Launching a career in uncertain times

Alec Petraske
Alec Petraske ’20

Alec Petraske ’20, a dual major in television, radio and film (TRF) and political science, graduated from the Newhouse School at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a student here, Alec gained production experience working as a technical director and head comedy writer at Orange Television Network (OTN). Despite the challenges of lockdown, Petraske managed to use his college production experience to get an internship that became a job, and he now works at Fox News Media as an associate producer.

We sat down with Petraske to talk about what it was like trying to launch a career during a global crisis.

Tell us about your background. 

I graduated from Newhouse and Maxwell with a degree in TRF and political science, but a large majority of my background comes from [the] political satire that I did at OTN. I was involved with the start of “Live from Studio B.” I was one of the original staff writers at that show, which is not political satire; it’s just a typical late night comedy talk show. I got started with that my freshman year, then I became head writer for the remaining three years of college. I knew that wasn’t the direct path right after college, just because getting into comedy is extremely difficult, but that led me to an internship… [and] I was able to swing my way over to a job currently at Fox News Media.

What was it like to get that first job out of college? And how did SU help get that job during the pandemic?

SU definitely gave me the tools necessary to market myself. I feel like SU gave me a lot of networking tools, [but the] tangible skills that you can use within whatever field you go into [are] mainly taught by your employer. You learn while you’re on the job. I’m now an associate producer. I’m currently working tech; I’m gathering videos, gathering data and information to put on screen as well as pitching editorial content. I feel like a lot of the work that I was doing as a technical director [at OTN] helped prepare me for that. A lot of my credentials as a comedy writer and working in writers’ rooms gave me the confidence to be able to pitch ideas and be able to work with a team of people and creating a single live product at the end of the day.

What was it like starting your career in a pandemic?

I was in Los Angeles [when I graduated]. I had a job lined up at a comedy talent management company. They had a reception position opening up [but] then the pandemic hit, and nobody needed a receptionist anymore. So, I started my career at a Target, where I did 4 a.m. shifts and then continued networking after getting home. I ended up applying to an online internship that was absolutely free, where I was using the skills that I had learned at OTN to put on a live show every week for a guy’s comedy network. This all culminated with [the position I have now.]

Where would you like to go next in your career?

Right now I’m at a position that most people would have fought to be at. While I would love for my career to move in a direction towards comedy, my current career goals are to gain experience in television, especially live production, and work my way up to a standard producer role, which is what I’m doing right now.

Benjamin Schiller is a sophomore in broadcast and digital journalism.