While her community sleeps, Brittney Steele works to find, write, and update stories for the morning news program “Wake Up Northwest” at NBC Right Now in Kennewick, Washington. As day breaks and the newscast is live on air, she assists in the control booth to make sure everything runs on time and makes changes as the show is going. She also looks out for any breaking news to add.
“There are a lot of little things that go into putting a newscast together and making it run smoothly while on the air. My job is to help with that,” Steele said.
Steele graduated from Fresno State in May with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism. She immediately landed her dream job as an associate producer for the morning news program at KNDU/KNDO-TV. She helps the lead producer build the two-and-a-half-hour morning news program.
When asked about her new career, Steele could hardly contain herself.
“I love everything about it,” she said. “I love getting to write so much every day, learning constantly, being kept on my toes because the news never stops and it’s always changing. I love that I’m getting to inform my community on what is important and getting to highlight my community.”
Steele grew up in the Imperial Valley, about 120 miles east of San Diego. With plans to be an English major, she chose Fresno State because it was far enough from home to get out on her own, and because of the English Department‘s exceptional reputation. During her first semester at Fresno State, she took a media, communications and journalism course as an elective and was hooked.
“I felt like I belonged. My personality and the way my brain works finally made sense, and I met many others who think like I do,” Steele said. “I wasn’t just going to school to get my degree. I had found a home away from home. I was a part of the literal [media, communications and journalism] family.”
The job of a news producer requires someone who can work in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment while maintaining accuracy and attention to detail. It was her experience at Fresno State that, she said, prepared her for her career.
“My education at Fresno State prepared me for my job in so many ways. The Media, Communications and Journalism Department is amazing, and they have fantastic professors who know what they are doing,” Steele said.
Beyond being trained in the technical skills needed, she was also taught to act as a professional journalist. One of her favorite experiences was taking the course that[ produces the weekly Fresno State Focus newscast.
“Through Fresno State Focus, students receive the full experience of working in a television newsroom. From producing the newscast to reporting, shooting and editing video to live studio anchoring experience to social media promotions, we cover it all,” said Dr. Carey Higgins-Dobney, assistant professor of broadcast and multi-platform journalism. “Additionally, those who like the technical side of TV production can work behind-the-scenes in the studio and control room during the ‘crew’ class.”
Steele took both classes and even worked as volunteer support staff during the terms when she wasn’t enrolled.
“Brittney enthusiastically embraced all aspects of putting news on the air, both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera,” Higgins-Dobney said.
Steele was supported in her studies in part through the ABC30 Scholarship, the Stanley S. Beaubaire Scholarship, James R. Wilson Broadcast Scholarship and the Jim Zaillian Memorial Scholarship.
Beyond her classwork, Steele boldly embraced opportunities to create a universal experience that contributed to her education.
“It was the broadcast journalism professors who pushed me to do everything I could and taught me everything they knew that helped prepare me for the life that is local TV news. I don’t think I could’ve been prepared more than I was,” Steele said.
Taking the initiative, she sought positions and internships that complemented her education and further prepared her for a media career. She interned with the Fresno State Athletics Department and worked as a student assistant for Fresno State social media.
“Brittney was not only a hard worker, but she was always eager to learn and be creative,” said Jessica Piffero, Fresno State social media specialist. “She really understood the critical role that digital media played in newsrooms. She saw the value in using social media as a powerful tool to inform the public and interact with her audience.”
During her last semester at Fresno State, Steele also landed an internship at ABC30 in Fresno. Liz Harrison, former anchor and intern coordinator for ABC30, was impressed by her determination. She said even without transportation of her own, Steele was still able to arrive at the television station in Downtown Fresno for her 4 a.m. shift.
“That girl was not going to let anything stand in her way of getting where she wanted to go,” Harrison said. “She is determined, she is smart; she is one of the best interns I’ve ever had.”
On campus, Steele served as the multimedia chair of the Radio Television Digital News Association for two years. She also served in several positions with the Diabetes Coalition, including outreach coordinator, social media director and one year as president.
“The advice I would give to current students is to try everything, do as much as you can, and give it your all, not just one class, but every class,” Steele said. “Dive headfirst into whatever it is you want to do and gain as much experience as you can. Make yourself the best asset you can offer to an employer.”
Finding inspiration in her field and the courage to grasp available opportunities, Steele was able to start her career despite the COVID-19 pandemic and is now seeing the fruits of her labor.