Producing the News
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Catherine Mulhall found herself at a huge family crawfish feed in Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish. As an associate producer for PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, she was chasing down an interview with state senator Walter Boasso. Not only did she get the story, she also learned how to shuck, cook, and eat crawfish like a native, or nearly so.
“The senator was an extremely busy but gracious man with amazing stories to tell,” says Mulhall. “When people in his district were stuck on rooftops, he commandeered a couple of boats and went from house to house rescuing them.”
Mulhall landed the NewsHour job after a chance encounter the night of her Lewis & Clark graduation. A former intern for the program told her about an opening in the Washington bureau. With second interviews already under way, the program’s head of research gave her a 20-question verbal news quiz.
“I lucked out and knew the answers,” says Mulhall, “and she hired me sight unseen over the phone.”
After working for a year in the research department, Mulhall became a political and legal off-air reporter for the NewsHour in Washington, D.C. She booked guests for live studio segments on breaking news, attended morning White House press briefings, coordinated stories on Capitol Hill, and organized legal experts to discuss issues raised in cases before the Supreme Court.
Mulhall feels fortunate to work for Jim Lehrer. She says he’s exactly as you see him on TV, straightforward with a sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. Adamant about not being in the entertainment or shouting business, he prides himself on providing facts and clearly identified news analysis about all sides of a story, letting viewers make up their own minds.
In 2002, Mulhall moved to the San Francisco bureau to produce taped segments. “Every few weeks, I’m learning something completely new,” she says. “The work is challenging and fun and I see myself continuing here for many years. I’d love to produce stories overseas someday.”
Next July, however, she plans to take a brief hiatus to marry her fiancé, Kester Wise, who owns a residential real estate firm in Marin, California.
–by Pattie Pace