A political science major from the University of Michigan, Courtney Kube is a former associate producer of Meet the Press who has been NBC's Pentagon producer for the past 18 months.
Kube recently spoke to PRWeek about life in the cutthroat world of broadcast TV news.PRWeek: Was your first job with NBC? Courtney Kube: Yes, I interned first, then my first paid job was with NBC, as a desk assistant. I started literally right out of college. I've always been with the DC bureau. I was 20 and I've been with NBC ever since. PRWeek: Did you do research first, then get into reporting and arranging interviews? Kube: I worked on the assignment desk, then I got the only production assistant position in DC. Then Tim Russert offered me the job at Meet the Press as a researcher. From there, I moved up from a researcher, to production associate, to an associate producer in a relatively short time. Meet the Press is a small operation, so Tim and the executive producer do most of the booking. I worked in the control room on Sundays, which I loved. I traveled when we did remote shows. We went to the political convention in 2004, so it was an awesome place to work. That said, politics can really drain you. You can burn out really quickly. PRWeek: Because you're doing things day and night? Kube: That and, you know, it's a lot of spin. Some people really thrive on it, which I did, but at the same time I got tired of it. So I was ready for a change. I was lucky, because Tim Russert was and is a tremendous mentor. So I was able to tell him, after the elections in 2004, that I needed a change. He said he would keep an eye out for one and came to me a few months later and said, "Here it is - what about the Pentagon?"
PRWeek: So Pentagon producers attend all briefings and arrange interviews for the on-air people?
Kube: Exactly. Jim Miklaszewski is NBC's Pentagon correspondent. There are other correspondents who fill in, but I primarily work with him doing Nightly News stories. We set up all the interviews from here, [and] go to all the briefings.
One thing about working in the Pentagon is you can't work it over the phone. You've got to walk to the offices and you've got to walk the halls.
PRWeek: Is it because you can't catch people over the phone, or do they prefer to talk in-person?
Kube: It's a combination. It's not always easy to get them on the phone. We deal with sensitive information and people aren't always comfortable talking on the phone about it. They will tell you things on background to provide you the contextual knowledge that you'll need.
PRWeek: How open are they?
Kube: It varies from people who are absolutely by-the-book and unwilling to give you anything on background to the more seasoned public affairs people who tend to talk more comfortably.
It's really a matter of trust. They are willing to say to you, "Here's what the real story is. It's an operational security matter that you shouldn't report on, but for your knowledge, here it is."
PRWeek: Any recent trends?
Kube: I've definitely noticed in the past several months that there's been a clampdown on information out of the building. I don't think it's necessarily just the Pentagon, I think it's across the administration. A lot of officials err on the side of caution.
What's unfortunate about that is it doesn't breed a level of trust. We can't share information with them because we're not getting it ourselves.
PRWeek: Do you get inundated by defense-company PR?
Kube: I get about 800 or 900 e-mails a day - press releases and things like that. I get a lot from public policy groups or retired military saying they now work for a company making something that can protect soldiers in Iraq, or things like that.
I would rather get it and delete it than not know about something and then have it sent to a competitor.PRWeek: How many stories do you do in a day or a week? Kube: It ebbs and flows. We'll have a week where we'll have a story on Nightly News just about every day. Then we'll have weeks where there's not a lot coming out. It's not that long a broadcast; you only have 20 or 22 minutes to fill. Our objective isn't necessarily to do a spot every day. It's more just to cover everything we can that's happening in the Pentagon and the military.
PRWeek: Is it competitive with other networks?
Kube: It's absolutely competitive, intensely so. I have a very good relationship with other correspondents and producers, and everyone gets along...but if you've got a story, especially a story that is not day-old news, you keep it very tightly held.
Name: Courtney Kube
Outlet: NBC News
Title: Pentagon producer
Preferred contact method: Courtney.Kube@nbcuni.com
Web site: www.msnbc.msn.com