When journalism major Fernando Hurtado received a phone call from a Chicago area code in April, he assumed it had to be someone calling from back home in the Windy City.
Hurtado never dreamed it would be producers of the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey talk show calling, offering him a golden opportunity to be Harvey’s Intern for a Day and to appear on an episode of the show, which aired on June 10.
“I freaked out,” said Hurtado, who was completely floored by his selection.
Hurtado learned about the opportunity while working at Annenberg Television News (ATVN), where he serves as a Web supervisor. Since Hurtado is also the director of video content at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s digital news outlet Neon Tommy, he had no trouble creating an impressive video submission, but he said he almost didn’t apply due to concerns over missing school and work to fly to Chicago.
Fortunately, he decided to give the application a shot and sent producers a 40-second video clip explaining why he wanted the gig.
“I am extremely attentive to detail,” Hurtado said in his application video. “And I can make mean fajitas and lasagna.”
Nonstop duties from dawn to dusk
Impressed producers said that in addition to Hurtado’s application, videos created by other USC students were among the strongest they received.
After getting the good news, Hurtado was flown to the WMAQ-TV studios in Chicago, where his day was a flurry of nonstop activity from early morning until late in the evening.
“Steve Harvey was already taping his radio show at 6 a.m., and I spent basically the whole day with him,” Hurtado said. “I was doing everything from making a special green smoothie he drinks every morning to making calls for a gala he was organizing to helping proofread his book before it even hits the printing press.”
In addition to assisting with the radio show, Hurtado also got to see to two live tapings of the talk show, all while being filmed himself. For Hurtado, working alongside Harvey for the day only reaffirmed his determination to pursue his goals and dreams.
“I expected to just walk out with Mr. Harvey to the show, but he put his hand on my shoulder and started giving me advice and telling me that I have to chase my dreams, and if you really want something you have to work toward it,” Hurtado said. “And he’s a perfect example of that.”
A surprising reward
As the son of Mexican immigrants, Hurtado is a first-generation college student. He works three jobs along with being a full-time student during the school year.
“I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from college, so that definitely drives me,” Hurtado said. “I strive to be the best that I can be.”
Although his busy schedule can be stressful, Hurtado is highly motivated to work as much as possible to gain journalism experience and to help pay for his education. Hurtado was stunned when Harvey surprised him during the taping with $5,000 toward his college expenses.
“I was so surprised,” Hurtado said. “And I’m so grateful. It helps a ton to have that money for school.”
Hurtado credits his education and experiences at USC Annenberg with helping him secure the internship and allowing him to so quickly acclimate to his whirlwind day.
“Because of Annenberg, I had the knowledge of how to be professional in that kind of environment, and I knew how live shows worked because of ATVN,” he said. “Annenberg really prepares us in a professional way so we know how to behave as more than just students.”
As if Hurtado’s opportunity was not impressive enough, he’s returned to Chicago for the summer to intern at the Chicago Tribune, where he’ll be working on the Spanish-language newspaper Hoy as well as the Tribune’s multimedia website and recently launched newscast.
“Annenberg has opened tons of doors for me, and this is an even bigger door that has opened,” he said. “I’m not surprised at all about the cool opportunities that my friends and classmates have this summer because it’s just an Annenberg thing.”