As someone who has been in the journalism field for about six years now, I understand how hard it can be to really make you stand out and be a one off in a competitive field of very talented people. One person in particular that has been able to do this in many facets of her career is Raina Seitel, who starred in Style Networks’ “City Girl Diaries” and is a mainstay over on WNBC’s awesome show “New York Live” a daily lifestyle program similar to Manhattan Digest, where they discuss the latest foodie finds, fashion trends, celebrity interviews and more.
Raina has had quite the illustrious career before her stint at New York Live, where she has also worked for some pretty major networks and shows including CNN and Good Morning America, to name a few. She has interviewed iconic people inside and out of Hollywood, including Meryl Streep, Madonna and Denzel Washington, just to name a few. On top of all of these amazing things, she is also a full time mom to an amazing son and an incredible cute Chihuahua, the latter I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of days ago. I got to sit down with the absolutely stunning and funny journalist, who told me all about how she began in this industry, best and most challenging moments, and that epic question of “Can women have it all?”
So how did you get your start in the journalism world?
Well, from the time I was a little girl, I never watched sitcoms or anything like that, I always preferred news. We only had one TV in my house, and on Sunday nights, my father and my brother wanted to watch “The Simpsons” (I’m really dating myself now), and I just wanted to watch the news. So, really it was kind of in my blood to be a journalist. My dad’s a writer; I always loved following the breaking news stories.
I got my start as a college intern at CNN in New York and then I also interned the following year at CNN in Los Angeles, and I lived in London and worked at a station there as well. So, I kind of knew that this was the path that I wanted to take, and once I graduated from college, I started at a small production company with a producer that I worked with at CNN, and then ultimately back to CNN as a producer, so I started behind the scenes at first.
What happened when you started working at CNN?
I did a show called “Pinnacle”, which was so fascinating. I got to write, produce and edit, I really got to understand the business very quickly. It was a half hour show, where we interviewed people who had reached the pinnacle of their careers. It was a great first job in television, because it had the chops of 60 Minutes, without the investigative piece. With a camera, we followed people over the course of a few months and really got to know them, then sat down with them for a one hour interview, and then we broke that down and made it into a half hour program. So everyone from presidents to fashion designers to movie directors, it was really the perfect entrée into the TV news world because we got to tell stories and meet some really fascinating people. For instance, I was sitting with Vera Wang in her bedroom and she sketched dresses, it was kind of a once in a lifetime thing.
That’s pretty amazing for your first job. What happened after “Pinnacle” ended?
So then, from CNN I went to “Good Morning America” where I was both on the air and producer, which was great because I did a ton of different features on a variety of different things. The hours were insane, but it was a great experience that I did for seven years, and then I started a media company, because I was having a baby and couldn’t be in a war zone or an edit room at five in the morning and breast feeding at the same time! So I had to make a life change, but I wanted to stay in TV, but not do the insane hours, so we partnered with NBC at that time and had a show called “Moms & The City”, which played on taxis and on TV. We also appeared in print as well.
So fast forward to where I am now. It was from that show that I parleyed into becoming a correspondent for “New York Live”, which has been wonderful and fascinating. We get to cover all the fun stuff that this city has to offer, and there is so much fun stuff here in New York. Everything from Broadway, to Fashion, to Beauty, to Entertainment/Red Carpets, to trend stories and lifestyle segments, you name it, we do it.
Just reading on your history, you have interviewed some monumental figures in and out of pop culture. Outside of Vera Wang, is there someone that really sticks out in your memory as your favorite?
You know what, there are so many moments, I get that question a lot, and there are so many moments that stand out to me for a variety of reasons. When I was at ABC, I did a piece on a man named Wally Bacon. Wally became Meredith, long before Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn. I flew to Nebraska in the dead of winter, I spent dinner and an evening with Wally, who was transitioning at the time, and his wife, and it was so meaningful to me as a journalist to be able to see, in their living room as we eat dinner, how impactful the transition was for him and his wife. And we talked about the process and sex and gender, it was a really deep and evolved conversation, and this was years before it became en vogue, a thing. It really struck me that I was so lucky to tell this person’s story, and to be able to empathize and make sure that people understood that everyone’s different, but there is so much love everywhere.
Another cool moment was interviewing Madonna, twice. I interview celebrities, and have been doing it since I was 19, and I don’t get nervous or feel like “What am I gonna say!” and get star-struck. With Madonna, however, my heart was racing and I wore the ponytail that she wore in the “Blond Ambition” tour, so I channeled that. I just wanted her to like me, and she couldn’t have been nicer. I think the best policy that I have is that I am authentic in my work and in my life, and I don’t know how to be any other way, so I said to her “This is such a monumental moment for me because I grew up with the bracelets and seeing you in concert and this is so amazing to me”, and she said “Well, you are doing such a good job and thank you so much”. She was just, so lovely, that was a very cool moment for me.
On the contrary, have you ever had a crazy moment in your journalism career with a celebrity or otherwise?
I do believe that most people we meet in the capacity in the process of interviewing them are really there and rise to the occasion, and they are always lovely. I come in with the notion that these people are just normal people who are there to do their job, and vice versa. There have been maybe a few instances where I see somebody, I’ll give you one person but I won’t say the name because I don’t think that would be fair, even though this isn’t such a criticism. I saw him in a role on Broadway, it was so fun and so crazy, and so “woo hoo!” like good energy. When I got to the theater to interview him, he was so serious. I was told no personal questions, a litany of what not to ask, which is not common, most people let us do our thing. Because we are here to tell a fun story, we aren’t here to interrogate them. I was shocked and a little taken aback, because I was just like “Wait a second! I just saw your character and he was so fun and so adorable!” This was a very serious actor, who wanted to be taken very seriously in person, so I kind of had to switch gears a bit. Ultimately, the interview came off fine, but I was thrown for a curve ball.
You are the mother to an eight year old son and a very cute Chihuahua. With everything you have going on with the jobs in your life; do you really think that women can proverbially “have it all”?
I don’t think women can have it all, I think that is a fallacy, and to put it out there is unfair to women everywhere. At the end of the day, it is really hard to do it all, and to do it all well. I think that just have to do the best that we can, and that is different for everybody, but I think that what I learned is that when I am working, I’m hyper focused on the job at hand, and when I am with my son, I’m hyper focused on him being my son. I do try and balance it, because for me, it is so important to be connected in both arenas, and the lucky part for me is that I get to take my son to work with me sometimes. He gets to see what I do and he gets to be in my segments, which is super fun, so I am blending work and life.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to get into the journalism career and be successful like you have?
My key thing in doing this job successfully is curiosity. That is, in my opinion, the most important quotient for a journalist is being curious. I just hosted a health and wellness panel out east in Long Island, and someone came up to me and said “I liked your style because you didn’t go from one question to the next. You listened what each person had to say and you followed up”. I think that being a good listener, and being curious, are two really important skills to have when you become a journalist. I think that reading a lot and knowing what is going on in the world is very important as well. The bottom line is, no matter what your career choice is, you have to work hard. You have to put in the hours and not complain.
We get a lot of interns, and the people who stand out are the ones who go out and get coffee for whoever wants it and stay late to write pieces that they can pitch to the producers. When I was an intern and living at my parents house during the summer, and I without fail would leave two in the morning at least three times a week, and this is before they paid interns. And guess what? The first job that I got out of college was with that producer after I graduated which then led me back to CNN where I started. It goes to show that if you show up with a positive attitude and your hard hat, and work really hard, you will absolutely succeed.
For more information Raina Seitel, check out her official site.