At the nerve center of the nightly news
In his Broadcast Television class at Macomb, Erik Anderson had to produce a 30-minute television show, weekly. The experience has come in handy working the assignment desk at WXYZ-TV, channel 7.
“If people only knew what it takes to put a news show together,” says Anderson, who earned an associate degree in communications from Macomb in 2004, followed by a bachelor’s degree in the same from Oakland University. “We’re checking out tips, listening to police scanners, sending out crews, and at the end of the day we see the whole puzzle come together and we have a story.”
Anderson was introduced to the broadcast field at South Lake High School, which led to a gig controlling the audio and lighting in its auditorium his senior year.
“But it never seemed like work,” offers Anderson, who went from high school to Specs Howard School of Media Arts, where he earned a one-year certificate. “After Specs Howard, I knew I needed a degree, and Macomb was my jumping off point for that. At Macomb, I had the chance to explore what I liked about the industry and what I didn’t like.”
While attending Specs and Macomb, Anderson interned at WJR Radio. A self-described night person, he nevertheless accepted the unpaid internship starting at 5 a.m. He highly recommends that other broadcast-bound students do the same if given the chance. “I learned more in my internship that I ever did in a class,” says Anderson. “And for those who think they are going to be the next Howard Stern, just keep in mind there is less than a one percent chance of that happening.”
Progressing from internship to part-time producing job, Anderson had hoped to keep advancing toward full-time employment at WJR, but the radio market was entering its grim period and jobs were scarcer than FCC licenses. Applying for a part-time writing position at WXYZ, he was offered a full-time job on the assignment desk instead. Anderson didn’t hesitate, “Where do I sign?” he asked.
While he misses the technical aspects of his work at WJR, Anderson enjoys the faster pace of a television newsroom, where each day is unpredictable and the next big story might be on the line he just answered.
“The assignment desk is the nerve center,” says Anderson, who sometimes has to huddle with the competition when it comes to calling up the station’s chopper. “We share one with 2 and 4 and have to vote on whether we want to send it.”
As assignment editor, Anderson interacts regularly with reporters and camera crews, and sometimes the anchors as well. He works the night desk primarily, from 3:30 to 11 p.m., and is solo after 6 p.m. On occasion, he’s called upon to write a web story or a ticker at the bottom of the screen.
“I’m working in the market I want to be in,” offers Anderson, “And working in the industry I want to be in. And it’s still a lot of fun.”