After graduating from Howard University Shaquille Brewster’s talents planted him strictly in the producer side of media.
When the opportunity presented himself he took the necessary measures to be at the forefront of political campaign trails and step in when asked.
Brewster explains his adjustment to being comfortable live on television wasn’t a secret, just repetition to be a better reporter with a stylistic approach.
Spartan Newsroom reporter Lily Cross spoke with Brewster in this Career Chat about what his role at NBC and MSNBC consists of and the journey that got him there.
Lily Cross: Thank you for tuning in listeners to the Career Chat, presented to you by the Spartan Newsroom. I’m your host Lily Cross. Today we have Shaquille Brestwer telling us about his journalism job and how you can pursue your on-air career. As a journalism junior here at Michigan State, I decided to reach out to Shaquille Breswter, a Howard bison, and to see more about what it takes to be a correspondent for NBC and MSNBC. To learn more about the ins and outs of becoming a news reporter for such a phenomenal news outlet, we talked via Zoom.
Shaquille Brewster: So my title officially is an NBC news MSNBC correspondent. That essentially means I’m a reporter and I report stories on NBC news. That could be the TODAY show, that could be Nightly News, that could be the Special Report and MSNBC. We also have our streaming platform of MSNBC News Now, we also have a Snapchat show called Stay Tuned. It’s any NBC platform or any platform where you see NBC news. I contribute to that reporting, I should say.
It’s a little bit different every single day. Yeah, it’s a lot of plane, a lot of miles.
When there is breaking news and I’m one of the first people there, I’m in that first wave of reporters to cover this story then you’re doing everything you’re trying to find people who witnessed whatever happened. You’re trying to talk to them on camera. You want to make sure you get their phone number so you can stay in contact with them and they become sources later on. You’re reaching out to official sources. Sunday, for example, I flew in and I just sat down and had pre-planned interviews with voters that was a little bit more control. I went back to the hotel and put a note together so I can air it the next day.
You know when I’m covering a trial that’s less of talking to people like I talk to lawyers, I’m talking to lawyers a part of the trial, I’m talking to lawyers to contextualize what I’m seeing in the trial. You have to be flexible, you have to be ready to conduct an interview, you have to be ready to be badgering sources and calling them over and over until you get the answer to your question.
Cross: What was your transition graduating from Howard into the workspace where you were able to knock out stand ups and do things like that live?
Brewster: Yeah it was definitely a process and it was an unconventional process, I would say. I came in as a producer. I came in fully behind the scenes. I actually started at NBC as a fellow. It’s a Tim Russert fellowship, they call it a political journalism bootcamp.
My first job out of school, well in school and out of school, was an associate producer. Then I was on the campaign trail as a political reporter where I was shooting video, writing stories, I was constantly the contact between the campaign and the rest of my network. Then I moved to Chicago and was a general assignment producer in the Chicago Bureau and they said “This is a story we’re going to do. Can you produce it? We’re going to figure out the correspondent, can you just start producing? Find a location to go to, find people to talk to, maybe do some of the interviews because that person might be coming in last minute.” So I did all of that.
Done some on-air before when I was on the campaign trail I would go on every once in a while, maybe like once a month. I did it that next day and then it was “Well, do you have any other stories that you’ve been working on that you can just do? And every day before election day I was on air as a producer. And then went right back to producing and then as the 2020 presidential team was starting to be formed they said “We saw your work and we want to bring you on as a political reporter.”
I think COVID definitely fundamentally changed how we do our jobs. I mean there was a period of time where I was not traveling at all. They wanted us to drive and not fly or you try to talk to people and you couldn’t talk to them in an indoor location and you had to six feet apart and you both had to be masked. For a field where it’s about personal interaction, it’s about conversations. It made that aspect very hard. But then I mean on the flip side of it also made some people much more accessible. You can’t get that person in person, well maybe you can get them virtually and still include them in your story.
When I started on-air I was by no means the greatest reporter ever, I’m still not the greatest reporter ever. I was one that was extremely nervous going on-air. All my live shots I’m speaking at a mile a minute. You know how you get through that was repetition. You learn what works, you learn what doesn’t work, and that you learn what your crutch is and you wean your way off that crutch.
I needed to have a notepad and I needed to move around a little. That was when I was most comfortable. If I’m standing there reporting and just having to stare into the glass of the camera, that was just very uncomfortable. Let me get the camera off of me and that way I can look back down at my notepad, remember what these next points were, and by the time you come back to me I’ll know exactly what to say. MSNBC and my bosses, they absolutely loved it. How much are you doing? What are you doing? What can you show? Let me see that last project that you did and how you do improve that? How do you master a craft?
Cross: We’re glad you listened. Signing off, I’m Lily Cross, reporting for Spartan Newsroom.