The communications world is changing at a faster rate every day, and it takes a lot of determination and ambition to stay on top. Meet Kat Kane. After graduating from NYU’s journalism school in 2007, she worked at MSNBC as an assistant to Dan Abrams and at CNN as a production assistant, while also getting involved politically as the Manhattan Young Democrats’ communications director. Now working at a communications strategy firm, the 25-year-old Pennsylvania native talks about her love for the media, predictions for the industry, and why even though President Obama might currently be in power, she will probably get her “ass kicked” by a bunch of Republicans next month.
Did you always know that you would eventually work in the media world?
Not really. However, I did get to intern at a lot of places like ABC 20/20 or Court TV during my time there. I also did a story for a class about drugs on campus and especially drug delivery on campus. My biggest finds were not that impressive: a lot of people do drugs and the security guards don’t care for the most part! After I graduated, I ended up getting a job as an assistant for Dan Abrams, who was then the general manager of MSNBC and had the 9pm show. So I would do the whole assistant thing during the day and help him with the show at night.
Can you tell us a little more about working at MSNBC?
I would leave my house at 7:45am and get home at 11:30pm, so you do the math! I remember that I would line up all my clothes for the week on Sunday. [laughs] However, it really was the best way to learn, and I would recommend it to everybody. He was an awesome boss and a great guy to work for. Being an assistant can be a miserable job if you work for someone you don’t like. While Dan was high maintenance and liked things done a certain way, he was a really fun and nice person. I generally felt like he actually gave a shit about what happened to me. His show ended in the summer of ’08, and I helped him transition up until Halloween of that year.
How long were you without a job after that?
Zero days. [laughs] I actually started working at CNN for the Morning Show as a production assistant the day right after, on November 1st… which also happened to be a Saturday. They were getting ready for election coverage, and since I had gotten the bug for the primary stuff on Dan’s show, I thought that I would really enjoy it.
How was it working at CNN?
You know what, it was amazing to say, “I work at CNN,” and you got to see a lot of how the production gets stacked and how it works. But to be honest, I didn’t like the atmosphere. As a PA on a big show like this, it felt like you were just a cog on this massive wheel. Cable news in general takes advantage of young ambitious people and robs them of the excitement of the industry. You do get worked to death. It’s crazy hours, more often than not in the middle of the night. And you work freelance, meaning you’re capped at a certain number of hours and get no benefits. I can’t think of another industry like that. Plus, you’re totally expendable in a place like CNN because eight people want your job.
This was not a permanent job either, right?
Exactly. After my 1,500 hours, there weren’t any full-time staff openings so I was like: “Shit!” I had to find something else. After a week, I found something at NY1 and got hired as a writer, which is a totally different ball game than what I had been used to. Also, I was suddenly working for local 24-hour cable and only paying attention to local news, local transit cuts, everything New York related. The little nitty gritty things like where there’s going to be construction or “two were found dead in the Bronx this morning,” that kind of stuff. I now work at a communications strategy firm called SKDKnickerbocker.
What are your predictions for the media industry? It’s definitely been shifting for the past ten years. What will the next ten be like?
I believe that there will be two types of media companies in the future. The ones who figure out how to make a profit, and the ones who don’t. There is no way that traditional cable news is sustainable, and there’s no way you can say, “I want to stick to the old model and be successful.” While some demographics still primarily get their news by turning on the TV, most don’t, and you can’t pay all the news producers $100,000 a year anymore to put on a show that you can do for much cheaper on the net.
Tell us a little more about the Manhattan Young Democrats, for which you are the communications director.
I love them! We’re young progressive democrats, and while it’s an all-volunteer organization, everyone in it is crazy dedicated. I got involved last year and quickly got selected communications director because of my media background. We’ve actually gotten a lot of press this year for some events.
Do you have any kind of relationship with the Manhattan Young Republicans?
It’s funny, we always said that we’d like to partner with them. We thought about debates for the upcoming Attorney General race… But we do play them in kickball every summer. It will be my first time, and I heard that we got our asses kicked last year. At the same time, they’re mostly frat boys, and we’re like a bunch of policy nerds!
What advice would you give to young people trying to start a career in the media?
The best way is to intern. Most people with entry-level jobs in the media or broadcast got them because they interned there. There’s nothing more important than meeting people and, I think, reaching out. If you meet with human resources and they like you, they’ll keep you in mind for future things. Also, the best thing if you’re trying to figure out what you want to do is sort of look at the top: who you want to be in twenty years? Look at those people’s career trajectory. How did they get there? How did they start? I was looking at the communications staff for Obama; a lot of them started in news and eventually worked on campaigns.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Join the Manhattan Young Democrats, or come to one of our events. On a more personal level, I would love to stay in the political realm and be able to write. I absolutely love commentary, reviewing different things going on in the world. If possible, I’d like to write about politics and democratic strategy.
Manhattan Young Democrats, political writing opportunities