AC360 is this summer’s Manhattan Project for Michael Wilner ’11

Native New Yorker Michael Wilner has, in a sense, come full circle, finding himself back in Gotham this summer interning for one of CNN’s fastest-rising news stars, Anderson Cooper. Read his story here, the fourth in a series of articles profiling CMC students and their summer internships.

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Name: Michael Wilner

Major: PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)

Summer Internship: Assisting with the daily production and writing processes for CNN anchor Anderson Cooper for his nightly news show, Anderson Cooper 360.

Future Plans: “Right now I’m focused on writing a really strong senior thesis in the coming year, which will be on heroism in the modern world. Afterwards, I hope to apply my skills as a writer, researcher and journalist.”

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CMC: How much responsibility have you been given with Anderson Cooper and his Anderson Cooper 360 news program?

Michael: My tasks have mostly included helping put together segments, or packages, for Anderson’s show. A given segmentfor example, filming in the Gulf of Mexico to cover the BP oil leakwill usually take around two hours of filming (after going through the efforts needed to make the connections and bookings), followed by a logging and “b-rolling” of the tape, which is basically transcribing the events that were filmed, followed by editing and then, finally, airing. The show is a mix of live and pre-taped material. As an intern, I’m on a rotating schedule working with producers, writers, and web staffers to gain exposure to all aspects of the show. This rotation has allowed me to write the nightly news hit, go out on a shoot, help manage the show’s blog, and write for CNN.com.

CNN is such an impressive organization, and this is certainly the place to learn the ropes. The type of people that work in this business are really down-to-earth folks who thrive under the intense pressure of a deadlinethe knowledge that, at 10:00 p.m., thousands are going to tune in to get their news fix. Those people expect CNN standards 24-hours a day, and helping to maintain that is really pretty cool.

CMC: You have quite an impressive resume for a CMCer with one year left to go before graduation. You’ve also interned at the BBC in London and at the Straits Times in Singapore. Tell us about those experiences.

Michael: The BBC is probably the biggest corporation I have worked for. I was shadowing an anchor who had been at the BBC for 20 years, helping with his radio show mostly, but also his blog and television show. He was a chief parliamentary correspondent at BBC News, also doing segments for BBC Parliament on Radio 4. I would help decide what the week’s program would cover, conduct the interviews with him, and edit them for air. We would go into Parliament multiple times a week together, roaming the Houses of Lords and Commons and interviewing members and lords for the show. I gained a thorough understanding of British politics while there, as most of what we covered was related to the upcoming British elections that took place this past May. I was able to sit in on the Prime Minister’s question time in Parliament, and met a lot of fascinating people. The access was incredible. The Straits Times is one of the oldest and largest English-language publications in Asia. On a good day, about two million people will read the publication. While doing some typical copy-tasting workroaming the wire services to see what breaking news stories would be of interest to our readersI was quickly given the opportunity to publish articles. By the end of the summer, I had published six bylines on issues ranging from geo-engineering to the financial crisis; from nuclear nonproliferation to the swine flu. And in my last month there, my editors felt I should get out of Singapore to report. They sent me on assignment to IndiaDelhi, specificallyfrom which I published my first editorial on Indo-U.S. relations since the Bush Administration. That trip was probably my favorite part of the summer, as it was my first time truly traveling alone, and my first business trip.

CMC: Has CMC played a key role in helping you obtain your internships?

Michael: CMC has honestly been more helpful with career assistance than I ever imagined a college could be. A little story; the summer after my freshman year at CMC, I got a job at a boutique consulting firm on Wall Street. I hadn’t even taken Econ 50 yet, and suddenly the firm began sending me multiple textbooks, each over 1,000 pages long, to prepare for the finance position. I was pretty overwhelmed. At the time, I had begun writing for one of the campus publications and had recently interviewed President Gann for the first time. Upon mentioning the dilemma at our next meeting, she suggested I contact Professor Massoud for advice on how to properly prepare with such a short time frame. I did so with a relatively frantic three-paragraph e-mail (mind you, to a tenured professor I had never met before). His response? Every Wednesday morning after that, at 8 a.m., he would personally tutor me in a crash course in finance over breakfast in Collins. For me, it defined the top-tier liberal arts experience. Ultimately, the internship went well and they extended an offer for me to return. But the next summer the financial crisis hit, and as was the case with many firms, discretionary programs, such as paid internships, were unfortunately cut. They informed me of this pretty late in the spring, and I again turned to Massoud for advice. He forwarded me to Professor Balitzer, and an alumnus who works with him, Ted Gover. They asked me what else I was interested in besides finance, as it wasn’t a great year for the field. I said journalism. Shortly after that, my resume was sent to The Straits Times and I was offered an internshipand awarded a $4,000 grant by CMC, the McKenna International, to make the trip. CMC also helped me secure my internship with Anderson Cooper, whose executive producer, David Doss ’75, is himself an alumnus and close friend of the college.

CMC: Obviously, you are heavily focused on media. Did you discover that interest at CMC?

Michael: Yes, I first discovered journalism at Claremont, and since then it’s become my primary passion. I started off writing for some of the smaller journals on campus, and now I’m editor-in-chief of the official student newspaper, The Foruman online publication that has grown exponentially in the past two years to now have an audience of over 80,000 visitors a month, and a paid staff of over fifty students. As editor of the Forum, I’ve been given some tremendous opportunities. Just this past spring, I sat down for an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney, during which we discussed the Tea Party Movement, California politics, and the presidency, among other things. Just the day before I sat down with one of Al Jazeera’s most famous anchors, Joumana Nammour, to discuss media and freedom in a changing Arab world. For both of these, I had the full backing of CMC’s administration in helping to coordinate the interviews.

CMC: Would you say your experiences at CMCthe internships, etc.are typical of what other students here are doing?

Michael: My fellow CMC students never fail to impress me. In 2008, I had friends actively supporting every candidate in the primaries, and studying abroad on every continent during junior year. CMC students are interning in every branch of government this summer. For example, I know two of the interns at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reformone on the Majority staff and one on the Republican staff. Many in my class have similarly grueling hours here in New York working on Wall Street, for Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital, or are working around the world from Dublin to Shanghai. It’s important to surround yourself with people as ambitious as you are, and I am comfortably in such a place at Claremont.

CMC: Would you say that experience gained at CMC helps to prepare students for future success in the working world, or is it all academic, so to speak?

Michael: Absolutely CMC is a great prep. From the classroom to the Athenaeum, there is an expectation of students to present themselves with a professionalism that’s necessary to succeed in the workforce. Obviously, as I’ve mentioned, I have received personalized training for jobs and have been given extraordinary attention by various alumni, ready to give me a chancebut that’s because I’ve been educated and prepared by CMC.

Read one of Michael’s bylines here:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/07/21/ost.green.pet.toys/index.html.