The Street Is My Beat: Hitha Prabhakar
Hitha Prabhakar, 28, is a reporter for Metro, the new free daily in New York. Most of her day is on the street covering all things local, from city crimes to her style page piece, “What are you wearing?” In six years Prabhakar went through a complete career change, finding her niche in the world of news. Now, a master’s candidate at the Columbia School of Journalism, sky is the limit for what is to come…
"My job is absolutely incredible, but there is no denying that it is a 24-hour job!"

Being a reporter was something that literally fell into my lap. I started out working for an investment bank out of college, and quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I struggled to try and find something that I really loved and that would help me make a difference. I worked for a while with an executive producer who brought me over to Viacom. It was there that I had a rare opportunity to go on air for radio station 102.7 FM as a fashion reporter covering Mercedes Benz fashion week 2003. It was the first time in my life that I felt I had found my niche. Fashion isn’t exactly the most profound beat to cover, but I had always had a love for the industry, and knew that I could cover it well. In April of 2004 I was accepted to the masters program at the Columbia School of Journalism. The combination of school and real life reporting has made my experience on the street ten times more significant. 

I start my morning by watching New York 1 news or CNN. Since I have to cover two different local beats including my piece, “What are you wearing?” on Metro’s style page, I want to make sure that I have my hand on the pulse of everything local New York. My days are usually 12 hours long, so I go for a run or do yoga before I head into the office. As soon as I step into the Metro newsroom I grab my New York Post and Women’s Wear Daily and scour the news for potential local story ideas and fashion updates, before things start getting crazy. Then I hit the streets. 

I think the best experience a new reporter can have, is to go out and start speaking to people. When I first started at Metro, I was assigned the “Man on the Street” beat because of my gregarious nature. It taught me to be fearless when talking to people and to ask questions that they may not be so comfortable answering. Every day I have to go out and ask the question of the day, and grab a new person for my piece “What are you wearing?” The most challenging part about doing my piece is identifying someone that you think is stylish enough to be on the style page, willing to talk about their clothes, and convincing them to do it in less than 2 minutes. 

I remember recently, I approached someone that I thought was perfect- a real style star. When I got to him, he thought I was trying to sell him something and became really angry, screaming and throwing around this unnecessary attitude. It was horrible- but I didn’t get discouraged. For every person that has a negative reaction to being interviewed, there are a hundred others that love it and are so happy when I approach them. My favorite person that I interviewed was this young woman from France that spent half her time in New York and half her time in Toulouse. She was so excited that I wanted to interview her that she gave me a hug after. She even sent me an e-mail about a month later saying how that experience made her trip! Those reactions make me so happy to be a reporter. It almost like I’m bringing happiness to people, who may otherwise be having a bad day. 

Once I’m done doing my street reporting, I go back to the office and file my pieces to my features editor. By then my news editor is in, so I sit with him and we go over the local newsmakers and figure out story ideas. We map out a strategy and I hit the phones, getting the scoop so I can write a killer piece. My deadline for local stories is 6 pm, so my afternoons are extremely busy. For me, lunch starts at 6:15 pm when everything gets filed. I check my e-mail and talk to the entertainment editor about the red carpet events that need to be covered for the night. If I’m lucky, my pieces won’t need a lot of revision, in which case I can go home and change before the next event that I have to cover. Most of the time, that isn’t the case and I am revising right before the page is sent. I leave the office at eight or nine in the evening and swing by an event and interview celebrities before heading home. 

My job is absolutely incredible, but there is no denying that it is a 24 -hour job. News is always happening and what separates a good reporter from a great reporter is the ability to cover the most important events first hand. I think it also takes passion and a total love for uncovering the truth.