~ By Taylor Blaire Mosher, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities; photos courtesy of Ashley Taylor
We caught up with Fresno State Media, Communications and Journalism alumna, Ashley Taylor, for a Q&A. Taylor graduated from the MCJ Department in 2004 with an emphasis in print journalism and a minor in music. She was also a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College and met her husband, Anthony Taylor, a music education major, while they were both students at Fresno State.
Three years after completing her undergraduate work at Fresno State, she went on to become a news producer for KMPH here in the Valley. After moving to New York City in the fall of 2013, Taylor is now a news producer for Fox News Edge, a distribution service of footage and reports for Fox affiliates’ news broadcasts. Anthony is the senior creative services manager for WHOSAY, a creative influence marketing agency. Their son Archie (pictured with them) was born in July 2015.
Question: What is your favorite Fresno State memory?
Answer: I have too many of them! I love Fresno State in the fall — when the leaves are changing, and I’d be walking across the area by the Music Building at the end of a long (late) day, and inevitably some trumpet player is practicing outside — (he/she will say it’s because the acoustics are better but really, we all know they are not practicing anything they sound bad on), and it’s calm and lovely. I loved all-night Smittcamp study sessions. I loved the busy days and the long rehearsals and seeing my byline for the first time in The Collegian. Rather than having one favorite memory, my time there has blended into some sort of nostalgic picture of the whole thing, and it’s fantastic.
Q: Any particular professors that left an especially lasting impact?
A: What’s funny about this question is that the person who probably had the biggest impact on my career wasn’t a professor at the time, but she is now! Kim Stephens was my anchor at KMPH for seven years, and the lessons I learned from her are immeasurable. I’m actually really jealous of the students who get to learn from her every day in class, because the “lessons” I had from her came in the form of frantic planning meetings between shows when we’d look over scripts and she’d make changes and I’d take notes on why she was making changes.
In the Music Department, the two that stick out in my head the most are Prof. Helene Joseph-Weil and Dr. Anna Hamre. Both are legends in their own right, but for me, they were the perfect example of strong, amazing leaders who also happened to be women. They set my standard for the way I’ve continued to study — even now when I look for a teacher, I look for some version of the two of them. It’s what I trust.
Q: Why did you choose to study both music and journalism?
A: I think the easiest answer to this is because I could. I came to Fresno State interested in a lot of things, and I didn’t see any reason to limit myself to just one path. These were two things I really enjoyed. I was good at them, and I wanted to get better, so I did.
I also feel like, for a lot of us overachievers, when you start college, you’re used to being really busy. You were probably already juggling a million extracurriculars when you were in high school. I was actually wondering about having too much time on my hands getting to college, so I fixed that fairly quickly.
Q: How have you used your music education in your career, if at all?
A: Oh, constantly. I feel like people love to point to the arts as an example of something that doesn’t have much application elsewhere, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
First, the confidence you gain going through a program like the Fresno State Music Department is invaluable for any career, but especially something like news. You have to show up every day and make no apologies. You have to know how to report on any given thing. And yeah, sometimes it’s nice to know, even in the back of my head, that I can sing a Mozart aria if I needed to. Now, I’ve never needed to, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
But on a more practical point, having a high level of knowledge in a field outside the “norm” is invaluable in this industry. Stories need covering, and to do them well, you need to know more than what’s just inside the press release. My music education and my interest in the field means I’m going to follow the theatre scene religiously. And when I’m interviewing an actor, say at the junket for the Tony nominations, I can bring more to the table than just, “So, how does it feel to be nominated?”
Q: What was your first experience with broadcast news/news production?
A: Bizarrely, it was when I was hired at KMPH, three years after graduation. At Fresno State, I was a print major and had never actually taken a class in broadcast. (I went with photojournalism for my elective class instead, and I must say, my Instagram feed is still benefiting from that). There was an opening, I applied, and the executive producer took a chance on me, even though I didn’t know what words like “vosot” [voiceover-to-sound] and “two-shot” meant. I promised her I was a fast learner, and she believed me.
Q: What was your career path — how did you make the transition from student to NYC news producer?
A: All over the place, then fairly direct. Right out of college, I was the corporate sales rep for Borders (Remember that bookstore? Sigh.). Then I was an office tech for the State of California for a few years, and then I was hired at KMPH. At that point in my life, I was looking for a change — I didn’t know if I would like TV news, but I was looking to try something different to shake things up a bit. So I took a job as the overnight assignment editor, because it was a way to learn the industry, and eventually start writing.
From there, I started to write an occasional script for the morning show, and I realized fairly quickly that I wanted to be producing. I worked my way up to the midday news producer, then finally to one of the morning producers, which is exactly what I wanted to be doing. A few years into that, I found out Fox was hiring, so I applied, and was hired as a writer on “Fox & Friends.” Six months later, a producer position opened up in my current department — I applied, got the job, and here I am.
Q: Can you give us some resume highlights?
A: I was nominated for an Emmy for my work on Great Day at KMPH, which was rad.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working as a news producer?
A: I love that it’s a consistent routine where everything changes day to day. In short, it appeals to my type A personality, but it’s definitely never boring.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to students trying to pursue a career in news production?
A: Learn as much as you can, constantly. Say yes to everything. Try new things; get out of your comfort zone. The more you know how to do, the more valuable you are, period.
Q: What would you tell students considering an MCJ major at Fresno State?
A: Know that the skills you will learn will be invaluable, period. Go into your media writing class guns blazing. Sit at the front. Ask questions. That class will be the basis for everything you do for the rest of your life — in or out of the industry. It’ll mean when you sit down to write an important email, you won’t freak out. It’ll mean when you’re up against a hard deadline, you’ll know how to bang out some words. There will be other classes to be lazy about. Media writing is not that class. Show up every day. Ignore the people who roll their eyes when you ask a question. You’re not there for them. Master that class, and you’re set.
Q: What would you tell students considering a music major at Fresno State?
A: DO IT. Lean into it. Learn as much as possible. Practice as much as possible. Practice the hard stuff you hate doing first. THEN practice the stuff you sound good on.
This is a very specific piece of advice, but if you’re in the voice program, on your first time slot with the accompanist, have her/him play an accompanist track of your Vaccai [the book “Practical Method of Italian Singing” by Nicola Vaccai]. Then, every time you go to practice, warm up, then do Vaccai, then work on whatever hard piece of music you need to get through. I still warm up with Vaccai. Trust.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: OK, here’s the thing. Do not assume that people who work in New York got here because they’re inherently somehow “better” or “special” compared to everyone else. We work really hard here. I’m assuming you work hard, or you wouldn’t be pursuing this career. If you work ridiculously hard, and you’re smart, and you want to be really, really good at what you do, you’re in the club.
Apply for jobs you don’t think you’ll get. Then apply again. And again. I hear all the time, “Oh, I could never…” Why? Because you don’t actually want to, or because you don’t think you can? If it’s the latter, let that go.
Yes, I am good at what I do. This is not a job for everybody. But when I think about how scared I was when I first applied — that I wouldn’t be able to hack it out here because I was working in Market 51 and I thought no one would have even heard of Fresno and …(insert a billion excuses here)… I want to just give that girl a hug, then grab her shoulders and say, “Kid, you’re going to be just fine, and it’s going to be so great.”