From NPTV to NBC; alumna Emilie Ikeda shares about career path at her alma mater


Mr. Gilmer

Emilie Ikeda returned to NPHS to have an open Q&A with her former teacher, Mr. Berger.

TOWAMENCIN – Mr. Kyle Berger has helped many North Penn students over the years in NPTV’s career study program. For class of 2012 graduate, Emilie Ikeda, this program greatly affected her and gave her the tools she needed to get to where she is today.

On Wednesday, Ikeda came back to North Penn to speak to current students in the broadcasting and journalism classes. Ikeda highlighted how she continues to use skills she learned in high school in her career now as a correspondent for NBC News.

“I’m not sure if I’m in the minority on this, but I really liked high school and I loved the experience. I do remember I was really busy. I like to stay busy. I played field hockey and lacrosse here under Coach Willis. Those were big aspects of my life. Also, I was in the NPTV career study program, so I devoted a lot of hours of my day to it. Whether it be covering a sports game or maybe we’re at the less glamorous stuff like a council meeting of some sort. A lot of hours in that same room down the hall. Mr. Berger’s class was a really pivotal class and that’s actually why I’m here today. We’ve recently reconnected because of one of the assignments in his class, which I just used in a Today show piece,” Ikeda explained.

One of the points Ikeda stressed to the students was to use everything you do in high school to your advantage and complete projects with lots of thought. Ikeda talked about how one project in Mr. Berger’s class helped her create a piece that is very meaningful to her and her family.

“It was an interview I did with my grandfather more than 10 years ago and it ended up playing a really important and meaningful role in this story coverage I did on Japanese Americans. It’s funny how something like that from more than 10 years ago can kind of recirculate, and come back into play. We really do treasure it as kind of a gem in my family because he’s since passed. I think sometimes those school assignments that transcend just what’s on the paper can be a whole lot more meaningful than you realize at first glance,” Ikeda said.

Ikeda’s love for journalism and broadcasting did not only start in Mr Berger’s class while attending North Penn. Ever since she was little, she had been dreaming of a career like she has now.

“I think I was fortunate in that I always knew what I wanted to do was something in the world of journalism. From a very young age, even while attending Nash Elementary School, I knew. I remember in sixth grade, I gunned for the position of announcing the school buses because that was the closest thing to journalism at the time. So yeah, I feel really privileged in that I’ve always had a clear understanding of what I wanted to do and that has carried me through,” Ikeda explained.

By knowing what she wanted to do at such a young age, Ikeda was able to turn to her family for support. She explained the importance of having people around you that will help you through whatever is going on in your life.

“I think that even to this day, I struggle with that kind of negative internal self-talk. And you’ll be surprised, especially in a business that is before the public eye, how there’s just an endless source of negative voices. I think growing up, I just felt so fortunate in that there were a lot of people that believed in me along the way and helped me realize this commitment to myself. I think it was my mom that first suggested I should look into journalism when I was really, really young because I would just be glued to the TV watching Oprah Winfrey. I’m not sure how relevant she is to you guys today. She was a big deal when I was growing up. And I think that belief in yourself is something that I’m always working on and continuing to build self-confidence. But it certainly helps when you have a village of people around you who also believe that you can do it in such a competitive, sometimes negative environment,” Ikeda said.

Along with a possible negative environment, getting a job in the broadcasting industry is very difficult. The competitiveness was something that Ikeda needed to beat to get to where she is today.

“There are a lot of people applying for not a lot of jobs,” Ikeda said, “I think I applied to, well, I know I applied to at least dozens. I’m even wondering if it neared a hundred different local news stations. It was a lot. I applied more than six months out from graduating college. It’s just kind of building those relationships with internships leading up to that point. But I had this spreadsheet I remember of all sorts of places from all over the country. If I was in a town or a city visiting a friend or family member, oftentimes I would look to see if they had a local news station, especially if it was in a smaller city. I’d reach out to the news director before I even graduated college and I’d be like, ‘hey, I’m in town. I’d love to meet up.’ I did that in Hawaii before. It was a vigorous process and demanding process. You face a lot of rejection, but I think that all you need is that one ‘yes’ and then your foot’s in the door.”

Her perseverance led her all the way to getting a job with NBC. Her day-to-day life with NBC is very different from her life with past new stations and NPTV.

“People ask me this a lot and I don’t think I really have a day in the life because every day is so incredibly different. My phone can go off in the middle of the night and I’ll get a call, or maybe it’s at 4:00 AM, or maybe I’m in the middle of developing a story at 30 Rock in New York and they’re like, no, you gotta get on a plane and go to this city right now. Things change quite a bit,” Ikeda detailed, “The correspondents are the people you’re seeing out in the field and the snowstorm at the fire. There’s a bit more traveling involved in that regard. I would say sometimes I have easy days where I’m just catching up on expenses that accrue from all of the travel, or making calls to develop a story, or trying to set up interviews. Or it’s a day where I’m up at 4:00 AM for the Today Show covering one thing, and then I’m assigned a different story for Nightly News, which airs at 6:30 PM and then I’m on the Today Show the next day. So when you’re done with that shift at 7:00 PM, I start writing my spot for the next morning, and then I’m up again.”

Even though day-to-day life of an NBC correspondent can be hard, Ikeda continues to strive for greatness in the field. Her passion for broadcasting and journalism help her through the rigorous work week and frequent changes.

“The job definitely requires a passion in particular because of the hours and the flexibility that it requires. That’s something that you find across the board, especially where I am right now, that everyone is really interested in telling the most interesting story in the best way possible, in the clearest way possible. We share that passion and you kind of have to have it if you’re in it for that number of hours,” Ikeda detailed.

Ikeda’s success in the world of journalism and broadcasting will forever be important to North Penn and NPTV students.