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On the TV comedy 30 Rock, character Kenneth Parcells is an NBC page who answers the phone, gives tours of network headquarters, makes copies, and remains forever optimistic amid the ensuing mania caused by the production of a live TV show.
The show may be fictional but its portrayal of what it's like to be a page at NBC Universal isn't so far-fetched, according to Brooke Nevils ’07, who worked for a year in that role soon after graduating with a double major in political science and the Writing Seminars.
Consider her first week of working on The Today Show. Nevils was charged with greeting guests and getting them to the set in time for their interview. It wasn't easy. She had injured her leg in a waterskiing accident, and her leg brace made it difficult to quickly escort people through the three-story studio. She persevered. Then one morning Robert De Niro arrived, and his manager told Nevils he had left his wallet in their cab. "I can't leave Bobby," he told her. "You gotta get it back for me." There are roughly 12,800 taxicabs on the streets of New York City, but after making a flurry of phone calls, Nevils not only found the cab, she found the wallet and returned it to its owner. All before lunch.
Now an associate researcher who produces segments for the weekend edition of The Today Show, she laughs when she recalls her start at the network. "It was crazy," says Nevils, 25, who is in the company of such former NBC pages as Ted Koppel, Michael Eisner, and Regis Philbin. "My first week at The Today Show, I was taking Vicodin for my leg and getting up at 3:30 a.m. to get to work. It was certainly the last place in the world I saw myself getting a job. But it worked out."
After her page job ended in February 2009, Nevils took a 10-month post as personal assistant to Today Show host Meredith Vieira. She fetched lunch and ran errands, but she also had the opportunity to gather research for Vieira and observe her preparing for interviews. "It was a great learning experience," Nevils says. The perks were pretty good, too. She met most of the players in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign and celebrities including George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Barbra Streisand.
Her current job as a producer has her working 60 hours a week, pitching stories on a wide variety of topics, doing research, finding guests, and packaging the three- to five-minute segments to run on the show. "You never know what you're going to be doing, ever," says Nevils. The week after the earthquake in Haiti, she worked round the clock finding stories that would bring the tragedy home to viewers. One piece she produced chronicled the experiences of two U.S. college students who had been missing in Haiti--and their safe journey home.
Unlike print journalists, Nevils doesn't get a byline for her work. Instead her name flashes across the television screen just once after the last broadcast of the year. She doesn't mind. "At the end of the day what's most important to me is that my work gets seen and that it makes a difference to the people who watch it--that it informs them, makes them laugh, or gives them something to talk about with their moms."
“At the end of the day what’s most important to me is that my work gets seen and that it makes a difference
to the people who watch it.”
—Brooke Nevils ’07