From DECA President to Daytime Talk Show
Brittany Jones Cooper is not your average DECA alumna.
As a senior researcher for Katie Couric’s newest daytime talk show, “Katie,” Cooper spends her days finding the biggest names in the news, entertainment and sports industry to appear as guests, researching topics for the show and even appearing on-air to teach Katie Couric how to de-clutter her digital life!
Cooper’s resume hosts an impressive list of internships that ranges from being Katie Couric’s intern to a Nike Field Reporter to even interviewing Serna Williams. Cooper’s own story of climbing the corporate ladder and going from Nebraska to New York City is one crazy ride you have to read. Her advice on how to achieve your dream job is something all DECA students to take to heart.
Can you explain what your position as an online producer entailed and your day-to-day responsibilities?
I started at the launch of “Katie” as a digital producer. It was a really great team to work on and I had a bevy of duties including managing some of the shows social media networks, selecting and editing articles from contributors and basically producing various content you see on katiecouric.com. However, it was hard for me to work for such a thriving show and not have direct input into content. So, in January I hopped off of the web team and over to the show team. Now I work as a Senior Researcher and I assist in booking guests, putting together research packets for Katie, and some of my segment ideas have actually ended up on the show!
You have worked on ‘Katie’ for almost a year and also worked as Katie Couric’s assistant and intern for a while as well. Can you explain the journey that you went on to becoming Katie’s assistant and them becoming an online producer for her show?
In 2007, I was a junior at the University of Nebraska when I entered a video competition to be Katie Couric’s intern. The CBS Evening News hosted the competition and in the end, Katie ended up selecting my video! I spent the summer after my junior year of college living in New York City, working with Katie and her team and having an unbelievable experience. After the summer, I went back to school to start my senior year. In January 2008, I won another video competition: this time to be the first-ever Nike Field Reporter for Nikewomen.com. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to fulfill my reporter duties while finishing all of my credits to graduate. I worked with Nike through the fall until my contract expired. Within a couple of weeks I was on-air reporting for the local ABC affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska. This had always been a goal of mine, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to report the news in the community I had grown up in. Unfortunately, the job was only temporary and would end once a fellow reporter returned from maternity leave. So, within four months I was out of a job. It was 2009, the economy was tanking, I had zero job prospects in Omaha and didn’t hear back from the dozens of jobs I had applied for. After a few months of temp work, I knew that I needed to get creative. A friend of mine (who I met in DECA!) had just completed a program called City Year and suggested that I sign up for it. City Year would take me to an inner city somewhere in the US where I would work with kids, volunteer in the local community and take the focus off of my joblessness. It sounded like a good plan to me so I signed up, checked New York as my preference and six weeks later I was on a plane to the big apple.
During all of my unemployment and post-graduate bumbling, I had started a blog to air my grievances and make my friends laugh. I wasn’t totally sure who was reading it, but it ended up scoring me my next job. In the fall of 2009 I moved to New York and was just settling into my City Year routine when I got an email from Katie Couric’s assistant. Her name is Lauren and I met her when I interned at the CBS Evening News two years prior. She would occasionally read my blog and noticed that I was back in New York City. Their second assistant had found another job and they were looking to replace her, and just like that, Lauren offered me the gig. I worked in Katie’s office for two years and eventually moved up to the first assistant position. When she left CBS, I decided it was time for me to get back to my broadcasting path. I did a small stint at The Daily Beast, but when “Katie” started to hire staff, I knew I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity. I emailed Katie and set up an interview. The rest is recent history.
Could you tell our DECA members what it’s like to work on the ‘Katie’ show and with Katie Couric? Are there any great perks to working on a day time talk show that you can share with us? Katie has been an amazing friend and mentor to me. I’ve known her for almost six years now, and she still teaches me something new every day. Careers in media are definitely not for the faint of heart and watching her navigate this exciting world is a daily lesson in tenacity, intelligence and creativity. Working for the show has been amazing. I mean, how often do you get to launch a talk show? Since we are [a new show] we get to try out a lot of fun, fresh ideas. As for perks, getting to meet the big newsmakers is definitely a plus. I’ve been able to joke with Chelsea Handler and pose for a picture with Olympian Gabby Douglas…all in a days work!
Your resume boasts an impressive list of other journalistic jobs such as being a Newsweek associate producer and a Nike field reporter. Of these previous jobs, is there any one amazing experience or situation you could share with us?
Working as the Nike Field Reporter was life changing in every way. It was difficult to balance the schedule because I was trying to finish college, but I had the chance to interview some of the biggest names in sports, travel to some of the biggest events in the world and meet some of my idols. One amazing experience I’ll never forget was having a 20-minute sit down interview with the best female athlete of my time, Serena Williams.
You majored in Broadcasting at University of Nebraska. Did you find that you were able to use or translate any of your DECA skills or experiences into your studies?
Absolutely! I was the Nebraska State DECA President, so during my year in office I gave speeches at schools all over state, as well as at conferences. I really enjoyed public speaking and that is what originally sparked my interest in reporting. DECA was definitely a game changer for me.
What advice can you share with a DECA member interested in pursuing a career in the broadcasting field like yourself?
Internships are crucial; it’s how you get your first job. Also it’s important to be a good intern. You should always aim to go above and beyond, ask questions, pitch ideas, stay late, and build relationships. When you leave your internship, people should have a clear idea of who you are and what you want to do. On the other side, don’t nag people. Just be yourself and make an effort to build relationships while you are there. Lastly, writing is crucial; it’s the first thing that people will notice. So always try to keep writing, even if it’s just a blog!
What things should current DECA members do now to help them create a strong resume similar to yours and eventually land their own dream job?
Not to sound super hokey, but an impressive resume is really secondary. I think the key to landing your dream job is to believe it can really happen. As you get through college and post-college, your goals may start to seem out of reach. Things in your life may get hard, obstacles pop up out of nowhere and can suddenly steer you down a different path. But, if you truly believe [your dream job] can happen, that different path ends up merging with your original one. I always say that I’d like to have my own talk show one day and a lot of people look at me like I’m crazy, but I continue to say it. It’s just a constant reminder for myself of what my ultimate career goal is.
See Brittany’s “How to De-Clutter Your Digital Mess” segment from “Katie” here.
Follow Janelle on Twitter @jjarrighideca.