Malia Carothers, 23, is making her way into the world of journalism as a news producer working for WMC Action News 5 in Memphis. Carothers joined the broadcast journalism department in college and graduated from the University of Mississippi.
Since college, Carothers has worked as an associate producer for WTVA News and is now one of Channel 5 News’ producers. She lived in Mississippi all her life before moving to Memphis.
Q: What made you want to pursue a career in broadcast journalism?
A: I was in the yearbook club in high school. I’ve always been a media person. What convinced me to go to the broadcast program at Ole Miss was that I went to a Future Farmers of America (convention). . . I did it at nationals with one of my projects. They had a sit-down at this thing to air for one of their channels, or something. I said to myself “I like it”, so I decided to do journalism. And honestly, I only heard of two colleges at the time that offered journalism, and that was Mississippi State and Ole Miss, and between the two, Ole Miss had the best program.
Q: How did you become a producer. Was it always in your plans to be a producer for news channels?
A: Well, honestly (it’s) a fun story about how I’m a producer now. I just stumbled into this place. I’m not going to lie to you; I just fell into it. So when I tell people no one believes me, it’s like they’re saying, “You’re lying, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. But I asked Dean Jennifer Simmons of the Ole Miss School of Journalism if she knew of any video production internships because we need internships for our program. I needed an internship, and she thought I was talking about news production, which wasn’t what I meant. I love editing, and I love documentaries and things of that nature, so I was looking for a video production internship, and I got in touch with Dean Debora Wenger. She told me about a production internship with WTVA. I was interviewed for the spot, and based on the writing test I took for WTVA for my internship, they asked me if I’d like to be an associate producer instead of doing an internship, and I I replied, “Yeah, sure. Why wouldn’t I want to do this?
Q: Do you think being African American has any effect on your work ethic? Do you feel compelled to work harder because you are African American?
A: No, I don’t. I work for Action News 5 in Memphis, and there are a lot of black people working here. I don’t feel pressured by the color of my skin. My work ethic speaks for itself.
Q: How do you choose your stories? Do you bring diversity to the stories?
A: Yes, I have always enjoyed being around different people. (It) made me a better producer. It helps me stay grounded and neutral in telling the story. I’ve always talked and hung out with different kinds of diverse people. So I believe being open and diverse helps me incorporate that into my stories. It all depends on what you know and how well you can relate to certain stories that make it a hit.
Q: How do you think your productions have improved the quality of Action News 5 TV station?
A: Yes, I’m a critical and creative person when it comes to design, so I brought in different visuals for our section. I also rework the flow of the news for the television news. At first the station was rated at three, and now it’s at six, so I doubled the ratings. So I feel like I’m making a difference because I’m bringing in a lot of visuals, which is a big part of it. After all, your audience doesn’t want to see the same things over and over again.
Q: What kind of experience do you have with the latest or newest news formatting software?
A: At Channel 5 we use software called ENPS. It is updated regularly and we normally do not make any changes to it. The station uses it and I don’t need to make any changes. So it’s a learned experience, and that doesn’t change. Each station or store has different software.
Q: What kind of changes can you make to the scripts to improve the quality of your new shows?
A: Creative writing. The biggest challenge I have right now is creative writing. My writing is good, but for it to reach higher I think I need to be a bit better at my creative writing to keep my newscast going soaring and getting better – playing on words and grabbing people’s attention with your words, instead of just visuals.
Q: Why do you think the News Producer role at Action 5 is right for you?
A: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the right fit for me, but I love what I do. As I said, the job fell to my knees, so I decided to work hard and equip myself with this skill to get a job. I decided to continue working in production because I never really cared about going out and reporting for one. I mean, I will, but I (would rather) be behind the scenes. Another reason is that you don’t make a lot of money declaring. So it matches the skills I have and what I want to do. I chose production because I like to control things, so as a producer you have that kind of control, and that suits me better than reporting. I guess I like telling people what to do instead of doing it.
Q: As a producer, did you direct any stories that were stressful or affected your life in some way?
A: No, not really. But only because I don’t think I’m the kind of person who gets impacted or affected by things. I think that’s how I grew up. Most things don’t change my emotional state. Others do, but it doesn’t stress or affect me.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Well, my contract is for two years with Action 5. It will end next year – 2022. I don’t plan to stay. I’ve lived in Oxford all my life, and Memphis is just a hop and a hop from Oxford, so I’m planning on moving. I want to discover other places and I want to go beyond Memphis. I don’t plan on continuing to produce, but I would still like to be a regular producer if I do. I am currently completing my masters in marketing communications and want to get into marketing to become a business consultant to help people grow their business. Being a producer gives me the means to be ready for my future career in business. I want to be the best me.
Q: Do you have any advice for future journalism students who want to become directors?
A: Honestly, it was God who landed me here. That’s all I can say. And even though I don’t like the job, I believe it’s my will – my will to do my best and work hard, that got me to where I am now. I always strive to improve myself even if I don’t like the job, and I will do my best to be the best. My main point is that you have to be a journalist first. When it comes to writing a story, whether you’re a journalist or a producer, I feel like you should never focus on trends. If you want to be in this field, talk to more people, meet more people, it will help you be more diverse and write. You must learn to write because you will need experience.
This story was written by student Nikki Marzette.
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