After CNBC Summer Internships, Rachel Pak ’18 and Anjali Sundaram ’18 Start “WCTV News” on Wellesley College Television
When Rachel Pak ’18 and Anjali Sundaram ’18 returned to campus this fall after a summer spent interning at CNBC, they were eager to use what they’d learned as interns to benefit their fellow students. They approached student-run Wellesley College Television with the idea of creating WCTV News, a 15-minute program that would feature both campus news and national headlines.
WCTV News launched in October and airs on Sundays at 7 pm. Sundaram and Pak are the anchors and executive producers, responsible for writing copy, conducting interviews, and editing footage. Once the show is more established, they plan to teach those skills to student volunteers. They also want to share the professional and life lessons they learned from various CNBC employees, including anchor and chief international correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera ’91, biotech and pharma reporter Meg Tirrell ’06, and economics producer Hailey Lee ’14, who started Boobtube, WCTV’s satire show.
“Seeing Michelle, Meg, and Hailey in front of and behind the cameras was nothing short of inspiring. I felt an incredible amount of support from them, as they made plenty of time during the summer to answer any and all of my questions,” said Pak, who split her time between the breaking news desk and the business news program Power Lunch.
At the breaking news desk, Pak updated on-air stock charts, wrote articles for the network’s website, and researched business news stories. At Power Lunch, she learned about producing live television and helped put together the recurring stock-related segment “Street Talk.” She also accompanied a reporter during CNBC’s coverage of the security fraud case U.S. v. Martin Shkreli.
“TV production is a collaborative profession, and in order to accommodate everyone’s voice, I found that people were succinct while both writing and speaking, something that I practiced when I got to CNBC,” Pak said. “I learned that it pays to be my own advocate and clearly communicate if I need help, if I have an idea to offer, or if I just want to get coffee with someone.”
Pak, a double major in English and media arts and sciences, said Wellesley teaches the critical thinking and writing skills necessary to work in the news media. “TV journalists must parse tons of information every day, and it takes the sort of quick, interdisciplinary thinking Wellesley professors encourage to piece together a story from what one reads,” she said. “And while TV is a visual medium, sharp writing skills are critical to accurately inform people.”
Wellesley also emphasizes the importance of making sure all voices are heard. “As a community, we value disparate narratives and make sure they are shared, which is essential to TV journalism,” Pak said.
Sundaram, a French and cinema and media studies major, was the only intern on Squawk Box, the network’s flagship morning business show. She spent much of her time “plugging any holes,” which might mean researching upcoming guests so that producers could give detailed notes to the anchors, or creating on-screen graphics with names and titles or stock charts. She also shadowed the producers in the control room.
The control room, in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., could be a stressful place, she said, because snap decisions had to be made and communicated to people working on the show, which is broadcast from the Nasdaq Marketsite in New York’s Times Square.
“I got to produce segments about Tesla’s new Model S and Snapchat’s stock lock-up, and help with a segment with the former co-chairman of NBC entertainment,” said Sundaram. She also produced a segment with Oscar Fernandez, associate professor of mathematics at Wellesley, after reading about his book The Calculus of Happiness in Time magazine. “I thought he would be perfect as a guest on our show, and that our anchors would really enjoy talking about using math in everyday life. After pitching it to my boss, I got to produce it for my last day with Squawk, and it turned out so well!” she said.
One lesson she learned was to keep a sense of distance from her assignments. “After you hand over your notes, the rest is up to the anchors. The show works because of collaboration between everyone involved, and an openness and willingness to improvise and adapt,” Sundaram said.
She also learned not to fixate on a mistake. “You can learn from your mistakes, but ultimately you have to let go of any little hiccups that may have happened,” she said. “This realization was somewhat of a relief for me, as someone who tends to overthink past mistakes.”
Wellesley helped prepare Sundaram for the internship by emphasizing the importance of speaking up and being a good, concise writer, she said: “The ability to consolidate information, pick out key points, and construct an argument is incredibly important in the journalism world, and Wellesley has certainly helped me to hone those skills.”
If you would like to be part of WCTV News, email Pak or Sundaram. You can see their work on the Wellesley College Television Facebook page.