I wanted to cover Huffington's visit for a few reasons. I'm always really aggressively chasing the story when a big name comes to campus. Remember when Hillary Clinton came? I also have a certain amount of stories to complete for a class I'm in. The stories for that class have to be on a quick turnaround time of less than 48 hours, and will air on the weekly NewsVision show, so this was a great opportunity. Plus, it would run as our lead story.
After researching the book and Huffington herself (something I always do when a guest comes,) I learned the book was about avoiding burnout, redefining success and thriving in your own life. Politics and media aside, this is a message we all probably can afford to hear. I found it poetic and a bit ironic that Arianna's visit came right around the time I felt myself really reach burnout, which happens at a certain point each semester. I've said yes to one more thing than I can handle, I am tired, my body is broken and if you ask me how I am doing, more often than not I am just "trucking along." Oh, and sometimes I'm even naive enough to think this means I'm successful.
In her book, Huffington recalls an experience in 2007 when she collapsed from exhaustion in her NY office and broke a few bones on the way down. As she puts it, "if you're laying in a pool of blood in you're office, you are not successful."
One thing I've found in my own life is that I wear being busy (and exhausted and burnt out) as a badge of being really important, and really successful. But it's not just me; after talking to students, I learned we all do it. The logic goes, if I'm so busy that I'm not sleeping, and skipping meals for meetings and deadlines, it must mean I am just so important and so successful. In reality, being successful means not having to sacrifice those things daily. And at 20 years old, these lessons need to begin to be integrated NOW, not later. You know, before too many meals are skipped and you're laying in a pool of blood in your office. (See earlier paragraph.)
So the day arrived for Arianna Huffington's visit faster than expected. In order to cover it, I had to leave class early but since it was the class the story was for, it was no big deal. Though I was excited to cover the event, I was upset to miss class since my intimate class of 7 students was in the middle of a real life conversation with our professor about the business and adult stuff. You know, the stuff your degree can't really teach you but people can.
I brought my friend Kamrel to act as a producer for this shoot, because as you might remember from Hillary Clinton's visit, I'm much more comfortable doing my job when I have someone I trust to handle the technical aspects of it.
We arrived and started shooting external shots of the location, some close ups of Huffington's books on a table, and my standup. Shooting the standup before anything else is always a bit tricky. Your standup is the time the reporter is on camera and says something to either close the story or bridge together the beginning and the end. It can usually sum everything up or further the conversation. And when you shoot your stand up before you shoot anything else, there's always the fear that it won't make any sense.
For this story, my standup was, "In her new book, Thrive, Huffington challenges readers and questions- if you're burnt out, are you really thriving at all?" I was able to write it early because after all of my research, I decided burnout was something our students could really relate to. There is a time and place for this story: she came to campus, here's why, here's what she said, and here's what people thought. But that isn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell a story that started a conversation.
With the always fabulous help, guidance and assistance from the University of Miami media relations team, we filed into the student media presser. Huffington arrived in the most chic white pantsuit with these amazing lace black flats. And that's the really important part.
Just kidding but she did look amazing. She introduced herself to everyone sitting in the front row with a handshake. I've seen it a few times (Rachel Maddow did the same thing) but it is always the most humbling thing I see at an event. Always. But beyond humble, Arianna proved to be graceful, gracious, lovely, classy and more.
We each asked a question, and since Arianna was being so generous with her time in answering, we actually ran out of time and ended after each outlet asked one question. The very best part about a presser is that you are recording the whole thing, so all the outlets are really working together in a way. If I like her response to the newspaper's question, I can still use it. And I love team coverage. It's my favorite thing.
The presser closed and we took a photo with Arianna. We do this every time a guest comes, and this time Arianna asked if we could take a selfie. I knew I liked her. She was just so cool.
We wrapped up as a group and went into the main room, where Huffington was to have a conversation with Donna Shalala. We each received a signed copy of the book and a spot on the press risers. We left toward the end of the Q&A session so we could sneak outside to grab a spot to grab some student reaction pieces.
If my story was about the fact that Huffington came to campus, my questions would probably be as follows:
Why did you want to come hear Arianna Huffington speak?
Did anything Huffington said today change your opinions of her?
What was your biggest take away from today?
But my questions were more like this:
Do you burn out?
Where do you think the pressure to work until you are burnt out comes from?
Why are we proud when we burn out?
Huffington suggested students get a solid 8 hours of sleep, and if that's not possible then to sleep a half hour longer than you do now. Do you think that's possible or is there really no way to get things done unless you stay awake?
What would our campus be like if everyone did get 8 hours of sleep?
What was the biggest takeaway from today?
After talking to students, I realized the emphasis Arianna put on mindfulness. Be mindful of your energy, be mindful when your battery runs low and stop while there is time to recharge. Be mindful of how you are spending your time. Be mindful. Be fully alive. Be fully present. I loved watching the students I interviewed reflect on this. They are so thoughtful and intelligent, it is no surprise people want them to commit to various causes and they eventually burn out because of it.
We wrapped up and my parents came to town the next morning, so I didn't get to editing until the night before deadline at 10 p.m. Burnout not intended, I had a cup of coffee, stayed up until about 2 or 3 and finished the next day.
And I only had to skip one class to make it all happen.
You can see the piece as it aired below:
You heard it here first,