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Q&A; with Sequita Buchanan

CNN Technical Operations & Sports Production Assistant

An Inside Look at Being a Woman in Sports TV

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A college education is very important, but as Sequita Buchanan CNN Sports Production Assistant found out, the majority of your learning comes outside the classroom and on the job.

"The education I received from the College of Journalism at University of Nebraska prepared me for what to expect upon graduation (or so I thought)," says Buchanan,  "However, when I got into ‘the real world’ I realized the working knowledge ACTUALLY comes from being in the TV news atmosphere."

But its Buchanan’s Sports knowledge that sets her apart from many of her co-workers, "I have to admit, I relish in the fact that I passed my sports test with a score higher than some of the guys!"

When did you decide to pursue a career in Television?

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in television once I realized the lack of African-American Women anchors and reporters on TV.  I also wanted to be the voice of issues that impacted women in general and not just African-American.

Sequita Buchanan’s Sports TV “Stats”

sequita buchanan graphic operator CNNEducation: University of Nebraska

Production Jobs held: Video Journalist, Control Room Tech, SWAT EGO (Staff with Advanced Training – Electronic Graphic Operator)

Most memorable moment in TV: My most memorable moment was coverage for the funeral of Coretta Scott King.  It was both an emotional and a beautiful service.

Best piece of advice:. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK and work hard.  If you are introduced to someone who can offer some connections, you still have to do your own work to make it happen. 

What was it about a career in Television that originally lured you? 

I’ll admit, I used to dream of becoming a Sportscaster or Sports Reporter.  I fancied myself as the next Jayne Kennedy, except I would know more about sports than she.  The idea of interviewing athletes who bring so much joy (and pain) to their fans excited me.  After a few medical concerns experienced by others and myself, I found myself wanting to be learn more about medical journalism, in hopes of becoming a medical producer/blogger.

Did you initially have fears that it would be hard to ‘get in the door’? 

I absolutely feared that "getting in the door" would be the most difficult step.  I made and submitted a lot of resume tapes, yet I was always told the same thing, ‘You need previous experience’.  What surprised me is a lot of those stations didn’t list this fact in the job requirements!!  I definitely would have saved the amount of resume tapes I submitted had I known this sooner.  My fears later turned to "once in, how will I move up?  How will I get my ideas heard?" 

How did you land your first job in TV and where was it?

A college professor introduced me to a former University of Nebraska graduate who works at CNN.  He and I exchanged information.  He advised me on how to gain employment with CNN, basically through persistence and setting up appointments while visiting Atlanta.

After your first few months did you know you made the right career choice, or were there concerns?

I absolutely knew I made the right decision in CNN.  Having CNN on my resume would look great, just in case I wanted to seek employment with another network or affiliate. sequita buchanan university of nebraska alumni

What were the hardest things to get used to about working in TV?

One of the hardest things for me to adjust to is to not take everything so personally.  It can be pretty intense in the control room; however, not all of the intensity involves personal attacks against one’s work/performance.  There are ways of handling those attacks that are personal i.e. HR, the immediate supervisor, etc, etc.  Even after being with CNN for seven years, I still have to catch myself from taking things so personally.

The second hardest thing to adjust to is not going home for holidays.  Certain departments at CNN are Monday-Friday and they observe holidays.  Those who work on the news side don’t have the luxury of having holidays off.  The first holiday that I couldn’t go home was pretty devastating to me.  And you know what, it doesn’t get any easier. 

How hard was it being a woman working in sports?

As a logger for CNN Sports, I am lucky to work with guys who didn’t take my sports knowledge for a joke.  While I may not be able to constantly recite “I remember when…” type of stories like the rest of the guys, I do know the rules and the players/coaches/managers. 

Did you have to fight for respect?  

I have to admit, I relish in the fact that I passed my sports knowledge test with a score higher than some of the guys.  After I started to train other loggers, I was surprised that some of the guys didn’t know the simple rules of baseball (which is my favorite sport).  The fact that I had to explain the position numbers and how it relates to a baseball score card are both a shame and a pleasure to me.  

What is your opinion of women in the locker room?

I definitely don’t agree with women in the locker room.  While one should expect to be treated with respect, it is also asking for trouble when a bunch of undressed or partially dressed athletes are being interviewed by women.  It sets both the athlete and the reporter up for an uncomfortable and public disaster.  Sure, one should expect for the athletes to act their ages and not their shoes sizes, but in order to avoid all of the controversy, it’s my opinion that women shouldn’t be allowed in the locker room.  The better question is: should male reporters be allowed in the women’s locker room?!  

Would you favor neutral interview rooms for men and women? 

Isn’t the post-game press conference room neutral enough?!

Did you ever encounter a situation where you were not able to hold your own in a conversation with a man/men regarding Sports that was uncomfortable?

 I haven’t experienced an uncomfortable situation in terms of sports knowledge, but I have had a few experiences where female body images were discussed and it was beyond uncomfortable.

cnn sports illustrated control roomWhat is the most difficult thing about working in Television? 

One of the most difficult things for me is getting others to not think of you as a one-trick pony.  For example, if you want to transition from technical ops to editorial ops (or vice-versa) the perception has always been that it will take someone longer to learn the skill set for that department.  It’s difficult to get others to understand that learning or developing a new skill set should not quickly disqualify you for a job.  They see you as one way, while refusing to acknowledge that you have learned a new skill set, outside of your current position.  

The second most difficult thing is television is too flexible.  If there is major breaking news, any and all plans you may have will definitely be thrown to the side.  The third hardest thing is not going home for holidays.  Certain departments at CNN are Monday-Friday and they observe holidays.  Those who work on the news side don’t have the luxury of having holidays off.  The first holiday that I couldn’t go home was pretty devastating to me.  And you know what….it doesn’t get any easier. 

How has your career developed in titles, responsibilities and locations

I started as a Video Journalist, which is entry-level, to control room Video Journalist, to my current job as a SWAT EGO (Staff with Advance Training – Electronic Graphics Operator).  My department of six SWAT EGOs and 27 overall EGOs involves meeting the needs of HLN, CNN, CNNI, In Session and CNNE.  In conjunction with covering those five networks, we also cover projects and travel for the company. SWAT EGO is a promotion from a regular EGO and has more responsibility.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get started in Television?  

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK and do your due diligence.  One can’t expect for someone to get him/her hired without showing a serious work ethic.  If one is introduced to someone who can offer some connections, one still has to do his own work to make it happen.  Once one gets a foot in the door, it’s important to not become complacent; continue to network with others and use that experience to further your careers and goals.  

Do you have a memorable story – whether funny, sad or just interesting – that you’d like to share? 

My most memorable moment was coverage for the funeral of Coretta Scott King.  It was both an emotional and a beautiful service.  My second most memorable moment was being asked to cover the Pope’s funeral, but I couldn’t go because I didn’t have a passport!! 

How about most memorable Sports moment? 

My most memorable sports moment is every year on April 15th, MLB celebrates “Jackie Robinson Day, the day in which Mr. Robinson made his ML debut.  Seeing all of the players, coaches and managers wear #42, while Mr. Robinson’s widow and daughter observe the festivities, brings me to tears every year.  Once Mariano Rivera retires, no other player will be allowed to wear #42 (Rivera had #42 before MLB began Jackie Robinson day in 2004).  

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