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Q&A With IRTS Fellow Ford Sanders

As part of his journey to becoming a news anchor after graduation, senior journalism and electronic media major Ford Sanders has gained experience with news stations on the local and national level. During his time as a UT student, he has worked with WVLT-TV and the UT Today program in Knoxville and with CBS’ New York City-based programs. 

Sanders was among an elite group of students who had the opportunity to be part of the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS) Fellowship Program, a prestigious program for 30 to 40 students from a nationwide pool of more than 1,000 applicants. The fellowship typically takes place in New York City each summer but was held remotely this year because of the pandemic. Participants have the opportunity to intern with some of the most notable media companies in the country, as well as gain valuable career experience before graduation.

CCI’s participation in the IRTS fellowship is made possible through a generous gift by CCI Honorary Board of Visitors Member Larry Patrick (MS/C&I ’73), who was honored as a 2019 Giant of Broadcasting and Electronic Arts. 

Sanders, who is graduating in December, is currently serving as a remote intern with the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.

What are your career goals?

My career goals are to be a main anchor in New York City for either a morning news program like GMA or to have my own primetime slot like World News Tonight. To do this, I plan to go the local route and work my way up as an anchor/reporter and eventually secure a spot in New York City.

What was your favorite part of studying abroad in Prague?

Last summer in 2019, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Prague. This experience was something I would not trade for the world, it was incredible. 

We worked with companies like the Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, the New York Times, and more. All of these in collaboration with UTK and TOL Education. The most important thing I learned here was to put yourself out there. It can be scary to talk to random people when you are somewhere with which you are unfamiliar, but it truly made for some of my best work. I recommend anyone thinking about doing this trip, TO DO IT!

What has interning with CBS been like?

This summer and fall I’ve been given the opportunity to intern with CBS News. Although it is remote, they still made it worthwhile for us. For the summer, I was with CBS News and we got to film and report our own packages and speak with major names at CBS. This fall, I am interning with the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell. I am in the research and reporting department, so I help make sure all information and scripts for Norah and the correspondents are completely accurate. It is such a helpful experience, and I am so excited to possibly keep going and growing with the ViacomCBS brand.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your fellowship with IRTS this past summer? What advice do you have for those wishing to apply to this elite program?

This summer, I was also given the opportunity to be a part of the International Radio and Television Society Fellowship. This fellowship is something I have wanted since my freshman year of school. I even went to NYC at 18, pretended I had a meeting with the president, and that’s how I got my name in the door for when I would finally be old enough. This fellowship introduced me to all of the C-Suite members of every major media company as well as anchors and correspondents there. The fellowship also gave me my own digital show called “FordSide Chats.” This is such a competitive program so my main advice is connecting with people like me or any others that have done the fellowship and get your name in the door.