September 30, 2013 | CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
By Jacob Passy
Class of 2014
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City last year, Alex Silverman was one of the first reporters on the scene to capture the devastation. Recently, he shared his experiences as a commercial radio journalist, from Sandy and beyond, with Adjunct Professor Monica Miller’s introductory broadcast class.
Through the days leading up to and following Hurricane Sandy, Silverman was part of the team at WCBS 880 covering the storm. “I was the first reporter on the air to communicate to the audience that their worst fears were being realized,” he said. “And that was a bigger responsibility than I realized at the time.”
Silverman spent much of the storm working in the Financial District, wading through floodwaters to get a take on how the city was being affected. Soon after, Silverman found himself back in the station, anchoring for hours on end. “That was probably one of the most difficult days I’ve ever had in this business because we had information flying in from left and right, and we had to confirm things on the fly,” he said.
Silverman said being be a good anchor takes more than just having a good voice. “The best anchors take the time to understand the context of the stories,” he said. “The key is to sound like a real person, not just some robot reading the news.”
In the field, he’s always faced with the challenge of grabbing good sound bites. “If somebody can’t say something in a sound bite, I’ll take a piece of what they say and paraphrase the rest of it more concisely,” he said.
Since he graduated from Syracuse University in 2010, Silverman has worked only in commercial radio, first at KIRO-FM in Seattle and now at WCBS 880. Silverman said that the choice to focus on commercial radio was a product of his upbringing. “I didn’t really grow up with public radio,” he said. “I always liked the sound of all-news commercial radio. It sounded big and important.”
Student Rebecca Harris said it was helpful to learn from someone who was so committed early in his career. In particular, she said she was inspired by the stories Silverman told about his first internship at WSYR in Syracuse. “One of the things that stood out most to me was that he worked in the radio station starting at two a.m.,” Harris said. “I think that’s one of the things that made him so successful at a young age.”
To listen to more of Silverman’s work from WCBS 880, check out his SoundCloud profile here.