Emma Bowen Foundation: You were an intern at 60 Minutes, which you said was a very special place to work. Tell us about your role there.
Jordan Salama: Shows like 60 Minutes are rare in TV news, given the amount of time that producers have to report and research their stories, and I loved that. Given the intensive research process, being a producer at 60 Minutes seems to me like being a professor—except instead of teaching a class, your audience is much, much larger. I appreciated the wide variety of work and the diverse range of subjects that the different stories covered. Everyone at 60 Minutes is a generalist, and it was fascinating to see how a producer can at the same time be working on a hard-hitting political story and an adventurous feature in a faraway place.
EBF: You said you felt intimated at CBS early on because you didn’t have a formal communications or journalism background. But, you started a TV show at Princeton! You also said your background in Latin American studies posed a unique opportunity for you at CBS. Can you talk about that?
JS: When I started the internship at CBS, I thought I would be at a disadvantage because everyone around me seemed to come from such specialized journalism programs. However, Princeton has given me incredible opportunities during my time here, and I quickly realized that those opportunities could allow me to stand out.
When I was a freshman, I started a television show called Princeton Tonight, serving as its showrunner until the end of my junior year. It’s a variety show with monthly episodes airing on YouTube and on central New Jersey public television stations, run by a team of more than 50 student writers, producers, actors and business staffers. We also have a live events side to the organization, which has hosted concerts, masterclasses, comedy shows, and moderated discussions for the Princeton community featuring guests including Art Garfunkel and Cecily Strong. Building that organization from the ground up, every step of the way, has given me valuable skills that I will take with me to any future job.
Another opportunity at Princeton for which I’ve been incredibly grateful has been the chance to travel abroad, particularly to Latin America, to do research. My family is from Argentina, so I’ve been able to use my ability to speak Spanish to do fieldwork throughout the continent: Argentina, Cuba, Panama, Bolivia, and especially Colombia. My senior thesis is a nonfiction story based on travels along the Magdalena River, Colombia’s most important river, which was also the center of the country’s armed conflict for several decades. Nonfiction writing has become a true passion of mine. Something I noticed at 60 Minutes, and more generally across the industry, is that there aren’t many people doing stories about Latin America these days, so I’ve realized I can bring that diverse perspective and research experience to the table.
EBF: It sounds like 60 Minutes took you out of your comfort zone, because you also mentioned having a particular interest in feature stories.
JS: Being at 60 Minutes took me out of my comfort zone because I hadn’t ever worked in a newsroom environment before. I’m mainly interested in feature stories, leaning more toward features and profiles that teach you about new places and people—but I’m open to learning about everything, and that was why 60 Minutes was so incredible.
I got the sense this summer that the current political climate is taking away space for other kinds of stories. The attention span of the audience is not there right now. But that is how news cycles work, so it’ll be up to me to be able to adapt and figure out how I can find my place.
EBF: How did EBF prepare you for the real world?
JS: EBF made it possible for me to get the job [at 60 Minutes] in the first place, and for that I will be forever grateful. It was an incredibly valuable experience. There’s something really special about EBF. They’re always motivating you, willing to provide you with the tools and connections that make success possible.
EBF: What advice do you have for other students working toward careers in journalism and media?
JS: One of the most important qualities I’ve found helpful is an ability to make connections with people, to be sociable. In order to create those valuable connections, you have to have the ability to communicate with people professionally but in also a personal way. And being on the lookout for new ideas is always important. Always be curious.