Alumni Profile: Danielle Gillis

July 22, 2019

Danielle Gillis graduated from the University of Maryland with her Bachelor’s degree in both English and Journalism and a minor in Black Women’s Studies. She currently works as an associate producer for WJZ-TV, the local CBS news station in Baltimore.

In this interview, she shares her experience of having an English degree. She also offers some advice for English majors.

How did your English major lead to your current position?

I double majored in English and Journalism, and right now now I am an associate producer for WJZ-TV, the local CBS news station in Baltimore. While it may seem that my journalism degree is more relevant, I feel I use both areas of knowledge every day. A big part of my job is reading and writing. Majoring in English helped me show that I not only knew how to read and absorb material, but that I could write news articles about those topics quickly and accurately for both broadcast television and online.
What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

Being an English major taught me how to write in a way everyone understands, and how to communicate the same concept in different ways. For example, the same story may be airing on the morning show and the 4 p.m. show. However, it is vital that I am able to communicate the important aspects of the story while making changes that still engage an audience who may already be aware of the issue at hand. You also have people of various demographics watching your channel. Local news is something that everyone watches so that they can stay informed and connected with their community. It is important to know how to use your words to reach out and have everyone feel included and relevant. My English major taught me different styles of writing so that I am able to do that. 

What is a typical work day like for you?

My work day is very different from most people. Since I work for a morning show that starts at 4:30 a.m., I’m at work by 1 a.m. and leave at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. Since my producer decides which stories will be in the show, my job is to write the copy for the anchors to read on air. I also instruct the video editors on what video I want for each story so that the images enhance the words the anchors are reading and help draw in viewers. After the show starts I switch from television to online. I write print articles and begin our social media presence for the day. I write any new stories that break overnight or in the morning, as well as pick the video to accompany the articles. It’s very important to have a strong social media presence first thing in the morning because it helps you stay relevant all day and compete with other stations in your area.
Do you have any advice for current English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

One thing I learned as an English major is that the degree can take you anywhere. Being able to absorb information and communicate said information to other people is an invaluable skill no matter what job you have. Many people believe that English majors can only be teachers or authors. I know that’s not true from my experience, as well as that of my peers. I would encourage English majors to not let their major limit them. English is a subject that you can mold into your dreams. Find something you are passionate about and figure out how this degree can enhance your experience. Make the degree fit you. Don’t let it limit you. 

This interview was conducted by Octavia Hutson. Octavia is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland.