South Orangetown Central School District

Television journalist and media personality Ben Colonomos (TZHS ‘99), who goes by “Ben Aaron” professionally, stopped by Tappan Zee High School to talk shop with TV Production students this morning. “I would live here if I were still a student,” Aaron said as teacher Leigh LaBrake toured him through the school’s production studio. “Mr. Geist taught Video Production and I think the studio was actually a closet. But I loved it!”

The former Tapress features editor graduated from Emerson College, where he launched Speechless, a well-known debate radio show, and worked for veteran DJ Scott Shannon at WPLJ. Aaron moved to Southern California, where he landed an on-air television hosting job for the Daybreak OC morning show. From there, he moved to KSWB in San Diego as a features reporter before getting picked up by WNBC in New York. As the host of New York Live, Aaron earned three consecutive Emmy Awards for “Best Features Reporter.” He has co-hosted syndicated talk shows Crazy Talk and Pickler & Ben, and been a correspondent for Extra.

But today’s visit was focused on how aspiring journalists and producers can parlay their interests into a media career. Aaron talked about the breakneck pace of producing feature segments for morning shows. “Every morning, I’d come in with an idea that I’d pitch to my producer, then I’d have to write it, shoot it and edit it within three hours,” he explained. “If it didn’t get done, then I didn’t do my job.”

As discussion ranged from music to video games to YouTube, Aaron emphasized connections to creative content development and viable career pathways. “If you’re interested in this, learn everything. This is the time to mess around. Take whatever you’re interested in and pour it into this. You all have iPhones in your hands, that’s all you need. Film, film, film. Write your own sportscasts. You don’t need fancy equipment; you can edit in your room. Learn to edit and always edit your own material. Take your passion and turn it into TV. You can actually do this and earn a living.”

“Having Ben visit is beyond valuable. He took the time to speak to each student, asking them about their interests and getting to know them. That makes a big impact–that he was more interested in them and their stories than trying to impress them with his own,” said LaBrake. “And it’s important to be reminded that you can find ways to make something you love into a career, if you have to have the drive to do it. Ben is a great example of that. He started in Video Production classes here at TZHS, just like my students. At the end of the day, what you need is just one seed of ‘what if…’ to grow into something great.”

Media personality Ben Aaron speaks to TV Production students at TZHS