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Introducing: The Breakdown

September 14, 2013

My road to becoming MacKenzie McHale

For seven years, I have known I want to be a journalist. Watching NBC 12 and Today every morning filled me with the desire to be the reporter standing under the balloons at political conventions (i.e. Andrea Mitchell) or traveling to third world countries, trying to make the world slightly better of a place (i.e. Ann Curry).

Over time, my reasons for pursuing journalism have evolved. Beyond telling stories, giving voices to the voiceless, helping people and making a difference, I want to search for the significance in the ordinary and shape the nation’s conversation, ensuring that actual news is reported and journalism remains a tool for the people.

In ninth grade, I began writing for The Sentinel, Deep Run High School’s student newspaper. I learned how to write, report and investigate stories, and I took those skills and tried to leave my mark on The Express at Blue Valley Northwest High School. At The Express, I served as a writer and copy editor. We wrote stories we thought mattered to the student body. We faced ethical dilemmas and personal challenges, and it was the greatest journalism foundation.

At the University of Kansas, I have worked as a copy editor and correspondent for the University Daily Kansan. Jayhawks Decide was my opportunity to make every editorial decision, choose every story idea, frame every shot, craft every graphic, edit every soundbite and produce something I am proud of.

Now, my reason for this blog post. For the past few weeks, my friends, Caitlin and Eric, and I have been working on KU’s new political affairs program, The Breakdown. The BreakdownCaitlin and Eric began forming the idea of a political show for KUJH, KU’s student television station, because they think college students should understand political issues so they can be responsible and informed citizens. I approached Caitlin and Eric with the desire to join as a producer for The Breakdown because, truthfully, I thought the idea was brilliant and yearned to be part of it from the beginning. Each week, Caitlin, Eric and I will find headlines, write scripts, discuss talking points, line up interviews and produce a show that will tell KU students what matters, why it’s important and how Lawrence factors in to this huge world of politics.

And yesterday, we launched The Breakdown. I wore a headset to communicate with the director and stood behind a camera while Caitlin and Eric hosted the show. It was an incredible feeling to hear them recite the words WE wrote and make the product WE wanted. We are responsible for every aspect of this show from its beginning, and we are excited to break down the political headlines for the University of Kansas every week.

In the past few months, I have considered a news producing career. I have always thought I wanted to be a reporter and be the one standing in a hurricane sharing facts and stories, but the feeling I had when I was wearing that headset yesterday told me I could be just as happy as a news producer. This role would allow me to follow all the reasons I am pursuing journalism that I described at the beginning of this post. So maybe instead of being the next Erin Burnett, I’ll be the next Betsy Fischer Martin, the longtime executive producer of Meet The Press.

MacKenzie McHale is the fictional executive producer of News Night on HBO’s The Newsroom. Her vision described in the first episode is my hope for my future:

“Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect and a return to what’s important; the death of bitchiness; the death of gossip and voyeurism; speaking truth to stupid. No demographic sweet spot; a place where we can all come together.”

Check out The Breakdown online, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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