One of my earliest memories is spending countless hours at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s newsroom. I loved alternating between operating the camera, announcing the weather, and being a newscaster. My career in live television may have ended by the time I entered middle school but Amanda Keegan’s didn’t. Amanda is an Emmy award-winning producer at “Good Morning America.” I’m thrilled to share her advice and career path with you today.
You got your bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University and turned your internship at the American Broadcasting Company into a full-time job after graduation. Did you always know that you were interested in journalism?
Yes, ever since I was eight years old. I was a really shy as a kid and always had my nose in a book. I spent part of my childhood growing up in Florida and visited my grandparents every summer in Massachusetts. Every night I would sit with my mom and grandma with a cup of tea and watch the evening news. My grandma planted the seed one night—she said “You should become an anchor woman when you grow up since you love to read and write.” Ever since then it just stuck! If you look back at my elementary, middle, and high school yearbooks, they all say the next thing under Future Goals: “To become the next Katie Couric.” I haven’t exactly followed Katie Couric’s path, but I did have an extremely surreal moment when I got to produce for her back in 2012!
What are your roles and responsibilities a producer at “Good Morning America”?
When I first started out at “Good Morning America” back in 2010, I was a production assistant and worked the night shift. I would go in at 6 pm, and get out usually around 3 or 4 am. During the weeks, I would help out the senior producers by sending out important show notes and answering the phones. On the weekends, I would produce stories for our weekend show. It was definitely a grind—nothing is worse than telling a 22 year-old they can’t go out with their friends on a Friday or Saturday night. I would be walking in the door as my friends would be getting home from the bars! For about a year I rarely saw my family and friends and missed a lot of birthday parties and holidays.
When I got promoted to associate producer, I still worked the night shift but my work week was Sunday to Thursday which became much more manageable. I would go in every night at 6 pm and get assigned to one, two, or even three of our tape stories in the show the next day. I worked with a correspondent to write the script, conduct and sometimes shoot interviews, gather elements like footage and photos, then put the piece together with an editor. Some nights end at 2 am, others end at 6:59 am and your piece airs at 7:02 am. You just never knew what card you were going to be dealt when you walked in. Now, as a producer, I do the exact same thing but on a much more manageable 10 am to around 7 am schedule Sunday to Thursday! I’ll work on a story during the day and pass it off to the night producer at 6 pm. I also travel a lot to go on shoots which I love. There’s nothing better than seeing the country on someone else’s dime! Every so often I’ll produce what we call a “live remote” which is a big live event somewhere in the country. In fact, I just got back from a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas for a Magic Mike XXL dance contest live remote!
What is a typical day like for you? Please walk me through a day.
We have two offices; our Times Square Studio where the show is shot, and our Lincoln Center offices, which is where all of the producers work and edit. After the show wraps at 9 am, our senior producers come uptown and we have a 10 am meeting. I rarely set foot in the studio so my day starts with that morning meeting. Producers will go around and pitch ideas or stories we are pursuing for the next day’s show. After that meeting, my boss will either assign me to work on something for the next day or a long term project. If it is a piece for the next day, I’ll work with a booking producer to line up interview subjects for the piece and a correspondent who will voice the piece. I’m a good writer so the majority of the time I will draft a script for the correspondent to tweak. Some days I’m working on breaking news, like the Charleston shootings, other days I’m working on celebrity or fitness stories. Each day is something different!
What do you like most about working at “Good Morning America”?
The best part is the really cool people you get to meet and places you get to travel. From Katy Perry’s dressing room (she wins the award for NICEST and most down to earth celebrity) to the “Duck Dynasty” headquarters in the backwoods of Louisiana—it’s always an adventure! I love to travel and it breaks up the work week and keeps things interesting.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far? Was it winning an Emmy?
Yes, winning the Emmy was definitely the proudest moment. I had just landed from a week-long trip to Mexico with my boyfriend when I turned my phone on and saw that we had won! I kind of freaked out on the plane. We are a 24/7, 365 operation and it was really cool to see our hard work get recognized like that. (By the way, the statue weighs a TON!)
What is the most important skill to have as a producer?
The most important skill hands down is being able to write for TV. It is the one thing that got me this job and it is much different than writing for print. Writing the script is usually 75 percent of the battle. If you can master a breaking news story and a second hour “fluffy” piece (like a story on the new granny panties trend—yes it’s a thing) then you will shine at GMA. Being able to juggle five things at once is also important. These days we are producing about two stories a day each with lots of moving parts.
What is your advice for someone who hopes to work in journalism?
Always say yes. Say yes to any job opportunity that could get you in the door. Say yes to the most menial tasks as an intern—it will pay off and get you in the good graces of producers who will help you out one day. Having a can do attitude is incredibly valuable in this industry. Also practice writing, writing, writing!
Do you think that your undergrad degree in journalism helped you get where you are today?
Yes and no. I think that by nature of NYU being in New York City and in the backyard of every major news network definitely helped. It allowed me to intern at ABC for two years straight at several different shows.
Did my journalism degree land me my job? I don’t think so. There were maybe one or two classes that were actually valuable to me. One of the professors was this woman named Marlene Sanders. I’ll never forget her—years ago she was Barbara Walter’s stiffest competition and helped pave the way for other female journalists. She was very no-nonsense and absolutely terrifying, yet riveting to learn from!
How would you define your professional style?
GMA is very casual. On Sunday’s I could probably show up in sweat pants, sneakers, and a t-shirt and no one would say anything. During the winter I’m almost always in skinny jeans, boots, a cute top or sweater, and a chunky necklace. During the summer I pretty much live in sundresses, wedges, or cute sandals.
What is on your desk right now?
Pictures of my family and my boyfriend, and cardboard cutout of Channing Tatum’s head from a lightening round game I played with him and Jonah Hill, camera batteries, a couple of cookbooks (we get them sent to us all the time, it’s amazing) a copy of Self magazine, my phones, a raspberry lime seltzer, my shoot schedule, and questions from an interview this morning with NBA player Kevin Love.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Be prepared for long hours and the night shift! Some people like nurses or firefighters love these hours. I absolutely hated them. There’s nothing natural or healthy about sleeping until noon and starting your workday at 6 pm. As soon as I switched to the daytime I lost weight and slept better than I had in years. Unfortunately, for any type of live morning TV show, these hours are all part of paying your dues. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
What advice would you give to someone in the first five years of her career?
Work hard and always say yes, but find a way to balance your personal life with your work life. Because we literally work 365 days a year, the personal lives of a lot of our staffers comes second. You shouldn’t have to make that sacrifice. When I was on the night shift, I had a routine of either going for a run in Central Park every day or going to the gym and running on the treadmill as I watched “Giada At Home” (I love to cook!). No matter how crazy my workday was, that time was the one thing I could control in my schedule and totally zone out.
What advice do you have for other young professional women?
This industry is becoming increasingly female dominated, which is amazing. Just look at our anchor lineup: Four women and two men. The majority of our producers are also female.
I think the most important thing young professional women can do is respect one another. It is incredibly frustrating to see the lack of respect or the way women talk down to other women. We have to set a good example for our future daughters and other young female professionals and raise each other up!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Stop worrying. The lock screen on my iPhone literally says “Worrying Solves Nothing.” Worrying about things you can’t control leaves you inactive and immobilized—nothing comes from it! Obviously this is still something I need to remind myself of every day…or every time I open my phone.
Thank you, Amanda!