A familiar face from NBC’s Today Show, journalist Natalie Morales came to the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism Thursday afternoon to share her experiences as a reporter.
Morales came as a guest speaker for JOUR 572: Reporting on Entertainment and Popular Culture, which focuses on how journalists should cover the entertainment industry. However, USC students were welcome to attend the event.
Morales is currently the West Coast anchor of the Today Show and also hosts the show Access Live. Prior to joining NBC, she worked at a variety of news organizations across the country, covering major news events like the Columbine mass shooting and 9/11.
Morales was interviewed by Annenberg associate professor Mary Murphy, who teaches JOUR 572.
“[The class] is based on my own life experiences as a journalist,” Murphy said. “What I had to do as a journalist covering pop culture is I had to be aware of everything … I designed the course based on the real life experience and being a journalist in Los Angeles.”
Students in the graduate course are given many opportunities to experience the industry firsthand, from visiting the set of the hit TV show Mom to meeting with James Corden, host of the Late Late Show. Morales was the class’s first guest speaker.
While she ultimately graduated with degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from Rutgers University, Morales said she spent many of her college years unsure of what career path she wanted to follow, and she encouraged the audience to explore a variety of paths while in school.
“Getting a breadth of experience really is what then allowed me to say ‘this is what I love,’” Morales said.
Morales grew up in a variety of Latin American countries, including Panama, Brazil and Spain, and she credits this worldly experience with helping her develop her skills as a reporter.
“It really opened my eyes to the world at such a young age, and I realized very quickly that the world does not revolve around the U.S.,” Morales said.
Morales, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, touched on the opportunities that would not have been open to her had she not been trilingual, such as her coverage of the rescue of the Chilean coal miners in 2010.
Although Murphy asked Morales about recent sexual misconduct allegations against former Today Show host Matt Lauer, Morales avoided answering the question and said that allegations had already been covered to the fullest extent, so she didn’t want to comment further.
Later in the interview, Morales reminded students that they have to work hard to succeed in journalism.
“You can’t take too many shortcuts … You have to work your way up,” Morales said. “The best thing you can learn is to always say yes when it comes to somebody asking you to do something that is going to help you grow.”
Students in the class were grateful for the opportunity to talk with a professional in the industry they hope to join one day.
“They can be so candid and you get one-on-one interaction with them,” Bridget Winstead, who is studying to get her master’s in public relations, said. “You can ask them genuine questions [and] they’ll give you genuine answers on the spot.”
According to Murphy, opportunities where students get to talk to professionals in their field are an important part of a comprehensive college education.
“Learning from the people who are doing the job is an essential thing to learning what the job is,” Murphy said.