The journalism major served as a broadcast intern this summer for the most-watched network newscast in the country, an experience that solidified his goal to work in television after graduation.
One of Gary Grumbach’s most memorable days of his summer 2015 internship came during an impromptu visit to a Sussex, New Jersey, overnight camp – a trip he made wearing someone else’ baggy shorts and shirt no less.
Heading into his senior year, the Elon University journalism major landed what many may consider a premier internship, serving as a broadcast intern at “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” in New York City.
“This is not an internship that everybody gets, and I realize that and I realize how fortunate I am to receive this experience,” said Grumbach, noting that Elon’s connections with MSNBC anchor Brian Williams and the success of past Elon interns at the television news program helped open the door.
Most of Grumbach’s 9- to 10-hour workdays were spent this summer transcribing footage, compiling research for broadcasts, attending editorial meetings and occasionally joining colleagues on assignment.
If NBC viewers saw a tweeted photo of damage from a Kentucky tornado or another recent weather disaster, chances are Grumbach located it, got the permissions and prepped it for broadcast.
One of just four broadcast interns – the others hailing from Ithaca College, Middlebury College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Grumbach soaked up the experience, arriving each day before he was required to report to attend morning editorial meetings.
“I did a lot of miscellaneous things, but I was never treated like an intern,” Grumbach said. “Something that was stressed early on was that there are no big egos there. That everyone comes there to work and work hard, regardless of experience. It was a good reminder that, yes, this is ‘Nightly News,’ but we are just trying to produce some good journalism.”
One July morning, Grumbach was charged with finding an overnight camp to serve as the centerpiece for a story about kids writing letters home to their families and friends. The kicker was that NBC cameras needed to film the campers that day for a segment to air later that evening.
“So I was calling every camp in the tri-state area, because it had to be local to New York,” Grumbach said. “I must have called every camp I could find on Google, and I was finally able to convince one to let us come.”
As a result, Camp Louemma now holds special meaning to the intern, especially because an “NBC Nightly News” producer insisted Grumbach accompany them on the shoot. Ditching his suit and tie for a pair of borrowed clothes, he assisted with setting up equipment and interviewing campers.
“Sure, it was a bit of a fluff story at the end of the broadcast, but what I did was real work,” he said. “And I was proud they used the camp I found.” The segment, which aired July 8, was titled “Miserably Hilarious Letters From Sleepaway Camp.”
Two Elon alumnae, Julie Morse ’13 and Katie O’Brien ’12, played a large role in Grumbach’s assimilation into the NBC newsroom. Morse, a production assistant, and O’Brien, a researcher, offered advice, direction and friendship when needed. “They really showed me the ropes,” Grumbach said.
Grumbach noted it wasn’t the first time that he and Morse had worked together, recalling that she was the executive producer of Elon Local News during his freshman year. “It was nice to work as colleagues in a much more professional sense, in the big leagues, sort of speak,” Grumbach said. “It was great to have her around for support.”
In addition, Grumbach sought advice from Janae Frazier ’13 and Ryan Greene ’15, who previously served as NBC interns.
The staff at “NBC Nightly News” was equally hospitable, Grumbach recalled, including the program’s anchor, Lester Holt.
“I have to say I was somewhat surprised at how down-to-earth everyone was at NBC,” the Elon senior said. “Lester Holt would come and sit down with us – hang out with us, really. (Correspondent) Harry Smith did the same thing. They got to know us. Got to know our names, and they called us by name. It was incredible to know I’m working with some of the best journalists in the world – Lester Holt is the No. 1 most-watched newsman in America – and we were just having regular conversations with them.”
Grumbach said he gleaned a tremendous amount from these interactions, knowledge he plans to incorporate into Elon Local News, where he currently serves as the organization’s news director. And thanks to hours of transcription, logging countless interviews, he has a better understanding of how correspondents like Miguel Almaguer and Smith elicit quality sound bytes from interviewees, often by asking the most basic of questions.
“Two questions that Miguel Almaguer asks all the time are, ‘What do you make of all of this?’ Which seems like such a simple question, but anyone can answer that with such emotion. And something else he asks is, “Scary?” said Grumbach, letting the one-word inquiry hang for a moment. “That question works whether the topic is a flood, a prison break, or something else. The emotion that one word brought out was incredible.”
Grumbach explained that his time at 30 Rockefeller Center confirmed that he’s on the right career path. “This internship reassured that I don’t want to be anywhere but a newsroom,” he said. “My goal is to be on air, and after graduation I hope to work as an on-air reporter.”