The next generation of journalists graduated in 2020 into a challenging job market unlike any other. We spotlighted them this summer, shared advice from their role models, and are checking in with them this month to see where they are now and what they’re learning about journalism.
Name: Dan Toomey
School: The University of Southern California
Current job: Desk assistant, ABC News
Best moment in journalism: Election Day coverage
Where are you working right now? Is the position full-time, part-time or an internship?
Toomey: I’m currently a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to start in September. It’s a full-time position, and I help our team create World News Tonight, from researching to producing liveshots and helping coordinate our camera crews.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job search?
Toomey: Stay in contact with everyone you know, use the internet to network, have an easily-accessible work portfolio, keep an active social media (in the right way), and be willing to take risks. Those lessons are all equally important because I wouldn’t have a job without them. Combine that with patience, optimism, and self-care, and your time will come.
What’s been your best moment in journalism since graduation?
Toomey: Election week, by far. I was one of the many sleepless journalists constantly refreshing emails and Twitter feeds to check on vote tallies. I actually worked an overnight shift the night before we called Pennsylvania, but I stayed up through the next day so I could be there the moment the official announcement was made.
My shift ended a few minutes after that, and I left our office where the streets of DC were flooded with people waving flags, honking their horns and, in one case, shredding a rendition of the National Anthem on an Ibanez. I try to walk by the White House every time I leave work, but when I passed it that day the energy was other-worldly.
To be alongside this team, in this city, on that day — I’ll never forget it. I even printed out our official Tweet naming Biden the President-elect to hang in my room, so I could have that moment — coverage of my first presidential election — frozen in history.
What do you wish you had learned as a student that you’re learning on the job?
Toomey: Pick your beat and stick to it. I’m still in the process of learning that here at ABC, and I’ve had wonderful mentors give me advice on where to start. But it focuses your energy so much when you don’t feel like you have to report on everything in the world — just one specific area. That was something I didn’t do so much of in college because I felt like I was curious about nearly every subject out there. You soon find out that isn’t a sustainable way of working.
Have your journalism goals changed since graduation, and if so how?
Toomey: Not really. I still envision myself working as a reporter then hopefully moving into a more senior editorial role once I really develop myself journalistically. I still believe the best editors and managers were once reporters themselves. My higher ups at ABC have been really supportive of that, especially when I mention the potential for new platforms — which is very encouraging.
What’s the NEW wackiest story you’ve ever worked on?
Toomey: Unfortunately, nothing will beat my report on Merlin, the wheelchair duck that I did as an intern for NBC a few years ago. That was actually one of my ice breakers when I introduced myself to everyone at ABC. If that becomes my legacy, so be it. I’m not one to tempt fate.
How are you taking care of yourself and staying motivated right now?
Toomey: Every young reporter should know that you can take care of yourself while staying motivated. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. It all comes down to managing your time correctly.
Obviously at work when there’s news, there’s news, and you have to follow a bit of a hectic schedule. But when I’m at home or have free time, I like to schedule time for productivity and time for recharging. I’ll set a timer for 45 minutes and do some researching, writing, etc. And then after that I have 5 minutes to take a break. Once I feel like my energy is sapped for the day, I’ll read, listen to music or watch something at night (or in the morning, if I’m working overnights!)
Time management, eating right, exercising, and checking in on loved ones. That’s my life schedule right now, and it’s really all I need.