Student enjoys 'exhilarating' internship opportunity at CNN

Hillary Silverman (left) with host Erin Burnett on the set of "Erin Burnett OutFront" in New York City. Credit: Photo ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

This is the 18th in a series of articles about summer internships for students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During high school in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Hillary Silverman randomly decided to sign up for an elective to write for her school newspaper.

“I really fell in love with journalism from that class,” said Silverman.

When looking for colleges to attend, Silverman knew she wanted a change of scenery from Florida. She had heard great things about the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, and knew some peers from her high school that had gone to Penn State and loved it.

Fast forward to the summer before her senior year at Penn State, which Silverman spent interning for CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” The hourlong primetime show, which airs at 7 p.m. weeknights, was the perfect fit for Silverman.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Silverman. “As someone who wants to go into the political side of reporting, I feel like it’s a match made in heaven. There is always something to talk about and always something going on. There’s never a dull moment.”

Silverman wasn’t always into politics, but she really started to get interested during the 2016 election. Her goal in the future, she said, is to help people understand politics and be informed about how it affects their lives.

Interning for the show gave her a behind-the-scenes look at people who do that at the highest level. She met reporters from The Washington Post, The New York Times and more. In addition, she met the faces of CNN like Anderson Cooper, as well as guests on the show, including John Paul DeJoria, James Gagliano and David Gergen.

“It’s exhilarating. I loved every second that I was there,” said Silverman. “I don’t even think I have words to describe it. My end goal is CNN. I never thought I would be here as an intern.”

The days were long for Silverman, who arrived at the New York City studio around 11:30 a.m. for the daily morning meeting and stayed through the show, which ends at 8 p.m.

During the day, Silverman compiled guest lists and organized transportation for guests. She worked closely with production assistants, producers and the booking team.

During the show, her tasks varied. Sometimes, she escorted guests around the studio and got them prepared to go on camera. Other times, Silverman had the chance to observe in the control room. She was always there to help in any way she could.

“Hillary's enthusiasm and work ethic really made her stand out as an intern,” said Susie Xu, the show’s executive producer. Coincidentally, Xu is a 2001 Penn State journalism graduate.  

“She clearly has a passion for news and paid attention to the details — which is really important. It was great to have a fellow Nittany Lion on the team this summer. I know she'll have a bright future in this business.”

A benefit for Silverman? She was prepared for a variety of tasks because of her classes and experiences at Penn State. She had already learned Adobe Premiere, a video editing software, during a television reporting class, so when she was asked to cut clips for "Erin Burnett OutFront," she was ready for the task.

Along with her classes, she has been involved with CommRadio, the Bellisario College’s student-run radio station, and PSNtv. There, she learned to run a teleprompter, which she was able to do for the show at CNN. In the fall, she will be a part of "Centre County Report," the student-produced newscast that airs on campus and reaches 29 counties in Pennsylvania as part of a partnership with WPSU-TV.

“I like the way Penn State’s courses build on each other,” said Silverman. “There are so many things I’ve learned. I can’t put three years worth of classes into a few words, but it was really all things that were necessary for me to learn in order to be successful as an intern here.”

While Silverman said this has been the best summer of her life, she’s now preparing for a future after school.

“I want to be out talking to people getting their stories directly, firsthand. I just want to be out there experiencing it all, journalism in its rawest, purest form.” 

Last Updated June 02, 2021