Sophie Tatum speaks about path to CNN reporting job

When CNN politics reporter and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumna Sophie Tatum first came to UNL, she wasn’t majoring in journalism — she was in a completely different college. Tatum was turned off from journalism because of a negative experience in high school.

“I didn’t even get a good enough grade to apply to the high school newspaper,” Tatum said.

Tatum spoke at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications on Thursday, March 29 as part of the Seline Lecture Series, which brings an annual speaker to the college, and CoJMC’s J-Days event.

Tatum, a 2015 UNL graduate, focused her talk on the experiences that led to her current job at CNN.

Tatum came to UNL with no clear path on what to do with her life. In fact, all the times she changed her majors and minors caused her to stay a semester later than she originally planned.

“My schedule probably gave many professors and advisors many headaches,” Tatum said.

Tatum eventually settled on journalism and broadcasting. After her sophomore year, Tatum applied for her internship for the CNN show “Anderson Cooper 360.” Tatum got an interview but didn’t get the job. While she said she was disappointed, she didn’t let that setback stop her.

Tatum went back to her hometown of Chicago, where she got a job working promotions for the radio station WLS. Promotions wasn’t what Tatum wanting to be doing, but she stuck with it. Tatum networked throughout her time there, which led to her being able to help with the station’s news team.

She then returned to Nebraska for another year, where she worked on projects like the Nebraksa News Service and for organizations like The Daily Nebraskan and 90.3 KRNU.

The next summer proved to be fruitful, as Tatum got her dream internship working on “Anderson Cooper 360.” Her success on this internship got her foot in the door at CNN, and lead to an internship offer during the school year.

Tatum ended up working her way to being a digital publisher at CNN Politics, which she said proved to be a challenge. However, it taught her an important life lesson.

“You’re maybe not going to be great at your first job, and that’s OK,” Tatum said.

Tatum now works as a reporter for CNN, covering events like the 2016 presidential election and daily breaking news for the news organization.

She attributes her success at the job to her love for learning.

“I get paid to actually learn everyday, it’s an amazing thing,” Tatum said.

Tatum said she brings that attitude to the newsroom every day and focuses on reporting the facts. She said she does read the comments on her articles or on social media. Even when the comments aren’t positive, she still appreciates the feedback as long as it’s factually correct.

While Tatum’s college career wasn’t the smoothest, she said going to UNL was a great decision.

While her schedule can get chaotic, with Tatum working strange hours, she still loves her current job at CNN.

“I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do,” Tatum said.

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