Christine McGrath ’03CPS felt a deep connection to St. John’s University before arriving as an undergraduate. Her parents met while students there; her grandparents lived blocks away from the Queens, NY, campus; and her aunt and cousin graduated from St. John’s.
“There’s a lot of family history there,” she recently said.
A Digital Executive Producer for News 12 Networks, the St. James, NY, native has worked there since 2004, producing and editing digital content since its inception. In 2020, she won a New York Emmy® for her work on a series that allowed viewers to vote for their favorite restaurant, gym, school, or other entity. She also won an Edward R. Murrow Regional Award for a News 12 series entitled The New Normal, as well as numerous Press Club of Long Island awards.
She has possessed a strong passion for writing since high school that has significantly impacted her career path. “I often joke that I fell into this job,” Ms. McGrath observed, recalling that digital news production was in its nascent stages when she graduated from St. John’s, where she was a member of WRED-TV and The Torch. “Now you can major in digital media.”
Ms. McGrath noted retired Associate Professor of Communications Antoinette Durso as a particularly positive influence. “She was my advisor and always had great insights about the business.”
While at St. John’s, Ms. McGrath interned in the writing departments of Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, which gave her excellent preparation for working in real-world settings with tight deadlines. “In today’s news business, the deadline is five minutes ago,” she joked.
Graduating a semester early, she worked at a small public relations firm in Port Jefferson, NY, while blanketing the area with résumés. News 12 was searching for a freelance digital writer and hired Ms. McGrath before making her a full-time producer within three months.
“Everything I learned about this work I learned here at News 12,” she said.
When Ms. McGrath started, she was required to write four stories a day for their website. “Now, I think we write four stories in 20 minutes because everything is on our phone.” While she has worked exclusively on the digital side of News 12, Ms. McGrath stressed that within the last few years digital has become heavily integrated with the television side of the operation.
In 2008, she was promoted to Managing Editor, coordinating with producers, assignment desks, executive producers, and reporters from the seven regional News 12 stations, on news stories, breaking news, live streams, and other original content for the web.
In 2021, she was promoted to her current role, which included similar responsibilities to her prior position, as well as building and implementing strategic plans for web pages dedicated to special series, which have all increased page views and user experience.
Ms. McGrath’s great love for writing has expanded well beyond the confines of News 12. She often freelances for sites such as Brides of Long Island, Upfront, and Mommy Poppins.
A typical workday for Ms. McGrath begins at 6 a.m. Her team begins writing stories (all of which she will edit) to provide web content that supports stories appearing on the morning telecast. She also handles all alerts for morning breaking news, as well as several administrative tasks.
Throughout her career, technology has always been a constant challenge, Ms. McGrath noted. Whether it’s keeping current with the latest content management software (CMS), or news delivery mechanisms such as Facebook, Instagram, or the News 12 app, she must always remain vigilant for any down time or breakdown.
“In the next few months, we’re getting a new CMS,” she said. “I think I’ve had six since I started.”
Flexibility is key to a successful career in the news business, Ms. McGrath stressed, adding that she learned that both at St. John’s and during her internships. “We work weekends, holidays, etc. You can’t hope that a snowstorm will come at noon on a Wednesday. It always happens on a weekend, and we tell people it’s all hands on deck.”
During the pandemic she quickly pivoted to working remotely, which, while challenging, proved to be an efficient way to deliver content.
“St. John’s did a great job not only in preparing me for the real world, but in helping me mature,” Ms. McGrath observed. “I was a sheltered kid from the suburbs, and I wanted to have that New York City experience, while still being just an hour or so from home. I grew up a lot there.”