these two students who look so flabbergasted to see their idol. They stood there with their mouths wide open in disbelief. I’m not quite sure which was more satisfying, their reaction or seeing a famous actor; but both made my night very memorable.

Q: What did you learn from working CNN’s town hall?

Jill Goodtree: One thing I learned was the importance of security at a public event. Secret Service had the law school on lockdown, and there was only one way to get in and out of the building.

Olivia Currey: The intricacies of hosting this event. How the CNN town hall works (at least for media purposes) is that while CNN hosts and has ownership of the show, there are many journalists who follow the candidates from city to city, covering their campaigns and the primaries and the debates. But for this event, journalists were not allowed to ask questions, just cover what happened at the event. This put us in an awkward position where we had to tell cameramen that they weren’t allowed to bring their equipment in or tell print journalists that they were not allowed access to the candidates; they were only provided Internet access.

Richard Lipkin: The event reinforced core principals taught in the journalism school. Awareness, critical thinking and flexibility are required to be successful in anything, and my experience that evening demonstrated how I always need to understand what is happening, my role and how I can solve a problem.

Q: Any last thoughts?

Jill Goodtree: I am fortunate to have had the experience to work for CNN last week and am thankful for the genuine hospitality I was shown from the staff I met. This election will define our country for the next four years, and I am glad to have played a small role in the political public relations process.

Olivia Currey: I’m so glad to have had the opportunity. It was an amazing experience. As someone who wants to get into the public relations field, I really learned a lot from it. It’s really significant that USC was asked to host this event and I’m super fortunate I was interning for the Office of Communications when it happened.

Richard Lipkin: The University of South Carolina has so many opportunities for its students to feel connected to whatever professional field they want to leap into. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and I look forward to more as I close out my senior year.

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about