You’re Hired! Four Ailes Apprentice Program Graduates Accept Permanent Positions with Fox
Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone talks with Mauricio Muñoz, Randall Payton, Shivan Sarna and Danaia Williams, graduates of the Ailes Apprentice Program Class of 2015.
The eleventh class of Ailes Apprentice Program graduates is an eclectic group. Mauricio Muñoz is a U.S. Army veteran. Randall Payton started his career as an intern for ABC’s “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Shivan Sarna, who has lived in New Delhi and Shanghai, is fluent in Hindi and has an intermediate proficiency in Mandarin. And Danaia Williams’ passion for radio led to an internship with Sirius XM and WSOU Pirate Radio.
Established in 2003 by Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News (FNC) and Fox Business Network (FBN), The Ailes Apprentice Program is a 12-month course designed to promote diversity within broadcast and cable journalism. Each year a select group of four individuals is given the opportunity to learn everything they need to know about working in a news studio, from how to have an on-air presence to working a teleprompter. Throughout their time at FNC, the apprentices are mentored by key executives within Fox as well as external patrons and top industry professionals, with the chance to earn a full-time position within the network.
“We are very proud of our 2015 Ailes Apprentice graduates,” says Ailes. “Their hard work and dedication has been an important contribution to the ongoing success of the program, which continues to champion diversity in the media industry.”
Each of this year’s graduates has accepted, in a permanent, full-time capacity, the positions they held throughout the apprenticeship. Mauricio Muñoz works in Technical Operations with both FNC and FBN. Randall Payton is a junior web video producer. Shivan Sarna is a production assistant with FNC, and Danaia Williams is assistant to Alan Colmes, Fox News Radio.
Opportunist: Congratulations! What an exciting time this must be for each of you. As you look back on your apprenticeship, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the past year?
Mauricio Muñoz: The biggest highlight of my apprenticeship was attending the Excellence in Journalism conference in Orlando last September. I had the opportunity to network and learn from journalists around the country, plus I also had the opportunity of interviewing the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro. Interviewing the secretary of H.U.D. was a huge deal for me.
Randall Payton: There have been many highlights over this past year as an Ailes Apprentice. One in particular that stands out was my interview with legendary Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Emmy award winner Ms. Rita Moreno. She was vibrant, warm and personable. I felt honored to be able to sit down and talk with her as she shared her knowledge and wisdom on a career that has spanned over 60 years.
Shivan Sarna: The highlight of the apprenticeship was traveling to San Francisco for the Asian American Journalists Association. The opportunity to represent Fox News was a moment of pride for me. In addition to meeting new people and representing the company, I interviewed people who are pushing boundaries in the realm of media and diversity.
Danaia Williams: Seeing the look on my parents’ faces as I received my award and realizing all that I accomplished.
Opportunist: Who or what inspired your journalism career, and how did your background prepare you for this opportunity with Fox?
Mauricio Muñoz: As a graduate in cinema and television my desire to be involved in media has always been a calling. Film school certainly prepared me for the technical side of news production. After my enlistment in the military I got involved with a mentorship program from a private organization called A.C.P. (American Corporate Partners). This organization partners military veterans with a mentor in the industry they’re pursuing. It was there where I met David Winstrom, the director of Fox News Edge, and I attribute his encouragement and advice for my involvement in journalism.
Randall Payton: Journalism has always been a passion of mine. Every aspect of production from shooting to producing is a very creative driven process. This idea that all of these elements come together to tell a story is fascinating.
Shivan Sarna: I aspire to be a foreign correspondent, and my time living in New Delhi, India, forged my passion for world news. My diverse perspective—I grew up in New York, lived in India, studied abroad in China—prepared me for the apprenticeship.
Danaia Williams: Working at my college radio station definitely helped my passion for journalism and radio grow. I probably wouldn’t have pursued journalism if I hadn’t had such a good experience learning about radio and the news.
Opportunist: What were some of the most important lessons you learned from this apprenticeship?
Mauricio Muñoz: One of the biggest lessons I learned is to not be afraid to take risks. As part of the Ailes Apprentice Program being in front of the camera is a requirement. Learning to produce news packages requires that you put yourself in as talent and that was nerve-racking for me. I learned though, that when I put myself out there and stepped out of my comfort zone it helped me learn not only the practical aesthetic of how to produce video packages, but also to understand and realize what real-life talent needs to make a good news package. Taking risks helps put you in front of the rest because it shows that you’re willing to take initiative and think outside the box, which in television goes a long way.
Randall Payton: I’ve learned the importance of setting goals and meeting deadlines. News is a very punctuality driven industry, where sometimes mere seconds can make the difference in an edge over our competitors. Being an Ailes Apprentice has helped me become more steady and focused in meeting deadlines.
Shivan Sarna: I learned that the program—like many things in life—depends on how much effort and hard work you’re willing to put in.
Danaia Williams: Never be afraid to ask for help and never be afraid to try new things.
Opportunist: How has the experience changed you personally and/or professionally?
Mauricio Muñoz: The experience of the Ailes Apprenticeship has changed me to see what it takes to be truly successful. The apprenticeship held many seminars throughout the year and they were hosted by successful and powerful leaders from various industries. Their insights, wisdom, practical advice and lessons inspired me to work even harder and each of them also reminded us that giving back to the community in any way is not only the right thing to do, but helps you be a better person as well.
Randall Payton: I have grown tremendously over this past year, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I have had an opportunity to spread my wings throughout the company and learn from some of the brightest minds in the industry. At the same time, I was also building lasting relationships with people I can call friends for life … a family.
Shivan Sarna: The program has given me the crucial confidence to continue to forge my passion for journalism. In any industry, I believe self-confidence, sincerity, and people skills will take you far.
Danaia Williams: This experience has definitely made me more comfortable with myself, professionally and personally, because it has helped stifle a lot of my self-doubt and criticisms.
Opportunist: What do you consider your most significant achievement over the past year?
Mauricio Muñoz: Every apprentice during the program is paired with a mentor that works within the company. I was paired with veteran journalist Pamela Browne. I worked with her closely and her documentary team to produce five hour-long specials for the year. Documentaries are one of my favorite mediums to tell stories. It was exciting to work on these specials and see them come together for broadcast all within my time in the program.
Randall Payton: It’s hard to culminate all of the experiences I’ve had over the past year down to just one moment, but if I had to choose I’d say graduating from the Ailes Apprentice Program. It was both an honor and a privilege to see friends, family and coworkers rally and come together in light of your accomplishments.
Shivan Sarna: I enjoyed interviewing people and shooting stand-ups. The program provided me with the resources to work on my on-camera presence. I produced stories on big events like New York Fashion Week and the U.S. Open.
Danaia Williams: Becoming more comfortable with myself personally and professionally.
Opportunist: What do you enjoy most about your current position at Fox?
Mauricio Muñoz: The fact that Fox allows you to cross-train is what I most enjoy about working here. My current positions at the company now are teleprompting and stage managing. I enjoy these positions because it helps give me a big view on how an hour news show is put together. As a teleprompter in the control room, I get to see the producers and director navigate a live show and I get to learn how it all works on the back-end. As a stage manager I get to see what a live show in the studio is like as well. I work hand in hand with the director and the anchor of that particular show and that can be challenging, but is definitely satisfying also.
Randall Payton: What I enjoy most about my current position here at Fox News is the unlimited potential in the digital space. As a web video producer, we are essentially responsible with helping continue the conversation from TV to the web. It’s a part of our industry that is constantly growing and I’m excited to see where it goes next.
Shivan Sarna: I currently work as a production assistant for daytime programming, where I find and cut video for air. I enjoy the thrill of working in a team to produce live programming every day.
Danaia Williams: Booking interviews with people of various professional and personal backgrounds.
Opportunist: What advice would you give aspiring journalists?
Mauricio Muñoz: My advice for future journalists is to be ready at a moment’s notice. You never know when the call comes in to start working on a major news channel or publication, and when it does you have to be ready to rock and roll as I like to say. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. As your career is beginning there are always going to be questions and challenges, but asking for help will never limit you, but only help make you a better journalist.
Randall Payton: My advice to aspiring journalists is to stay persistent in all your endeavors. As a young professional, you’ll come across many roadblocks. How you navigate that course will ultimately determine how you grow both personally and professionally.
Shivan Sarna: Hone your communication and team-building skills, because they are vital to day-to-day success in the newsroom.
Danaia Williams: Never give up and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know something.
Opportunist: What are your long-term career goals?
Mauricio Muñoz: As I stated before, I did graduate from film school so, hopefully, one day I get to write, direct or produce a feature film. I’m not greedy; as long as I get to do one of the above that is fine with me. We’ll see what the crystal ball holds, but that is still my long-term goal.
Randall Payton: One of the best things about working here at Fox News is that there is an abundance of opportunity to spread your wings around the company, which allows you to constantly challenge yourself both personally and professionally. Right now, I’m focused on continuing my career development and skills as a young professional. Eventually, I’d like to climb the corporate ladder.
Shivan Sarna: My long-term career goal is to tell compelling stories as a foreign correspondent on underreported stories that may include humanitarian causes that represent our inner emotions. I want to tell call-to-action stories. Topics I have covered for places I’ve worked before have been on refugees and child trafficking in India.
Danaia Williams: Producing for television.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer, editor and journalist with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides between Florida and Michigan. Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lescstone.
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