NBC News’ Morgan Radford shares candid insights with journalism students
The Greensboro native and national news correspondent made stops in five classes on Nov. 8 and participated in an hour-long chat with members of Elon News Network.
Hours before addressing Associate Professor Glenn Scott's "Journalism in a Free Society" class this week, NBC News correspondent Morgan Radford was on assignment in the Caribbean – specifically Antigua and Barbuda – broadcasting the region’s post-Hurricane Irma struggles to a national audience.
Her reporting and Twitter feed are filled with compelling accounts of triumph and tragedy in the storm’s aftermath.
But that’s not the story Radford came to share with Elon University communications majors during her Nov. 8 visit, which included stops in five classes as well as an hour-long chat with members of Elon News Network. Instead, the New York City-based correspondent discussed her path to NBC News, her reporting process, and the successes and disappointments she's encountered during her rise in the television news industry.
Radford arrived at Elon thanks to an invitation from journalism major Zach Hrinuk ’18, who interned at the “TODAY Show” in summer 2016 and arranged the 29-year-old reporter’s visit. Hrinuk, who graduates in January, announced earlier this month he will work on NBC's coverage of the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
In a candid conversation, Radford challenged the aspiring journalists in the McEwen classroom to remain hungry, noting the pace of network television reporting. “The reality is that everyone has a story to tell and, if you don’t tell it, someone else will,” Radford explained.
The Greensboro native and Harvard graduate recalled that she first envisioned herself practicing law until an internship at CNN in Atlanta made her reconsider. “It felt like it just fit,” she said of the newsroom.
However, her path into news reporting wasn’t always a straight line.
Radford was initially rejected from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and she spend a year teaching English in Durban, South Africa, as part of a Fulbright Fellowship. While abroad, she produced a short documentary – on an iPhone – featuring the individuals she encountered. In hindsight, the film was probably amateurish, Radford said, but it helped her garner a full scholarship to Columbia.
From there, she landed at ABC News in New York, served as an anchor/correspondent for Al Jazeera America, and joined NBC in 2015.
Today, she reports across all platforms of the network including the “TODAY Show,” “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and MSNBC. Radford has covered some of the most prominent stories in the country, including the 2016 presidential election, the San Bernardino massacre, and the heroin epidemic in West Virginia.
Radford shared her reporting process with the class, explaining her formula relies on three components – the three C’s, she called them. She said she strives to explain a subject’s challenge, detail the subject’s choice, and describe the issue’s conclusion.
Near the end of her talk, Radford was asked which stories have been most compelling for her personally. She noted that her coverage on New York City’s first-ever homeless Girl Scout troop certainly pulled at her heartstrings. Likewise, her report on an undocumented mother, the parent of a nine-year-old daughter, taking refuge in Connecticut church also weighed heavily on her. Radford was thankful to say her coverage helped lead to a temporary reprieve for the mother.
As for the rise of “fake news” claims, and individuals leery of media outlets, Radford noted that journalists have felt similar criticism for decades. But that’s just part of the being a good reporter.
“If you haven’t felt antagonism, you probably aren’t doing your job,” she said.