Q&A with Robin Sindler ’94, Special Projects Producer, NBC Today
In this interview with the Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network (DEMAN), Robin Sindler ’94 offers advice for Duke students and alumni hoping to break into broadcast journalism. “At Duke, I learned not to be afraid to speak up and reach out to anyone, no matter who they are,” she shares.
Major: English / Certificate: Film
What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?
If my memory serves me correctly, when I was an undergrad, there weren’t many film production courses at Duke. A few of us worked with the head of film studies to create an independent study. In our senior year, about half a dozen students wrote, produced, and directed our own films which culminated in a screening. This was an incredible opportunity to learn by doing in an environment where it was okay to make mistakes. I think we were the first class to have this kind of experience. Beyond that, I think English classes helped hone the writing and critical thinking skills that I use every day.
How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?
When I graduated, Duke had no real pipeline for media and entertainment jobs beyond the names of a some grads in the field. It was tough to land my first gig and I only did it after months and months of persistence. At Duke, I learned not to be afraid to speak up and reach out to anyone, no matter who they are. It became clear from the first day I dropped by a professor’s office hours that most people will go out of their way to help. You just have to ask.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?
I knew I wanted to produce/direct in some capacity. I started as a booker in tabloid TV because it was the only job I could get. In time, I started producing human interest stories and loved it. I was writing, overseeing edits, and directing in the field. The Today show was the gold standard for me, and I spent a year leaving messages for one of the senior producers trying to get an interview. He finally passed along my name to human resources for a show he was developing and I was eventually hired at NBC.
What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?
Failure is never an option. Morning TV producers have to make it work and I’m surrounded by a unique breed of people who always manage to pull off the seemingly impossible. Questions like “can we close the Great Pyramid” or “can we go live as our anchor zip-lines across the alps” are the norm. Sometimes it’s exhausting to go against the grain, but in the end it’s always worth it. I love that I’ve been rewarded for pushing boundaries when coming up with creative ways to tell stories.
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?
Failure is the first step. People in this industry may not will call/email you back after the first few tries but it doesn’t mean they won’t eventually help you. Keep trying. Once you get in, offer to lend a hand to anyone and everyone and never think you are above any particular job or assignment.
Anything else to add?
I always say having a particular vision for how you want to tell a story is key. There will be dozens of reasons and people who may put up road blocks along the way but a good producer figures out how to navigate around them.
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