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Meredith Wohl '17

After Meredith Wohl '17 graduated with a degree in both communication and history, she packed up and headed off to Washington, D.C., to work for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) as a genderal audience publicity coordinator. Learn about her role and her journey to get there. 

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Can you describe your job responsibilities?

I am a part of the corporate communications team at PBS national headquarters, and I help facilitate the promotion of PBS’s national programming. My responsibilities range from coordinating materials with show producers from our 350 member stations across the country, managing the PBS press website, serving as the point of contact for national shows, organizing our annual budget, writing backgrounders for PBS executives, event planning, writing show listings and promotional copy, posting press releases, and screening new shows for our digital platforms before they air on television. My list of responsibilities evolves every day, as I grow into this role and engage further with our large team.

What is your typical day at work?

When I walk into our office every morning, I encounter massive, life-sized stuffed Sesame Street characters, cut-outs of Downton Abbey characters, colorful promotional posters from old campaigns, and so many friendly coworkers. My daily schedule almost always includes collaborative meetings with other teams, like PBS Digital, PBS executives, social media, and other production groups. Around those meetings, I update program pages on our press room website, which is how entertainment reporters watch our content to write about before episodes air, maintaining our budget through filing invoices, and collaborating with the corporate communications team to make sure are promotional campaign planning is timely and effective. Most recently, I worked on the event planning, promotional campaign, and PBS executive preparation for Ken Burns’s newest documentary, THE VIETNAM WAR. We planned screenings and panels all over D.C. and New York featuring folks like John Kerry, John McCain, author Tim O’Brien, and interviewees from the film. Working on this program was some of the most captivating, engaging, and exciting work I’ve ever done.

How did your degree help prepare you in your current role?

This job meets my two degrees in the middle of my academic passions; being at PBS allows me to flex the muscles I gained through my strategic campaigns courses in the Communication department while also using my passion for and knowledge of history to inform the ways in which I engage with promotional materials for a lot of our shows. PBS is known for its educational propensity to engage viewers with programs that are both entertaining and informative, and so I feel as though I use the skills I learned at CofC and in my internships on a daily basis in this position. In particular, my experience writing my Bachelor’s thesis in History in Dr. Scott Poole’s “20th Century Popular Culture” capstone and serving as the Student Director of the Bully Pulpit Series in my communication capstone with Dr. Amanda Ruth-McSwain provided me with a stocked professional toolbox – I learned to think objectively, remain constantly inquisitive, and to pursue challenges as an opportunity to grow. Thinking like a historian in public relations is helpful, because as Ken Burns often quotes Mark Twain, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Understanding and knowing historical and professional precedents are crucial in the broadcasting realm. Another experience I had while at CofC that prepared me for this position was my work as a reporter and photographer through the years as a staff member of several student publications. All four years, I travelled the country as a credentialed reporter and photographer to music festivals and concerts, covering events like SXSW, Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Hangout Music Festival, Buku Music + Arts Festival, and more. These experiences allowed me to engage with publicists, large scale news organizations, and reporters from around the country, who gave me incredible advice on how to navigate this industry and improve my work as we bumped elbows in photo pits and concert halls. Using this work to use the skills I learned through my Communication courses bolstered my knowledge and made it all the more applicable to my work in the field.

Why did you decide to attend the College of Charleston and pursue degrees in communication and history?

I trekked from my small hometown in Wisconsin to Charleston with a dream of pursuing a degree in History to study the divisive nature of the American Civil War in the city where the conflict began. Having the privilege to study the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Civil Rights Movement in a city so drenched in historical sites and documents was invaluable to my path on the History track, and made it a lot easier to make meaningful connections between what I was learning in the classroom and the socio-political environment of the Holy City.

I found my passion for broadcast communications my first semester of college at CofC’s student-run radio station, CisternYard Radio. I spent my first three years at the College serving as the General Manager of the internet station and Chair of CisternYard Media, where I fell in love with this dynamic facet of journalism. In my Communication major and Political Science minor, I selected a concentration in political campaign rhetoric and the history of American journalism to explore the strategies employed by presidential candidates and reporters throughout our nation’s history. The combination of these disciplines provides a different lens to my approach to reporting and public relations.

What drew you to PBS?

After serving as a Production Assistant on South Carolina Public Radio’s summer show, “Spoleto Today,” with arts management professor Jeannette Guinn, I became infatuated with the idea of working in public media. Providing high quality, educational, and entertaining content to the American people for free seemed like such a necessity for all people in our country, and I wanted to be a part of providing that service to the American people at some capacity. Additionally, I spent the past two summers living and working in Washington, D.C., and I knew that I wanted to pursue positions in the District following graduation. In the summer of 2015, I worked as a tour guide throughout all of the major monuments on the National Mall and other sites around downtown, and in 2016, I interned with the American Trucking Association’s weekly newspaper, Transport Topics while studying at the Institute of Political Journalism at George Washington University through The Fund for American Studies. All of these experiences led me looking for positions in media organizations that could provide professional mentorship, a fast-paced environment, and the ability to contribute to meaningfully relevant programming for national audiences. This position at PBS is the perfect fit for both my existing professional experience in broadcasting and communications while also providing me the necessary space to grow in the role. My love for history, politics, and music all meet in harmony at PBS, as those topics are the central themes of much of their national programming. PBS is an organization that inspires, educates, and engages most of the country with their content, and to be a part of that mission makes me profoundly proud.

What advice would you offer students interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?

While the College does not have a journalism program, it does have a thriving and bustling student journalism scene. Join any and all publications on campus to practice writing in many different styles for all kinds of diverse audiences. Try your hand at photography, videography, or illustration to set your skills portfolio apart from your peers. Investigate opportunities to podcast or to explore non-traditional journalistic ventures on your own, with friends, or at local radio stations like CisternYard Radio or WOHM Radio 96.3 FM. In this field, it is not enough to just be a talented writer or photographer; you must present a vast array of skills that allow you to work efficiently, independently, and to fill in skill gaps in collaborative environments. Once you’ve begun to collect bylines and experience, create a website or online portfolio to share your skills with potential employers, family, and friends. Building this portfolio as early as possible will only make it easier to sell your talent down the road! Finally, engage with the CofC community in as many ways as possible. Join clubs and organizations that allow you to engage with the campus and local community in productive, fun, and potentially fruitful ways. Building your web of contacts through your peers is an excellent way to start developing your network.