With Father's Day approaching on June 19th I thought it would be relevant and meaningful to interview Jeff Rossen. He is a correspondent for NBC News and he is regularly on The Today Show, MSNBC and NBC Nightly News. He covers a wide variety of topics ranging from Charlie Sheen to the Phoebe Prince bullying case. He has two daughters and is a devoted dad. He is extremely smart and has his priorities straight when it comes to work and family. Recently, I caught up with him and his adorable 5-year-old daughter, Skyler, to discuss how he makes it work.
Jordana Zizmor: Do you ever say no to an assignment?
Jeff Rossen: No, I can't remember the last time that I said no to an assignment.
JZ: You are everywhere. You were reporting from the highway on Memorial Day, Friday. You even make traffic interesting.
JR: Thanks. That's always my goal. On the stories you can have fun, you should have fun. You can always tell stories in a way that people want to listen.
JZ: Do you have a motto?
JR: I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I'm still awake and working when they go to sleep. I believe if you work hard and are passionate about something you become good at it and make it happen.
JZ: Did you think Charlie Sheen would be such a breakout story?
JR: I knew getting Charlie Sheen would be big. There was huge interest in him. Ever since the episode at the Plaza Hotel I have been working on it. I had been talking to his people almost every day since October. I happened to be in Los Angeles and I met with them in person and we built up a trust. I explained that I just wanted to meet him so he could meet me, and if he ever did want to sit down for an interview it would be with us. They ran it by Charlie and they said to come by the set of Two and a Half Men. I went to the taping and we met in his trailer afterwards. After the meeting, we ended up texting each other and talking on the phone and just getting background on the stories I covered. Then, when things started going south, we made the push and we got a meeting with him, then an interview. I knew getting him would be a big deal. The story was very much a part of the zeitgeist. At the time, I didn't know it would turn into something as big as it did.
JZ: What's your dream job? Do you want to be an anchor?
JR: I love doing what I'm doing right now. The thing that's so great about media right now is there are a million different ways to communicate with people. There is everything from The Today Show and cable news to iPad apps. My goal is to be in as many places as I can and reach as many people as I can. The walls between being a correspondent and host have broken down and we can all do everything. That's what I love about The Today Show. One day you are singing to Journey for Meredith's going away, and another you are talking about a serious story. The variety is great.
JZ: Between Twitter and the never-ending news cycle, do you find it hard to turn off?
JR: My wife's biggest complaint is not that I'm not home, but it's when I am home that I have to be more engaged. I love what I do, so it's very hard to shut down. I don't see it as work.
JZ: Did you always know you wanted to be in media?
JR: When I was 12 years old I was walking in a mall on Long Island with my mom. There was a radio station doing a live broadcast. Here was this guy sitting at a table speaking and people were listening. Right then I knew I wanted to do that. I ended up calling all these radio stations trying to get internships. No one would give me an internship because I was 12. I finally got a college radio station to take me on and my dad would drive me on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.
JZ: What's your routine every day?
JR: When I'm on the show I'm up at 5:15 and in the office at 6 a.m. The piece that you see was actually prepared the day and night before. I'm in the studio to introduce it and wrap it live. Then, by 10:30 a.m. we're already having meetings about the next day.
JZ: What advice do you have for dads who are trying to find the balance between work and family life?
JR: The balance is incredibly difficult. The balance is, no matter what's going on, sometimes you have to drop everything and remember what's important. Family is what's important. At the end of the day, it's your family that will be there for you. When the stories are all done and you are cast aside, your family will be there for you. I have to constantly remind myself of that, because it's very easy to get caught up in this. I need to take my own advice more often.