English graduate Emily Olson
Emily Olson

Major: English
Graduation Year: 2016
Company: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Activities: Humanities Scholar; Pacific Legal Scholar

Emily Olson works as a journalist and digital producer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She credits her background as a Pacific Legal Scholar and a Pacific Humanities scholar, in part, for preparing her to explore the world and write about it.

Q - Tell us about your job.

A - I work for the North American bureau of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC is the public broadcasting out of Australia. It's also the biggest broadcaster. It's pretty much like the BBC. We do TV, radio, online, and I'm our digital producer. So, my job is basically to take whatever story our correspondents are working on and help them think through strategically, 'OK, how do we fit this for our online readers?'

Our correspondents are great TV journalists, but they don't always think digital-first and, like every major news outlet, we're transitioning into more of an online space. I'm in Washington, DC. We have a bureau there that covers all of North America and parts of South America as well.  

Q - What is your daily job like?

A - As a digital producer, I'm helping correspondents fit their stories for an online audience, but that includes the more day-to-day responsibilities, helping them write and edit pieces, both analysis pieces and original reported features. I will also go out with them on shoots and help take photos and help think about, how's the best way to structure this when we're writing for online. It's a bit of a hybrid position. I'm kind of like a reporter, kind of like an editor, but it all falls under this strange, new job position which we just call digital producer.

It's cool because our correspondents go everywhere. I did get to go on a road trip during the (2018) midterms where we went up to Ohio and, again, to Pennsylvania and talked to voters. It's a good way to see America, for sure.

Q - How did being a Legal Scholar and a Humanities Scholar help in your career?

A - I think it was a good combination. I'm really grateful that I got to do both programs because I feel like — and this is reflected in journalism — the legal scholar part of me was a little more analytical and maybe logical, and the humanities scholar part of me was definitely creative and open to the arts. So, different parts of your brain, but I think the two programs complemented each other well. I think you have to have both sides of that brain working. You have to have an analytical, logical approach to problems and the ability to look at facts and kind of make a big picture of it -- that's the legal side. And then, the creative side is finding characters and teasing out the bigger universal themes, which is similar to what you do as an English major reading literature or writing. I think my job has a lot of that.

Q - So, you don't think that majoring in English limited you?

A - Oh, absolutely not. Majoring in English was definitely the best base I could have given myself for any job, really, but especially this one. English is such a good lens to see the world because it teaches you how to think critically, but also to think empathetically and to really grapple with big-picture problems from different perspectives.  

Q - Was there anybody at Pacific who was particularly helpful to you?

A - Everyone was helpful. That was the coolest thing about Pacific. And I learned in grad school (in Oregon) that it's not always like this. I had so many times when I'd just sit in a professor's office and talk for an hour and they let you do it and will follow up with emails about things you should read. I had professors give me books and magazines. Definitely Dr. Smith and Dr. Hole, Dr. Lehmann were just the best. But also, I worked for a while in the Admissions office and all the staff there were super helpful. It's a good community because everybody is looking out for each other.

Q - Internships must have been an important part of your path.

A - I think internships are a step of it. I think also what you do in the internship is just as important. Sometimes there's too much pressure placed on getting the internship versus what you get out of it. I think for me it was not just getting my foot in the door, but being genuinely interested in the workspace and pushing myself to ask questions. It very much is one internship leads to another, right? So, having the curiosity and the resources to get you to the first one is critical.

Q - Do you have advice about how to make the most of an internship?

A - Volunteer for stuff or just do things without being asked. You just have to put yourself out there, and that can be really scary, especially at a place like NPR where you're coming in and you're intimidated. But you don't gain anything if you stay quiet and don't try. You really, really have to get over your fear of failure. One thing that I've done at every internship that I think helped me a lot was just to make time for things as simple as getting coffee with people. Not even trying to network, but just to get to know people and be vocal about what you're interested in. It's a great way to get opportunities thrown your way.