As she walked in, her bubbly energy instantly lit up the room.
CSN Bay Area News reporter and anchor, Fallon Smith, spoke at Las Positas College Feb. 24 and gave students the chance to get some insight on what its really like being in the field of journalism.
“Getting into the business was a whole different beast”, says Smith.
Fresh out of college, Smith said she was quickly faced with the reality of what it takes to make it in the business. She soon realized that her work in school had hardly prepared her for the real world. She knew she’d have to start from the bottom, and grind to make it to the top.
Smith has always had a passion for sports.
“I was the boy my dad never had,” she said of her childhood.
Smith said she has considered herself just one of the guys her whole life. While this was a big advantage for the career she was working toward, she said she still had to prove that she was more than just a pretty face. Smith had to prove her credibility.
She admits that it’s not an even playing field. Some are going to have to work harder to prove themselves than others.
“You have to work for it and want to work for it,” Smith said.
Her first gig was in Wyoming, where she worked as what they call a one-man band – operating a camera while doing interviews and editing her own stories.
Suddenly being thrown into all these new things, Smith said she had to learn to allow herself to fail through trial and error, soaking up the experience that she had missed out on in college.
As both a woman and a minority living in Wyoming, she said she experienced a culture shock like never before.
“I was naive to think that racism didn’t still exist,” Smith said. After receiving some hate mail, she said she learned to grow thick skin and not get discouraged.
“Don’t try to be like anybody else.” she said. “Find what it is that makes you stand out and use it to your advantage.”
When her colleagues around her were winning awards and she was still going unnoticed, Smith said her drive only grew stronger. She focused on the vision and kept taking steps in the right direction.
Her hard work paid off when, in 2011, she became the first woman in Wyo. broadcasting history to win the Anchor/Reporter of the Year award.
After exactly three years and three months, Smith was offered a job in Knoxville, Tenn. Then, thanks to an aggressive agent, an opportunity came about at Comcast Network in the Bay Area, her hometown. The producer thought of her when selecting someone to cover the Oakland Raiders. Smith, a lifelong fan, says that she was in the right place at the right time.
Her hard work paid off again when recently, she became an Emmy Award winner for a 30-minute documentary she made. Smith said that while winning the award was extremely humbling, the most rewarding part of the job is being able to tell stories that inspire others.
She said the journalism industry isn’t just glitz, glam and being able to follow a prompt. It takes hard work and dedication to get to the top. Anyone can read stats, but Smith explained that you have to show how you make it different.
“If you have the passion to do it, you’re willing to put in the work and you can be true to your unique self, you will succeed,” Smith said.
Corrected on Mar. 2, 2016