“Don’t Be Offended If Someone Changes Your Writing” With Journalist Alexandria Cannito
“The power of storytelling is incredible. People connect with strangers by reading or watching a story about someone they have never met, but their experience is what relates the two people. I love connecting people and making a true difference in communities by bringing awareness to important issues.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandria Cannito. The young journalist began her career at 19 years old as a video editor for a morning news show. She quickly worked her way up to an associate producer and then an on air reporter and fill in anchor. She has gone on to create a blog, homemeans.org, that focuses on simply telling people’s stories and shedding light on important issues.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
It was my dream to be a reporter since the age of eight. My father, a former police captain, was watching an interview he did for the local news and was frustrated that the reporter skewed his words. That was when I got my first lesson in ethical journalism, and decided I would dedicate my career to telling the facts. Upon graduating high school, I became the first recipient of the Tony & Linda Bonnici Broadcasting Scholarship, and landed a job at a local news station working mornings while attending the University of Nevada, Reno. After two years working as an associate producer, I became a morning reporter and fill in anchor. After five years I left news to work in public relations, and founded my blog that focuses on telling the stories I couldn’t while on television.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
In Reno, Nevada, the rodeo is a big deal. So much so, you do a story on the event everyday it is going on. As a morning reporter, it was important to always change up the live shots. One year I asked if I could sit on a bull on air. Each half hour I thought we would be doing the interview on the bull but there was no such luck. Then finally, our last live shot of the morning, I was told the bull was ready and in its chute. I sat in the hot seat on the bull for about two minutes before we went live. As soon as the interview began the bull started kicking. Luckily I made it through but never have I been so nervous conducting an interview. It was the highlight of my rodeo season that year.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The most exciting project I’m working on now is revamping my blog and redirecting it to reflect my passion for storytelling. Home means something different to everyone and I love the idea that we can connect with strangers by hearing their stories and experiences. This is why I started a blog, and I hope it serves as a platform that connects communities.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
The most interesting people I have interacted with are those in the nonprofit realm. Every nonprofit story I’ve covered the people are extremely passionate about what they do and how they can help others. It is their stories that, I feel, are important to share. They are living their organization’s mission day in and day out, giving them a true understanding of what needs to be done in order for positive change to be made.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in journalism?
Don’t hesitate to ask questions and take every opportunity you can to get your foot in the door. Working at 2 a.m. while being a full time student was not an ideal schedule, but it opened the door to a full time job and plenty of practice being able to write for a four hour morning show. I also always asked reporters and photographers if I could shadow them after my shift. As a result, I learned how to shoot video and was able to practice stand ups, experience I didn’t get in school until my last semester. I found the senior anchors and reporters were always willing to help me better my craft. It is rare people will tell you ‘no’ when asking for advice, so don’t hold back.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since high school, I’ve had a passion for the deaf community. I’ve always felt someone out there needs to give a voice to those who don’t have one. I wanted to minor in American Sign Language (ASL) in college but it wasn’t offered, so I took two semesters as a foreign language instead. Once I became a reporter, I used our platform to shed light on the issues facing the deaf community in Nevada. The first piece we did consisted entirely of three interviewees signing with the interpreters voice narrating. I signed my intro and tag on air and that was the first time I felt like we were truly making a difference for that community. My photographer and I continued to do stories, each one highlighting a new challenge. After leaving news, I went on to take another ASL course and did a story on funding for the deaf community in Nevada on the blog I run.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
The power of storytelling is incredible. People connect with strangers by reading or watching a story about someone they have never met, but their experience is what relates the two people. I love connecting people and making a true difference in communities by bringing awareness to important issues.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could, I would build a school for the deaf in Nevada and create more effective educational programs to implement throughout the country, helping the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. — It’s amazing how much experience I gained in a short amount of time simply by asking for help. No one ever told me no when it came to asking for advice.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. — During my part time job in school, I was able to shadow the morning reporter and her photographer after work hours. They taught me how to use a camera, how to conduct an effective interview and I gained experience in front of the camera.
3. Don’t be offended if someone changes your writing. — In television news, anchors often read what the producers have written. If a word sounds funky or a sentence doesn’t flow off the tongue, the anchor may change it so it makes better sense to the audience. Do not be offended. Instead, take the time to learn how to can write more effectively.
4. Take the early or late night shift. — No one wants to wake up at 2 a.m. to go to work. However, if you’re willing to do it there will be a high reward. If you’re the only person willing to work odd hours, you will gain more experience simply by being there. Each morning before school, I’d wake up and go to work from 2 a.m. — 7 a.m. In that time, I learned more by watching the newscast come together and asking questions then I ever did in the classroom.
5. Don’t be afraid to take risks. — I met my first news director at an event for the scholarship I was on. At the time, I was trying to land an internship for the summer and spoke to EVERYONE in the room. A month later he called me and asked if I wanted to work at the station. We talked about my goals and as time went on he allowed me to air stories I completed in class. Shortly after graduation he promoted me to on air. If you don’t go for the opportunity or the job, someone else will. Take the risk!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to have lunch with Robin Roberts. I had the honor of meeting her in New York a year ago and she is amazing. The journalistic work she has done is incredible and I would love to pick her brain about storytelling and hear more about how she created an amazing career for herself. She is a true icon and role model for young and aspiring journalists.
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.