Never a Dull Moment

For this alumna, juggling breaking news is all in a day's work

By Daniel Walsch

“President Bush confirms domestic spying.”
“Millions affected by New York City transit strike.”
“Twenty killed in Miami plane crash.”

For most of us, processing even one of these major headlines is challenging enough. But for Janet Rodriguez, BA Communication ’90, understanding their significance and balancing them against other fast-breaking stories is all in a day’s work. In fact, not only does Rodriguez have to develop a thorough knowledge of the news of the day as a producer at Cable News Network’s (CNN) bureau in Washington, D.C., she also has to decide the best way these stories should be covered and ultimately reported to CNN’s millions of viewers.

“This is quite a challenge and one that I respect a great deal. Fortunately, I work with many outstanding professionals. These reporters and other producers are invaluable to our entire process. Each plays a key role and, for me, makes for an exciting team,” says Rodriguez, who celebrates her 10th anniversary at CNN in April.

Rodriguez, a native of Washington, D.C., is no stranger to dealing with the pressure of far-reaching stories, high-powered national and international figures, and uncompromising deadlines. She has covered a range of stories in her years as a journalist, including the Elian Gonzales custody battle, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Clinton’s impeachment trial, the controversial 2000 presidential election, the 9/11 attacks, the Columbia shuttle disaster, the Harry Potter craze, and Hurricane Katrina.

Rodriguez’s efforts have not gone unrecognized. In 2002, she was awarded a special certificate for her coverage of the 9/11 attacks by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In another honor, she was named in 2004 by The Hill as being one of the top 50 most beautiful people working on or around Capitol Hill.

Rodriguez, who at one time aspired to a career in community outreach or public relations, transferred to Mason in 1987 after completing two years of study at Northern Virginia Community College. Rodriguez singles out Cynthia Lont, professor of telecommunications and interim director of the Media Research Center at Mason, as being influential and helpful to her.

“Professor Lont was great. I found her to be very knowledgeable, of course, but also open and helpful in directing me toward a possible career in television,” she says. After completing internships with the public broadcasting station WETA and CNN En Espanol, Rodriguez set her sights on a career in broadcast journalism.

Rodriguez’s work days are nonstop and normally begin at 5:30 a.m. with an assessment of stories that appeared during the night, as well as ones that need to be pursued that day. Throughout the day, she works with other producers and a team of seven reporters. “We discuss the most effective ways to cover the stories and establish various deadlines for our programs throughout the day. It’s a constantly evolving process. Sometimes, depending upon the stories, we have to make quick decisions.”

At 3 p.m., her work day normally draws to a close. Off the clock, Rodriquez enjoys one of several hobbies, which include aerobics, weight training, photography, and jogging.

“I enjoy my career and my life outside of work,” she says. “I work with many outstanding people and have been fortunate to have learned from people I admire.”