I asked my friend Lu’isa Mataele to write a guest post about her daily activities in the world of television. She graciously accepted my request. Thanks so much Lu’isa for taking the time out of your VERY busy day to share a part of your life with us.
I remember when I was in 6th grade hearing someone say “choose a job that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life.” I immediately altered the course of my life that very day. I concluded the thing I enjoyed most was watching the news every night with my family. KSL News (Salt Lake City, UT) at 10pm was a nightly family ritual. We’d gather round and watch what was going on outside the confines of our humble home in West Valley City, UT. Going to watch BYU football games in Provo or watching them on TV was another family ritual. Since that day, I resolved that if I were to work, I wanted my career to be in television.
Fast forward 25 years to February 1, 2011 and I find myself working in Ft. Worth, TX for ESPN on my fourth Super Bowl (XLV). The road has been a little rocky and steep. The pace I’ve been moving along hasn’t been nearly as fast as I expected. I still haven’t even come close to reaching my career goals. In fact, I’m just starting. But I know that I’m truly blessed to have a wonderful and supportive husband and children as well as siblings and parents who buoy me up along the way.
Seti has me asked to give a snapshot into a typical work day for me. It’s definitely not glamorous but I’m grateful that five years after I finished my degree in Broadcast Journalism from BYU Provo, I’m doing what I aimed to do when I was twelve, working in a field I love.
3:30 AM My alarm goes off. I wake up in my Ft. Worth hotel room. My friends in security for ESPN have a 4:00 am call time. Some of my closest friends at work are in the security department because we work closely together on a daily basis coordinating the movement of our TV Analysts. I drop them off so they won’t have to walk or drive as parking is a nightmare. We’ve blocked off most of downtown with our large TV sets, equipment, and trucks. The roads are like an ice skating rink. An ice storm hit last night. Looks like this will be a long, cold, and slippery day. Back to the hotel for a short nap.
7:30 AM I call my husband. He should be on the way to his job. This will be one of many phone calls we have during the day. We have a car in the shop and we work out the details of getting the car out. Our friend who has the day off is helping us out. The same friend also makes sure the kids wake up, dress themselves, pack their lunches, get a bowl of cereal, and get to the bus on time. My kids are 9 and 7 and have mastered getting themselves ready for school each morning. We are fortunate to have friends in our life who are like family and really step in and help out. They know we are there for them when they need help too.
10:00 AM I didn’t realize that this ice storm and subzero temps were coming before I left Chicago. Last week was sunny and in the 70’s. I failed to check the forecast for the 13 days I’m here. FAIL! I call several stores in the area looking for a winter coat. Ummmm none of them are open! Aaaack! What will I do? I’m a little worried. Our offices are a block away from our TV set but with 25+ mph gusts, a warm coat would be a wise investment or reinvestment in my case since I left mine at home. I finally call and find a Target open. I guess that will have to do.
12:30 PM I make it to work with a new winter coat and gloves that I found at a different store. On the way to the store and to our office I saw many cars veer off the side of the road. Ft. Worth looks like a giant ice sheet and the cars are all skating around like kids on skates for the first time. I eat something at work before I start at 1 pm. I don’t know why, but there’s an unwritten rule in TV that there must be food to snack on throughout the day as well as beverages.
12:45 PM I get a call from the kids’ school that my son won’t be staying after school today for homework club. Due to the impending blizzard, he will ride the bus home. I call my husband. It’s his lunch break. My son’s cub scouts is canceled for tomorrow as well.
1:00 PM Work starts. I report to the two production coordinators there. They are staff. I’m a contractor. I’ve been working with them for almost five years now doing the Superbowl, NBA Finals, Monday Night Football, and World Series to name some of the yearly events. They know what to expect from me and continue to hire me. I work for other entities at ESPN but the bulk of my work comes from them. I’m filled in on the weather situation. Many of our Analyst’s flights have been delayed or canceled. We coordinate transportation of all those working daily on the air for Sportscenter and NFL live segments here in Texas.
We are the studio production arm and then there is an operations arm located near our three sets and two pods. We work hand in hand to get the job done. Our “pods” are where you see special guests for some of our programming during the day. It’s always outdoors as the goal is to have the background with scenery that shows off the local area. Too bad the ground is coated in an inch of ice. A strong wind gust has damaged one of the pods. We will use just the one. Hopefully the repair will be done and the pod will be ready by tomorrow.
Operations has set up space heaters on the set areas to try and keep the Analysts warm but it’s about as warm as the north pole. Everyone is slipping and sliding around. The Analysts brave the weather conditions and get on air and do their thing. Luckily, we have four hotels within walking distance of our compound so transportation to work isn’t a major obstacle but the ice on the streets and sidewalks definitely complicates things.
Meanwhile, I’m in the office tracking flights for two of our Analysts – Tedy and Merrill. We find out at the last minute that one of our guests for the week, a current NFL coach, has landed at DFW. Our driver rushes out to the airport to get him.
Operations has decided to go out and buy extra gloves, hats, scarves, and coats for our talent (referring to someone who works on air). They go to several stores only to find out that everything is closed. Sorry guys! Maybe the mall will reopen tomorrow.
We have a special guest today, Donovan. He’s come to work with us for the last two Superbowls. I don’t get to talk to him much as I’m working on keeping the office clean, making sure our drivers are in the right area, and communicating with operations on the radio. He does some interviews and gets his segments done. Everyone is busy getting their job done.
In our office, we have about 100 people working with all different workspaces. We have the .com writers, the International crew, public relations, producers for all the shows we are doing live, drivers dedicated to drive our talent and executives, talent, make up artists, assignment editor, coordinating producers, directors, production assistants, and security. That’s just our office space not operations which is at the set across the street in portable office trailers along with our four diesel-sized TV trucks. The compound area by the set has another 50 or so people working there not to mention the 25 or so that work in the radio office.
One of our Analysts has a cancelled flight out of Boston. They have actually closed down the Boston airport. My boss rushes to get him a flight out of there since he’s scheduled to work before the airport reopens. Everything is cancelled. She and the travel department find him a flight out but not to DFW. Oh well, at least he made it out of Boston and will try to make it in tomorrow. Another Analyst makes it in after a six-hour delay. Phew! The producers breathe a sigh of relief.
The talent and producers talk about their shows. The newsroom is buzzing. Everyone is working on their individual shows and discussing topics. Lots of input is given and the work is finalized. The late night producer finishes his work early. That means we can tape early and hopefully get done earlier than expected.
Before leaving work, we get the office organized. With my boss, we put together the transportation schedule for tomorrow; getting fifteen or more Analysts to the office for make up, then to the set for seven or eight different shows with police escorts takes a little bit of coordination. We also have regular shuttles for our crew at another hotel. We have five drivers staggered on five different shifts to help us. We also create another schedule for make up. Yes, they all get make up done before they go on TV but it’s usually just minor to cover blemishes and look as natural as possible. Then we make sure the office is ready for tomorrow. All the schedules are in place for our two different trucks, transportation, makeup, etc. Paper is in the copiers and printers. The shopping list for supplies is filled out. The shuttle vans for our crew are in place and everyone has left the offices for the evening.
I work with many good hardworking people not just celebrities. It’s a treat for me to work with so many well known athletes but I try to act professionally at all times. I’m not the type to get “star struck” and act like a groupie (I have seen this happen on occasion with some people but not often). I frequently get asked what its like and I can honestly say that for the most part they are all really nice, normal, down to earth people. I’m fortunate to work with people I respect and get along with. I feel lucky that I never faltered from my goal of working in TV. Hard work and persistence got me here but I know I still have a long way to go. Along the way, I plan to enjoy all the experiences I have.
11:00 PM I drive back to the hotel. I call my husband for at least the fourth or fifth time during the day. We chat for about 30 minutes which is actually shorter than our usual nightly talks. School is cancelled for tomorrow and the blizzard has hit back home in Chicago. He says the snow drifts are waist high at our front door. He works as a mechanical engineer for a Japanese company there. I tell him I don’t think it’s wise he go to work tomorrow. I don’t think many people back home will make it into work tomorrow with 24″ inches expected to fall. We talk about the kids, grocery shopping, the blizzard, work, etc. I’m ready for bed and my alarm will go off at 3:30 am to start all over again.