My wish was granted and I was placed as an intern with CBS This Morning: Saturday, the Saturday counterpart to weekday CTM. CTM: Saturday (SATMO) has a greater focus on human-interest stories, even including a musical performance and food segment each week. NBC and ABC both have weekend editions of their morning shows but CBS airs CBS Sunday Morning on, you guessed it, Sunday Mornings, so our weekend morning show only airs Saturday.
So for ten Saturdays this summer, the alarm did go off earlier than ever, and I went to work.
The first person I talked to in the morning was my driver. CBS was awesome enough to send a car to get me on Saturday mornings which definitely made the early mornings much easier. I can't imagine starting my Saturday with a subway ride! I would get downstairs of my apartment building and at 4:14 a.m. he would be just waiting there for me, usually starting his shift just as I started mine. For the most part, the driver changed each week.
I opened the door of the car and sat down, and always said, "good morning, how are you?" Always. It's my personal belief you should always say good morning. I happen to place importance on mornings though, as I hope to someday make a career of waking you all up Monday through Friday on network news :)
You might expect the next person I see to be sitting at a security desk at the CBS Broadcast Center at 524 W. 57th St. That is true but there are a few more people first: those who are just on their way home from parties the night before. My favorite person in this category was someone on their way home at 4:15 a.m. on July 5th in quite patriotic red, white and blue, stars and stripes garb, clearly coming from a celebration. One of my colleagues at CBS told me most nights he doesn't care what those people's situations are, he'd always rather be one of those people coming home at 4:15 a.m. Saturday morning than the one who is heading to work. I disagreed just because all of those people are not getting car service to the CBS Broadcast Center. Again, just personal preference.
I always sat down at the Broadcast Assistant desk when I got to work. It was nice because in a world where you're fairly certain everyone is asleep, yes, even those in other time zones, here was a newsroom of people who were awake. Tina Fey once said she hires people she wants to see at 3 a.m. Something tells me Tina rarely sees these people at 3 a.m. but having been there firsthand, it's an important sentiment. If I know one thing for certain after my time at CBS, it's that people who come to work that early on a Saturday morning, I mean grown people with children still sleeping and loved ones wanting pancakes and coffee, those people really love their job.
From there I would usually hop on board with a producer who I'd be shadowing that day. We'd head down to graphics to check for last minute changes and review our on-air animations and we'd spend the morning greeting the guests who came to the studio for our segments.
I've often written that the people you work with are the absolute best thing about work, and it was as true at CBS as it was at NBC. Even at 4:30 a.m.
In television, also in life, timing is everything. Learn this about life now and yours will be a much simpler one.
One Saturday this summer I woke up before my alarm which was definitely rare. I'm certain it had to do with being at the correct point in my sleep cycle. I woke up and I felt awake through my entire shift. Ready for a nap when I got home, of course, but I was awake enough.
One week I woke up at the wrong time in my sleep cycle, and I am sure for the moments my alarm went off I really forgot how to get out of bed.
We have a production meeting each week at 5:15 a.m. which is key in making the morning go by quickly. In the 45 minutes between when I arrived and when we had our meeting, I did whatever I could to make sure the show went on the air: worked on the weather segment, printed segment questions for our anchors, and printed rundowns for the meeting.
Sometimes by the time the meeting ends, the sun was working on coming up. I usually didn't notice the sun until it's been up for a few hours. It's just not on your mind at that hour of the morning. Dark is dark. Early is early.
Truly, when people did ask me about getting out of bed and to work at such an early hour and asked the inevitable follow up: how do you do it? I just told them what I just told you: early is early. Once you're up, you're up.
At 7 a.m. we are live on the air, and at 9 a.m. we are off. This part always went the quickest.
If we didn't have a segment to tape after the show, I'd be out of the studio by 9:30 a.m. and home usually within a half hour. I was starving at this time because I'd been awake for so long. Think about it, if you usually wake up around 9:30 a.m. and you are awake for 6 hours as I had been, it would have been past your lunch time. So I'd get home and I was starving… but instead of an english muffin or granola bar, I'd crave a hearty meal. One day I met my brother at the train station after the show and he asked what I wanted to eat. I think I told him I could really go for a filet mignon with some roasted potatoes. Mind you, Au Bon Pain was barely opening its storefront cases.
I would find something to eat (usually last night's dinner leftovers) and then take a nap. I'd sleep until about 2 p.m. and when I woke up, I was ready for the day. By Saturday nights, it felt as though I'd lived two separate days in one, with that morning's show feeling eons away. I did have off all day Saturday after the show, and since we didn't start the workweek until Tuesday, I had off Sunday and Monday as well. It was a nice extended weekend & I was glad to spend a good part of it sleeping.
It's hard to get dressed at 3:30 in the morning. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise. It's also hard to get dressed for a NYC summer knowing you'll be walking to the subway to go home around 10 a.m. but until then you will be in a studio that I'm certain is kept at 60 degrees. Brr.
Layers were key for me. Saturday mornings were definitely more casual than the work week except for my boss, who always dressed as if she had an important meeting each day. I liked that and admired it, but still had a tough time not reaching for jeans and a sweater on Saturdays.
I'd typically wear dress pants or jeans with a dress top or sweater, and I'd bring a scarf I could wrap around myself or put on my lap in case it was particularly cold.
Since finishing my internship with CBS, I rarely wake up on a Saturday morning without thinking of the crew that has been awake since the 3 o' clock hour getting television out there to you & me. To have been a part of that team for 10 weeks was a gift and though I'm sort of glad the alarm doesn't go off quite so early anymore, I'd gladly go back. I just request a few hours notice so I can try to get some sleep.
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