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Alumna Builds Her Career Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes
Katie Kerbstat ’11 pursued her passion for media as a writer for The Quadrangle, and now works for one of television's most successful broadcasts.
At CBS 60 Minutesin Manhattan’s Broadcast Row, Katie Kerbstat ’11 is on the forefront of breaking news.
When she’s not researching a story or furiously fact-checking scripts on deadline, the broadcast associate and assistant to the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes is often spotted dodging traffic on 57th en route to a meeting in the adjacent CBS building.
Always at a sprint, the stakes are high when you’re working for one of the most successful broadcasts in television history. Renowned for accuracy, 60 Minutes reaches an average of 12 million viewers every week.
“There are no mistakes,” Kerbstat says. “Many of the stories I get to work on are breaking news and supposed to air that weekend. I’m always going as fast as I can, but accuracy is always paramount to speed.”
March 2013 marked Kerbstat’s first anniversary with the show. Poised, polished and professional, it’s hard to believe that just six years ago she arrived at Manhattan College — a volleyball recruit — without a clear direction.
Her future started coming into focus the first time she sat down with a Manhattan College admissions counselor who, noting Kerbstat’s experience as an editor of her high school newspaper, recommended she apply for The Quadrangle Scholarship.
One of the strengths of the communication program is that many of the classes are taught by adjunct faculty members who are working in the field.
“At that point I had no idea what I wanted out of my college experience,” Kerbstat says of her decision to apply. The QuadrangleScholarship annually awards $5,000 to 20 students to write, edit and manage the campus newspaper. “When I was selected, I thought, ‘Wow. I guess I could be good at this.’” This realization opened doors.
While she honed her writing and editorial skills during her four years at The Quadrangle, she says she benefitted from strong mentors in the classroom.
“One of the strengths of the communication program is that many of the classes are taught by adjunct faculty members who are working in the field,” Kerbstat says. One of them, Joe Lauria, U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, still keeps in touch.
She notes associate professor Thom Gencarelli, Ph.D., “was very kind and supportive — especially when it came to internships.”
From the Classroom to the Newsroom
As a sophomore, hungry for real-world experience, Kerbstat interned with Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. The experience was a fun foray into the world of broadcast journalism.
“I loved it, and it motivated me to see what the field of real news is like,” she says.
Kerbstat got her shot during the summer after her junior year, interning at the assignment desk at WCBS Channel 2. Quickly adapting to the fast-paced, high-stress atmosphere, it wasn’t long before she was given the chance to prove her talent and reliability as a professional. She was often out of the office to help with shoots for local breaking news stories.
A nod of confidence from her supervisor was a foot in the door at 60 Minutes, where she interned senior year. The place was right; the timing was not. Come graduation, she was offered a spot at CBS Local Digital Media.
Although she was happy to have a steady writing gig out of college, she wanted to get back into reporting. So in late 2011, after consulting with her contacts at 60 Minutes, Kerbstat made the bold move of leaving her staff job to do freelance work at CBS Radio News full time.
“I told my contacts at 60 Minutes that I wanted to leave my staff job and picked their brains about it,” Kerbstat says. “Everyone there couldn’t say enough about CBS Radio News and what it had to offer.”
Not only was the experience perfect preparation for the atmosphere of 60 Minutes but also her name was fresh in the producers’ minds when her current position opened up. And she already has her sights set on a producing role there.
“I love my job,” Kerbstat says. “I love being a part of the constant chatter. It’s cool just to see how the show is put together every single week.”