Michelle Mackonochie was in the middle of another ordinary shift slinging wings at a local eatery when she got a phone call from a small town in Michigan.
After years of studying to be a news anchor in college — and after disseminating hundreds of job applications post-college — the Syosset native landed the weekend news anchor and reporter position at WBKB in Alpena, Michigan. She’s been there since Aug. 20, reporting on everything from local fairs to hard news — and she knows this is merely the first step in a budding news career.
“It is such a blessing to have this job; such an incredible start,” said Mackonochie. “After so many disappointments along the way, my career feels like an endless open road right now. It is such an awesome opportunity to be on camera every single weekend.”
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Mackonochie’s road to weekly exposure in Alpena was dotted with many hardships and rough patches along the way. Before landing the anchor job at WBKB, the 23-year-old dealt with plenty of rejections and disappointments. But instead of succumbing and resigning herself to a lifetime of local part-time jobs, Mackonochie persevered and through hard work, put herself in the position to receive that life-changing phone call while waitressing.
After graduating Syosset High School, Mackonochie entered Ithaca College with a strong passion for television. During her four years at college, Mackonochie joined the Ithaca College Television team and worked in the sports, news and entertainment departments while taking external classes specializing in broadcast performance. She was the weekly field correspondent on Ithaca’s news station, Newswatch 16, and also served as assistant producer. She was also the reality television correspondent, as well as floor director for the school’s football post-game show.
Cramming all of those titles into her schedule was a monumental task, especially given the fact that she had plenty to learn when she arrived at college.
“That first year at Ithaca was a shock,” she said. “Syosset High School is a great school, but it doesn’t have a TV station. A lot of my college classmates were coming from schools that did have TV, so they already knew all the editing, cameras, lighting, mic. I was starting from the beginning. But the best way to learn is to do something, fail, do it again, fail again, then keep doing it until you know it.”
And though picking up and moving to Michigan from Long Island might seem scary, Mackonochie had a measure of experience in that department. During her junior year at Ithaca, Mackonochie entered into the school’s internship program and flew out to Los Angeles with no job and only the motivation of her professors. In L.A., she worked at The Style Network serving as an intern for the talent and casting department.
“The internship taught me so much. It threw me into the real world of the job search,” she said. “Working at The Style Network, we shared a building with E! and I would see people like Joan Rivers walking around. It was like a fairy tale. But at the same time I was really in the industry doing a real job. People were counting on me to do a job and it forced me to learn and learn fast.”
Upon graduating, Mackonochie found herself lost in the post-college wilderness of job interviews, applications and cover letters. Mackonochie addmitted to at first taking a relaxed approach to the job search, but when that proved fruitless, her father, Mike, was there to provide the motivation she needed.
“In January of this year, my dad told me that if I wanted a job, I had to fight for it,” she said, adding that she also received encouragement from her mother Joanne and her brothers Michael and James. “With his help I applied to more than 200 stations all over the country.”
Mackonochie remembered a speaker at Ithaca College said, “In order to get where you want, you have to leave Long Island.” Remembering that advice, Mackonochie expanded her search to all corners of the country. And while on a family vacation in Florida — where Mackonochie spent more time applying to jobs on the computer than sunning herself on the beach — the ambitious young woman got a response from that small station in Alpena.
While the nearest mall is about three hours away, and the nearest decent bagel is more than 800 miles away, Mackonachie is adjusting to life in her new home. However, there is no way of knowing how long it will be her home, as opportunities in the media industry are predictably unpredictable.
“I’ve made my apartment here very homey, but people told me I shouldn’t spend too much effort on it because my next job could be in who knows where,” she said. “And that is exciting to me. It’s cool. Who else can say they’ve lived in so many different places?”
And no matter where this media tour takes her next, Mackonochie will always remember and appreciate the toughest parts of her journey, from Long Island to a small town in Michigan.
“Tell yourself that you can do it. Represent yourself the best you can and you can do whatever you want,” she said. “Millions of people are fighting for the same spot, you have to show just how better you are. But it’s ok to accept help when you need it.”