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Television news staffer ‘out-Foxes’ travel fatigue

Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel, presents Joanna Preston with her diploma. Photo courtesy Fox News Channel

She commuted from DC to NY every day!

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The next time you feel like complaining about your long commute to work on the subway, think about Joanna Preston.

Preston, 24, lives in Bed-Stuy now, but for a solid year, while she worked as an intern at Fox News Channel’s midtown studios, she commuted by bus from her home in Washington DC to Fox’s midtown production offices four days a week.

Yes, you read that right. She took the bus from DC to NY and back again four days a week. The trip was four hours one way, meaning that for an astounding eight hours a day, she was on a bus.

“I really wanted to take advantage of this opportunity that was being given to me; to work at Fox News in New York,” Preston told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “I couldn’t find housing in New York, so I talked it over with my mother and I told her, ‘I think I can do this!’ It was hard, but definitely worth it,” she said.

Talk about determination!

Preston’s fortunes began to turn, and her commute got shorter, last year when she was accepted into FOX News Channel’s Ailes Apprentice Program. Founded in 2003 by Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News, the program is aimed at providing opportunities for minorities in television news. The 12-month program includes a full time job, at a competitive salary and full benefits.

Preston, an African-American, was one of four young people who recently graduated from the program. Ailes presented them with diplomas at a ceremony.

Ailes apprentices get hands-on experience, receive mentoring with executives, and attend development seminars in order to enrich their careers. “We did everything. We rotated roles every month. We pitched story ideas. We wrote stories. We produced. We interviewed people. I was able to perfect my interviewing skills. I feel I accomplished a lot,” Preston said.

“We always tried to find stories that were not in the mainstream,” she said.

Preston, a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia, jumped at the chance when she heard about the Ailes program.

“It was a long application process. I had to write essays and go through a series of interviews. When I found out I had been accepted, I couldn’t believe it!” she said.

Preston did not come to the Ailes program lacking in television experience. She had already paid her dues by interning at several stations in Washington, including Fox, ABC, NBC, C-SPAN, and Black Entertainment Television. “I have wanted to be in the news business since I was young. I used to say that I wanted to get a job where I could be nosy!” she said.

During her year as an Ailes apprentice, Preston interviewed Miss America and attended the 2013 National Association of Black Journalists Convention where she was able to interview Lee Daniels, director of the hit movie “The Butler.”

She talked to news anchors, producers, and behind-the-scenes staffers to soak up everything she could about the business. She named Megyn Kelly, the anchor of “The Kelly File,” as her favorite television news personality. “She’s really good at her job. I look at her as someone to admire,” she said.

Preston impressed the higher-ups with her smarts and her “can do” attitude.

“If there is one thing about Joanna that sticks out to me, it's that she's fearless,” said Justin Mannato, senior producer of the Fox Business Channel show “Varney and Co.” Mannato served as Preston’s mentor in the Ailes program.

“She walked into a room full of type-A personalities when she joined ‘Varney and Co.’ and jumped right in with pitches, story ideas, and sharing her opinion even if it went against someone else's. As a result, she has booked some big-name guests, and produced some prominent segments. Her pitches often change the rundown, what we cover and how we cover it. She has a quiet confidence and is a pleasure to work with. She has been an asset to our show since day one,” Mannato said.

Preston worked her way onto a full-time job as a production assistant on “Varney and Co.”

And she found an apartment in Brooklyn. “I love it here. I love living in Bed-Stuy. And my commute to work is much shorter now,” she said, with a laugh.“ Sometimes, if the subway takes too long and I complain, my friends tell me, ‘Joanna, how could you complain? Look at what you had to do before!’”

After her 12-month apprentice program, Preston has found her niche. It’s behind the camera, not in front of it. “I noticed that when it was my turn to produce when we were switching roles, I really loved it. That’s what I want to be. I would like to be a producer. I like having creative control,” she said.

So Fox superstar Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have to worry about Preston taking his job. Not yet, anyway.

November 27, 2013 - 12:30pm


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