Making an Impact Over the Airwaves
Lebanon Valley College graduate Marie Cusick ’08 is a reporter for Pennsylvania’s chapter of StateImpact whose work concentrates on Marcellus Shale natural gas and other aspects of public policy related to energy and the environment. This is a multi-faceted position with a variety of responsibilities, ranging from radio journalism and national reporting to writing for websites. The flexibility and variety of her assignments is what Cusick finds most enjoyable.
“I also get on the road fairly regularly and travel around the state doing audio interviews, and shooting photos and videos about how the gas boom is affecting people, policy, the environment, and the economy,” explained Cusick.
While on a recent assignment covering the residents of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania and their interactions with the natural gas drilling company and its private security firm, Cusick and her camera crew were interrupted and photographed by security. These guards were controlling residents’ access to public lands and roads and preventing them from reaching their intended destinations on time, or at all. The video closes on dialogue from residents who intend to leave that area as a result of disturbances caused by the company.
Cusick’s investigative reporting for pieces like this one earned her numerous awards including the prestigious national Edward R. Murrow award in 2014, which honors outstanding achievements in electronic journalism. Others include multiple accolades from the Radio Television Digital News Association and the New York State Associated Press.
Despite her achievements in this field, Cusick’s intent after college was not to get into journalism. However, it was her high-impact study abroad and internship experiences at LVC that led her to explore the beginnings of what would be an influential career.
Cusick started her career at The Valley as a French and political science double major, with aspirations toward governmental service. From her time at the College, Cusick fondly reflects on the high-impact experiences that helped to open her eyes to other cultures, individuals, and their way of life.
“One of my most memorable experiences was studying abroad through LVC’s program in Montpellier, France where I spent three months living with a host family, attending a French university, and traveling. I met a lot of wonderful people—French, American, and other international students,” Cusick recalled.
This educational background and other key domestic components of the curriculum allowed Cusick to see traditional circumstances in a new light, eliciting a similar recollection. “My art history courses were another highlight. Every semester we took a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Although I’d visited before when I was younger, I saw the artwork in a new light, thanks to those classes,” stated Cusick.
Formative experiences like this one are cited for their ability to cultivate the necessary skills that facilitate students’ capabilities to thrive in a changing, diverse, and fragile world. This is certainly applicable in a position where two days are never alike, something Cusick loves about her career as a television reporter. With her background in political science and interest in government, the field she expected to pursue professionally, Cusick first interned at Common Cause PA, a nonpartisan good government organization.
As a result of support from the College she was able to accept additional internships, this time in broadcasting at the news departments of WBZ-TV in Boston and WGAL-TV in Lancaster. These were key parts of Cusick’s collegiate experience.
“I really wanted to get a feel for what work would be like after I finished school, and I was grateful the College encouraged me to pursue multiple internships,” said Cusick.
She then accepted a full-time position at KTWO-TV in Wyoming, where she carried out responsibilities as a weekend anchor and one-man-band reporter. The knowledge and résumé Cusick built at LVC allowed her to begin working at the end of her senior year, before she even finished her degree.
“I was able to send in my last paper and missed attending my graduation because I was already working,” recalled Cusick.
After a few years in smaller media markets, Cusick received a job at WMHT, the PBS station in Albany, New York. It represented her first experience in public broadcasting and proved a natural fit.
Cusick worked at a variety of stations around the country before returning to Pennsylvania to work at WITF, based in Harrisburg. Her responsibilities now include reporting, producing, and voicing long- and short-form radio stories for WITF and other NPR member stations. She also files national stories for NPR, and writes and produces multi-media projects for the StateImpact Pennsylvania website.
She remembers eagerly jumping on this opening. “It was a chance to cover a really big story as well as an opportunity to come back home to central Pennsylvania and work for the station I grew up watching and listening to,” she said.
This affinity and eagerness echoes one of the secondary goals of Lebanon Valley’s formative high-impact program—the ability to apply learning to unfamiliar and increasingly complex situations while cultivating a lifelong love to learn more.
“It’s important to be a lifelong learner and stay curious about the world. My education helped prime me to always keep an open mind, seek out new ideas, and listen to people who are different from me,” she advised.