Roy Wood Jr. (right) discusses his career and gives media advice during an interview hosted by student journalist Raul Flores (left). The Snapper / Shaun Lucas
Over Spring Break 2022, members of The Snapper attended the Spring National College Media Convention in New York City. The conference featured lectures and workshops hosted by media experts, providing networking and learning opportunities for college media students across the country. On the conference’s first day, keynote speaker Roy Wood Jr., interviewed by New Mexico State University student journalist Raul Flores, discussed the importance of young media workers creating their own opportunities.
Comedian, writer, and producer Wood is currently a correspondent for “The Daily Show” and a regular guest on talk shows such as “Conan” and “SportsNation.” He also appeared on programs such as “Better Call Saul” and “Sullivan and Son.”
Wood has an extensive history in multiple forms of media; he began his career performing stand up comedy on the weekends and during summers while earning his degree from Florida A&M University. Within this time, he also worked at local radio stations, creating his own opportunities by finding areas the stations could improve upon, such as finding a local station which had no news coverage. Wood’s proactive attitude carried into his advice to student journalists.
“If you can show up, show up on their ass so they can say no to your face,” Wood said. He explained that even with a knack for finding new positions, he made sure to do what his boss asked him to do well, even if it did not interest him. Completing these tasks led to his bosses giving Wood more freedom in his own projects.
When asked by a convention attendee how to balance many projects, Wood Jr. jokes that someone “has to be insane,” clarifying that the 20s are the time to “grind” and set up for a career. In another comment, Wood admits he has experienced burnout, and reminds students it is important to give yourself a break and do things they enjoy.
Wood’s central advice is for college students to surround themselves with highly motivated people, or finding one’s pack of “wolves.” He continues the analogy by describing that wolves follow their goals by rotating the pack leader, relating this to how friends should motivate each other through hardships.
During the harsher stages of the pandemic, Wood started his podcast, “Roy’s Job Fair,” featuring guests of varied backgrounds talking about their occupations. One episode he mentions features an advocacy worker for the legalization of marijuna, who lost his job in the pandemic and took this opportunity to become a gospel singer, totally reinventing himself.
“Employment is a beautiful connector,” Wood said, explaining that the universality of having a job allowed for unique guests while still maintaining the program’s brand. Having his own podcast also allows him to feature off-beat stories that regular news programs and talk shows do not have time for.
With his background, Wood discussed the importance of interesting presentations in journalism, noting how pitching stories in the newsroom has become, “what is the best way to package this [information] in a way that people understand?” He mentions that technology changes communication, and elements as simple as an audiogram add depth to stories.
“As one medium decays, another emerges,” Wood said.
In working talk shows, Wood noted the importance of comedy in serious topics. He explained that humor does not come from the tragedies, but the “ludicrousy” of the events leading up to them. Yet Wood believes people should be given space to deal with situations emotionally, as comedy shows should still be a place where viewers can “feel that everything is going to be alright.”
He carries this discussion to the importance of balancing heaviness in news presentation, and finding approachable ways to present serious topics. One specific application he mentions is in discussing race inequalities, saying one should “trojan horse” race stories into more broad issues, only to subtly reveal why the issues are race-specific. Wood notes that this technique is effective when the race-related story pitch gets rejected.
Having done podcast and talk show work, Wood gave attendees advice on interviewing, recommending to find questions that guests have not been asked in previous interviews.
“Have nothing but questions that keep people perked up,” Wood said. He explains that asking unique questions earns the respect of the interviewee and makes your content stand out.
He ended the interview with reinstating the importance of surrounding yourself with motivated peers, along with the importance of navigating fear of failure. Wood mentions that media workers should be motivated even when faced with doubts from others.
“Acknowledge what people are going through and don’t be dismissive,” Wood said. The crowd of media students, after laughing through the hour and 20 minute lecture, sent off Wood with roaring applause.
More information on Wood’s upcoming projects and performances can be found at roywoodjr.com.