Stephen Pitalo (’90) has worked in entertainment journalism and public relations in New York City since 1995. During his time at LSU, Pitalo was immediately drawn to working in Student Media. He wrote beat and entertainment pieces for the LSU student newspaper, The Reveille, and served as movie critic on KLSU radio. Pitalo also created, produced and directed the first movie review show on campus cable station LSU-TV entitled “Flick Picks.” After graduating in 1990 with a degree in print journalism and a minor in Spanish, Pitalo’s entertainment journalism career launched into full swing.
“My studies at the Manship School and my work at LSU Student Media laid the groundwork for my career,” said Pitalo.
Throughout his career, Pitalo has had the opportunity to work with countless entertainment professionals and artists. He produced thousands of television and radio commercials for a myriad of shows including “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “The Producers,” “Mamma Mia,” “Cats,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Hairspray” and “Jersey Boys.” Pitalo directed radio commercials with talent from Gladys Knight to Rosie O’Donnell, from Jerry Orbach to Dick Cavett. He also directed commercials and video promos with talents such as Elton John, Illeana Douglas, Toni Braxton and Judd Hirsch.
Today, Pitalo is the managing editor of Music Video Time Machine magazine, producer of throwback music video events, and lecturer/presenter on the evolution of music video in pop culture at conferences, conventions and festivals. Most recently, his expansive entertainment career led him to be the moderator for MTV’s 40th Anniversary panel at New York Comic Con.
“Because the Manship School taught me the tools of the trade and provided opportunities, I was able to carve out my own niche by interviewing nearly 100 music video directors and countless artists. I am truly grateful.”
Manship School 2020 alumna Sarah Catherine LaBorde is the epitome of Tiger spirit. She served as an ambassador for LSU and the Manship School, studied abroad (not once, but twice!), was an LSU Stamps Scholar for the LSU Ogden Honors College and was even crowned LSU’s 2019 Homecoming Queen. But what’s even more impressive is LaBorde’s passion to make a difference in the world. Her love for telling stories and connecting with people are what brought her to study public relations at LSU.
“As soon as I stepped foot at LSU, it felt like home,” LaBorde said. “It immediately made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. Manship was the icing on the cake of everything that is LSU.”
Just before she graduated in May, LaBorde learned about a unique opportunity when double Manship School alumna (B.A. ‘92 and MMC ’98) Stephanie Cargile visited LaBorde’s class. Cargile, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge’s public and government affairs manager, was recruiting students to apply for the communications and public affairs internship at ExxonMobil, an opportunity LaBorde did not want to pass up.
Although she didn’t have any experience working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) communications, LaBorde took a leap of faith, applied for the internship and was ultimately selected as one of only three public and government affairs interns to manage projects for ExxonMobil’s Gulf Coast facilities and national emergency preparedness projects in summer 2020. She is the first LSU graduate to be selected via corporate recruiting for the Houston-based internship, which she completed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At ExxonMobil, LaBorde was exposed to the broad functions of public and government affairs through her work supporting all its North American refining and chemical sites. She collaborated on social media strategies, helped with rebranding and marketing initiatives and brainstormed creative real estate solutions. And her work varied. One day, for instance, LaBorde joined a 6 a.m. call with partners in Singapore to strategize global response efforts. Another day, she sat down with subject-matter experts to create a virtual tour of ExxonMobil’s petrochemical sites. LaBorde said that being a non-STEM person in a STEM field gave her a competitive advantage to make ExxonMobil’s communications more relatable.
“[ExxonMobil] is a global company, so they are looking for not just engineering people; it needs support from people [in the mass communication field] to support its large global organization,” LaBorde said. “[ExxonMobil] recruits the best of the best, and being able to learn from the industry’s most talented is incredible. It’s inspiring for someone like me starting out in her career to be working with them.”
What helped LaBorde stand out from other interns were her strong writing skills and experience in key strategic communications, which she credits to the Manship School and numerous internships over the years. Cargile said ExxonMobil’s leadership team highly regarded LaBorde’s strong work ethic, keen intuition and poise.
“The LSU Manship School experience definitely positioned her to stand out as one of the best in the nation,” Cargile said.
LaBorde ultimately plans to pursue a career in public affairs and industrial communications, focusing in corporate philanthropy and community outreach. But for now, she’s planning on going back to school to earn an MBA to expand her skills on the business side of the industry. No matter where life takes her, LaBorde is grateful for all the opportunities that LSU and the Manship School have given her.
“My four years at LSU were absolutely incredible,” LaBorde said. “I got so much out of it because I put so much in. I never wanted to regret something that I didn’t do. Be bold and never be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Who knows? You might find a new passion. You never know what an opportunity might have in store for you or where it might lead you.”
For more information about ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, visit www.exxonmobilbr.com or follow its social media pages below.
The Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs offers an incredible opportunity for students to learn from practicing mass communication professionals at their four Lunch & Learn events each semester. Recently, Farrah Reed, the executive producer at WAFB TV and a Manship School graduate, stopped by to offer her insights on careers in broadcast and digital media.
Reed is a New Orleans native, who graduated from the Manship School in 2013 with a concentration in broadcast journalism. Growing up in New Orleans, the news was a large part of her life and she always knew that she wanted to be a part of it.
“I thought that I wanted to be involved with the reporting side of news but I liked producing better,” Reed said, “I love being behind the scenes, having an idea and getting to produce it and watch it come to life.”
Producing a newscast entails working closely with an entire newsroom team to gather information, assign reporters to various projects, handle breaking news, organize the flow of a show and all the information it will contain – from reporter stories to weather updates and traffic information to graphics to where the anchors will stand or sit during each part of the newscast.
Reed said the Manship School provided her with the tools that she needed to be successful in her career. When she first got to LSU, the Manship School felt personal to her, like a family. Reed shared that the Manship School cultivated her knowledge of communication and ethics. During her time at the Manship School, Reed was one of the producers for Tiger TV.
“I am thankful for Tiger TV because it resembles a real newsroom and allowed me to practice and build confidence while also providing a safety net for me to learn and make mistakes. When I graduated, I was prepared for the work force,” Reed said.
After graduating from the Manship School, Reed knew that she wanted to work in a top ten television market and made her way to San Antonio and Atlanta but missed the community feel of Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This led her to come home to Louisiana and return to WAFB – TV.
A typically workday for Reed starts with her coming to work at 1 a.m. to prepare the morning show that begins airing at 4:30 a.m. Her team usually arrives at 11 pm to monitor current events that have happened in the community and around the world that night. Reed plays a supervisory role and reviews the material that airs on WAFB’s morning show.
“I love doing what I do, I feel fulfilled, it feels like I’m doing a service to my community,” Reed Said.
Lauren Leist is a Mississippi native who received her bachelor’s and master’s degree from the Manship School. After graduating from the Manship School with her master’s degree in 2015, she became Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ speechwriter.
“My first speech for Gov. Edwards was his inaugural address. There was a line I wrote in the speech that said, “If there are two things we’ll never run out of in Louisiana – it’s gumbo and gumption’ and I believe the phrase still rings true today,” Leist said.
Leist is from Laurel, Mississippi and worked for her hometown newspaper while she was in high school. She chose LSU because the Manship School is one of the top journalism programs in the country and one of the few schools to offer a political communication concentration.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Leist decided to continue her education at the Manship School and pursue a master’s degree.
The most influential class that Leist took while at the Manship School was a political communication writing class with Professor Robert Mann. The class heavily focused on political speech writing and she was able to hone her craft.
The next summer, Leist took the opportunity to do a study abroad program with the Manship School, and Mann was one of the professors on that trip. Leist remembers sitting at a restaurant their first night in Istanbul and telling Mann that she might want to pursue speech writing professionally.
“About a year later when John Bel Edwards won the governor’s election, Robert Mann recommended me to the transition team, I interviewed and ended up getting the job,” Leist said.
Leist is grateful for the opportunities that the Manship School has provided and the places that it has taken her.
“Don’t be afraid of going to your professor’s office hours because the better that they know you and your goals, the better they can help you and give you advice that just might land you your dream job,” Leist said.
When nearly 14,000 athletes 50 and over gathered in Albuquerque in June to compete in the 2019 National Senior Games, it became the largest qualified championship multisport event in recorded history. Media coverage went around the world, in no small part due to a 103-year-old Southern lady and LSU alum nicknamed “Hurricane Hawkins,” who set records on the track and enchanted everyone with her love of life in her media interviews. Julia Hawkins obtained her elementary education degree from the Ole War Skule in 1938, and met her future husband Murray who was a professor there at the time.
That’s impressive, but as it turns out, there’s more purple and gold to this story. A LOT more.
Del Moon, who was among the first graduating class of LSU broadcast journalism majors in 1975, has a long journalism and public relations background and has been the National Senior Games Association’s communications and media director since 2012. When the massive National Senior Games draws near every two years, Moon assembles a team to help manage media relations, social media, content generation, photography and video, public relations and more. Without intending to do so, four of his five key managers turned out to be LSU alumni. “I didn’t set out to go hire LSU folks,” Moon says. “They were simply the best for the job for that situation.”
The 2019 event’s photography manager, Brit Huckabay, graduated from LSU in 1984 – the year the journalism program became the Manship School – with a journalism and advertising degree and has become a successful pro photographer. He took the assignment because of his relationship with Julia Hawkins – his father was taught by Julia’s husband and he has been a longtime family friend.
“I live in Birmingham now and fell in love with the Nationals while taking photos of Julia and many of the other amazing athletes when it was there in 2017,” he explained. “It was so cool to go to Albuquerque and be a part of everything again.”
Another key staff member was Mary Johns, who earned her mass communications degree from the Manship School in 2016. Mary has been on the team twice before, first as an intern in 2015, then returning for a six month contract after graduating to plan the 2017 Games.
“She could not have done a better job,” Moon said. “Even though she has a great full time job in New Orleans now, I asked if she wanted to take a week off to come lose sleep and help run the office and handle social media. To my surprise, she said yes.”
Another LSU alumnus who worked in the Media Center was Jay Hall, the organization’s webmaster and IT consultant. Hall is a 2012 LSU graduate in kinesiology and sports management and has been serving NSGA since 2011.
“The event was very demanding, and everyone put in long hours. But we met every task and deadline and felt great pride that we helped put the event in front of tens of millions of people through media coverage,” Moon adds. “We had a very capable team of journalism students and an advisor from the University of New Mexico that generated content for our Games Daily News online platform, and I was very happy with their work. But it was personally extremely proud that I had a team of LSU Tigers driving the ball down the field.”