Monday, January 25, 2010

All Things at Once by Mika Brzezinski

Mika Brzezinski with Daniel Parsner. All Things at Once. New York: Weinstein Books, 2009.

The author writes how about the difficulties she faced when attempting to accomplish too many things before she was ready to do them all. She has since learned how to better pace herself.

The author has been in broadcast news for over 20 years. She balanced her career with having a family with children. This proved demanding upon her time and energy. She had heard the advice that people with television careers should not have children, and she rejected that. Her mother had given up her career as an artist to raise her.

Brzezinski had a cable access show in high school, summer internship at a network, and a college TV show. She started doing voice over after graduating from Williams in 1989. Her first steady, though part time, media job was working on a Vermont TV show for $100 per show. She learned that being nervous and sweating under live TV camera lights didn’t look well to viewers.

She next worked an overnight shift at ABC News for $200 a week and no benefits. She observed there were few role models then for women seeking airtime. After nine months at ABC, she went to work for a year at WTIC-TV in Hartford, Ct. in 1990 for $18,000.

The author notes that “raw tape is like a truth serum” as it includes the film footage viewers don’t see. By looking at the raw tape, one can learn how the broadcaster and crew work to get interviews and produce what is finally seen.

The author then moved to WFSB in Harford, a CBS affiliate. Her husband, Jim Hoffer, ironically was hired by ABC affiliate WTNH in New Haven.

Brzezinski became pregnant while working at WFSB. The reaction of the news director was “this will be great for ratings!” She was a $40,000 a year anchor in 1995 and her daughter was born in 1996. The birth was covered by both WFSB and WTNH.

Brzezinski was offered a $150,000 network job in New York at CBS on her 30th birthday. The year of balancing a baby and a new job proved challenging and physically draining. A second pregnancy added to her hectic schedule. Her husband meanwhile found a job at WABC in New York.

At CBS, Brzezinski was occasionally on the CBS “Evening News” Saturday. She recalls panicking during a news interview with news figures she had known since childhood and feeling she had let people down by not providing the interview she had desired.

CBS management wanted the author to lose weight, cut her hair, and change her makeup. She was told she wasn’t “presenting well”, comments she admits “demoralized” her.

Brzezinski went to MSNBC to host “Homepage”. NBC spent $25,000 on new clothes for her. They had her hair dyed bright blonde and attired her in short skirts, tight blouses, and had her wear high boots.

Brzezinski returned to CBS News. She was covering the plane crashes at the World Trade Center when the towers collapsed. This was followed by two and a half weeks of long hours covering the continuing story of the terrorist attacks and its aftermath. After this, Brzezinski worked on numerous stories for several news programs, only to be let go by CBS. She was told it was for “subjective” reasons by an executive who explained his hiring decisions were based on “I know it when I see it.” Brzezinski felt depressed after this. She accepted a job doing small scripted cut-ins for MSNBC.

Brzezinski received a job on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show with Joe Scarborough, who wanted to hire her 30 seconds after meeting her. After a year on the show, MSNBC gave her a full time contract.

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