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On The Scene

by Amanda Hamm Hengel

Cinnaminson’s Michelle Kosinski travels the globe covering stories for NBC News, but there’s still no place like home.

As a young girl, Michelle Kosinski probably never dreamed she would one day find herself praying for a job in broadcast journalism. While writing came easily to her, she was better at math and science, and growing up the daughter of scientists, she always thought she’d follow in her parents’ footsteps when it came time to choose her career. But that’s exactly where she found herself 10 years ago, after learning NBC Universal was interested in considering her for a correspondent position.

“One day NBC network called me and wanted to talk,” she recalls. “I still remember the day so well. I remember walking out of the station I was working at in Miami so I could get better cell phone reception, and I remember looking out over the bay, and feeling like a window had opened up in the sky. I was just so overjoyed.

“When I realized I was up for a chance … it wasn’t even really an interview, they just wanted to see who I was and the work I did, I just knew I wanted it so badly,” she continues. “So I went to church every day. I literally, every morning, would wake up and go to church and pray that I got the job. For months and months and months.” The praying paid off, and today, Kosinski, who was born in Willingboro and raised in Cinnaminson, is a foreign correspondent for NBC. Based in London, she has traveled all around the world covering stories for the network, most recently Latvia and Sweden.

Of course, Kosinski didn’t always know she wanted to be a broadcast journalist. The idea of writing for a living just seemed boring to her. So when Sister Chris at St. Charles Borromeo Parish School in Cinnaminson told Kosinski she thought she would work for a magazine or newspaper one day, Kosinski didn’t think much of it. “It’s just so different from what everyone in my family does,” Kosinski says. “I never thought I’d want to [be a journalist]. It’s strange that I ended up doing that.”

It wasn’t until a few years after Sister Chris suggested a writing career to a fifth-grade Kosinski that she actually started considering it. Her interest in writing had grown, along with an attraction to theater. She eventually decided to attend Northwestern in Chicago to study journalism. Her first job out of school was in Rockford, Ill. “I started at a station in Illinois, which was located in the middle of a cornfield. I took the job sight unseen,” she says. “I drove halfway across the country, and I see this little building in the middle of a cornfield, and I’m like, ‘Really?’ It was culture shock and I got very homesick, but it was starting out so small that was an amazing experience.”

Kosinski says getting her start in a small market was helpful though, because it allowed her to come into her own in front of the camera, and learn from the mistakes she made. “I did literally every job there was to do there,” she says. “I learned it from the nuts and bolts. I consider those early experiences so defining and shaping. I actually kind of feel bad for the people who don’t have the experience of starting small. When you first start out, you’re sort of goofy, and you’re not really sure what to do with your arms. When you make weird mistakes in smaller markets, while you don’t want to make mistakes at all, fewer people see them, and you can learn from them.”

The small start was also helpful because Kosinski was not interested in broadcast journalism until it was time to enter the master’s program at Northwestern. “As I was about to enter the master’s program for magazine writing, I still thought that I could see myself being an interviewer who would write long-form pieces for the magazines I like to read,” she recalls. “At the last minute, I just had this feeling. I kept thinking, ‘You love television. You have a fascination with it.’ But at that point, I had had no exposure to it, really. I think maybe I was afraid of it, because I was very, very shy. But I knew I’d really love to give it a try. I had a feeling that in a perfect world, I would be great at television, but I didn’t even know how I could get to that point.

“So I decided at the last minute to switch to broadcast journalism, with no prior experience,” she continues. “I told myself I could try it and see if I liked it. As it turns out, I absolutely love it. There’s just something about the way the pictures and the sound are married together with a very short script. In some ways, it’s the opposite of the type of writing I thought I’d do. It’s a much shorter medium, and it’s almost poetic at times.”

And so that’s how it was that she ended up in Illinois, and eventually Charlotte, N.C., where Kosinski says she was a literal “one-man-band.” “I was shooting and editing my own video,” she says. “I was one person doing the job of four. … It was a crazy job, but I loved it so much.” She went to Miami next, to an NBC-owned and operated station, where she was hired by a man named Don Browne, who Kosinski calls her mentor. “He hired me against his better judgment, I think, because I still had a lot of growing to do. But he helped me become a better reporter.”

Despite all of the locales her job has taken her, Kosinski says there’s nothing like coming home to Cinnaminson, a trip she says she gets to make roughly three times a year. “It still feels so much like home,” she says, noting that her parents still live in the house she grew up in. “There’s so much green everywhere. People have big yards with lots of trees. I’ve lived in so many places since I’ve lived in Cinnaminson, and you never see that much green.”

Due to the nature of her job, Kosinski, who is recently engaged, says balancing work and family can be difficult, but she does her best to make it work. “It’s difficult for everyone,” she says. “Now that so many women are waiting longer to have families, it’s great, and not so great, for obvious reasons. I’m so happy to have met someone that everything does seem right with. And he’s very flexible, and such a big supporter of my career and what I want in life. We’re very much aligned that way.”

Kosinski says she hopes to have children one day, but she has learned planning doesn’t always work out, so she is learning to take life one day at a time. “I want to have a family. The question is always when and how it’s going to fit in,” she says. “It just gets to the point where you can’t ask those questions anymore. I think sometimes people are trying to plan out their lives too much. Things can happen by accident and it can be the best thing ever. Too much planning can hinder you, and you just have to run with it.”

Where Kosinski is today is proof of this belief. London is a long way from her South Jersey roots, and broadcast journalism is a far cry from the scientific career she thought she’d have, but Kosinski wouldn’t change where her life has taken her for the world.

“One of the very first stories I covered for NBC was out in the middle of nowhere in Colorado,” she says. “We had to get up at one in the morning every day to drive to the location we were shooting at. We were sleeping in our cars. On one of those middle-of-the-night drives between the hotel and the wilderness, I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, ‘I’m in Colorado. I am doing exactly what I should be doing right now. I’m doing what I was made to do.’ Every now and then you just get that feeling—that confirmation—that yeah, this does feel good.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 December, 2013).
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