Kristen Shaughnessy '90
Q & A:
What is your edge (strength)?
I was not deterred by people who tried to convince me to find another line of work. So many people tried to convince me that TV news is too difficult to make a career out of.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
Professors who stressed the importance of good writing skills and told us how difficult it could be getting that first and second job.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I knew from a young age I wanted to be a TV news reporter. Ironically, I grew up without a TV in my house.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned here?
I was willing to move anywhere when I got out of college, but had little success at first. In August of 1990, I got my first on-air job at a radio station in Newburgh, NY. The experience was invaluable. I would do my on-air shift, then go out cover stories and put them together. We had to write and cut three versions of every story. I made $5 an hour, $40 a day with no overtime pay, but a lot of 12-hour shifts.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Being a reporter enables you to witness so many stories and meet so many people you would never get to know otherwise.
What was your major?
What was your favorite class?
TV writing classes and Political Science with Dr. Firestone.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Meeting my husband, Joe.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
I can't use just one word, but I will say without its communication program I would not have had the career I've had. I think Hofstra prepares its students for communication careers better than the schools you often hear about.
What advice would you give current students?
To do internships and make contacts that could help them once they graduate.
How do you balance work and your personal life?
It is a balancing act. My husband and I both love our jobs, but we also realize our two girls, Jamie (9) and Kara (6), are our priority.
My husband is a golf pro so we stagger our schedules so that one of us is usually home with our two girls. We have sitters who also help on days when our schedules conflict. I work the early morning shift, which means getting up at either 2:30 a.m. when I anchor, 3:30 a.m. when I report. You don't get a lot of sleep, but you get a lot more family time than you would with a later shift.
College presents an array of opportunities, not all of which are acted upon. If your life's path had led you in a slightly different direction, where would you be now?
Either a reporter overseas, a teacher or a lawyer.
As a reporter, you've seen many significant events. What events that you've covered have had the deepest impact on you, both personally and professionally?
The stories that have the most impact are the ones where people do something to better their community without a lot of fanfare.
Ivan and Hans Hageman, two brothers who went to Ivy League schools, came back to their East Harlem neighborhood and built schools for kids who were not doing well in other schools. Most of these students turn their lives around and are often the first in their family to go to college. The Hageman brothers have now started schools for girls in India and elsewhere.
A man who left his teaching job after deciding to help others, the way others had helped him. He drove across the country to New York City and set up a Web site: modestneeds.org. His organization helps people with "modest needs." The woman working two jobs, but facing eviction because she can't pay her rent, etc. In the last year, the organization gave away its millionth dollar.
September 11th was obviously the biggest story I covered. I was at the WTC just before the first tower came down. We couldn't get a signal and the only way I could get through to the station was on a pay phone not far from the towers. I was live with our weekday morning anchor as the first tower came down, halfway through the conversation I had to drop the phone and run.
Besides the obvious, what do you find to be the greatest difference between radio broadcasting and television reporting? Which do you prefer?
I think radio reporters are usually better writers, because they cannot rely on pictures to tell their stories. Radio reporters also tend to have stricter deadlines. Even if you don't make radio your career, I think anyone who wants a career in TV should at least do some radio.
Do you have any advice for communications majors wishing to work in television and radio?
To start at a small station where you can make mistakes and learn the craft. Plan to invest one or two years in a very small market … and learn all you can. You probably will work long hours and make little money - but you should be polished by the time you make it to a bigger market. You also tend to do many jobs at a smaller station, so you gain a better appreciation for what other jobs at the station require.
Kristen may be one of the city's only television reporters to grow up in a house without TV. Her family's television set broke when she was very young, and her parents decided that the family would be better off reading.
From these humble roots, Kristen went on to graduate from Hofstra with a B.A. in communications in 1990. She worked first in radio and then at a television station in upstate New York before taking a position at NY1. She has been with NY1 since 1995 as the station's weekend anchor and breaking news reporter. She credits her success as a television reporter to the strong foundation she received in Hofstra’s communications program.
Kristen’s work was notable following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. She was sent to the site shortly after the first plane struck. Cell phones and Nextel radios weren't working when she got there, so she ran to one of the nearest working pay phones and was one of the few reporters on the air live with NY1’s morning anchor Pat Kiernan when the first tower fell.
Kristen is married to Hofstra alumnus Joe Bush ‘90, a professional golfer. They have two daughters.