Research often involves current information. But sometimes historical background is required–a look back in time–with the help of an archive. In her role as Information Specialist, Natalie Savits never knows which type of research she will be doing day-to-day or hour-by-hour.
Research for television news programming
Working for one of LAC Group’s clients in media and entertainment, Natalie’s next assignment might be details needed for a breaking news story, or background information for entertainment programming. Her first priority is customer service, responding to the requests of the journalists and production staff who need her research help. Some of them are very good at research themselves, recommending sources and giving her specific direction. Others need guidance.
“Usually I am asked to confirm something or to find some specific information the requestor has in mind,” says Natalie. “Though in the process, I may end up finding a missing angle or uncovering some data that was overlooked. It’s always rewarding when you can contribute something extra.”
Some research projects are straightforward fact-finding exercises. Archival research requires more digging, especially when the information dates far back in time or the topic is obscure. The sources could be old news stories from the client’s own archive, or coverage that was done by other news organizations. In the course of her work, Natalie has had to search genealogy databases, newspaper archives and other historical archives.
More publishers are expanding their archives and making them available to the public, either openly or behind a paywall. And more historical documents and records are being digitized and made available online. Still, some records are not available at all or they exist as a physical record in a specific location, which takes additional time and expense to attain access.
Typical work day at a media conglomerate
For Natalie and her peers, a typical day begins with requests coming in through their phone and email. The most common requests are for information on people—people who are currently in the news, public figures or celebrities. When Prince George was born, for example, there was tremendous interest in how the new royal baby would be raised compared to the royal family’s preparations for the birth of Prince William. This type of historical request involved using print and digital archival material, including video, photos, transcripts, and newspaper and magazine articles.
Requests for legal, business, and public records data often come Natalie’s way. These types of requests may also include the need for background research. Reporting on a current court case, for example, often involves a deep dive into court records to determine case details that might not be covered elsewhere.
With daily and weekly programs to produce and stories to cover, Natalie’s deadlines come fast and furious. Priority is given first to breaking news, otherwise requests are handled as closings and deadlines dictate. With a team of several information specialists, some assignments are shared among the group while others are assigned to a specific individual. “If someone has already covered a particular news story or has experience with certain topics or resources, a related assignment might go to that person.”
Who would like this kind of research work
When asked what she likes most about her work, Natalie says,
“I enjoy unraveling mysteries, the gathering of clues. Sometimes the twists and turns lead to dead ends, which can be frustrating, but it’s great when you find that missing link. And I love the variety. Each research project is something new, and I learn so much along the way. Discovery is always exciting.”
Her education and past work experience helped prepare her for the work and attracted the attention of LAC Group recruiters and hiring managers. Natalie holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and a BA in history from Brandeis University. She worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, providing interlibrary loan services for museum staff and other academic institutions, and the Boston Herald daily newspaper where she worked as a reference librarian.
Her individual skills and interests also help her do her job more effectively and creatively. She never expected to tap into her math skills, but when a news story needs some quantitative context, the ability to apply mathematics has helped Natalie communicate and clarify the data for reporting purposes. Another helpful skill is her knowledge of social media networks, especially when doing research on people.
“You gain insights and nuances about people by learning about their personal background and their connections. Plus it’s a useful tool for verifying the identities of people with a common name.”
Natalie’s interest in film has also been invaluable. “One of my co-workers and I are both film buffs, so when a request is for information about an actor or director or other movie-related info, we often brainstorm together or get called on for help.”
When you work in television news and entertainment programming, every day brings something new to discover, whether it’s historical archives, public records or popular culture. And that suits Natalie Savits just fine.