Mattison Brooks is living the dream of thousands of journalists over.
On January 17, Brooks – a once, small-town Chilliwack boy – started his first day at CNN’s Capitol Hill bureau.
That’s right. CNN. Capitol Hill.
Brooks was hired into an entry level position, working alongside Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room and John King on John King, USA, greeting guests, handling show scripts, and operating the teleprompter.
“It’s nothing glamourous by any stretch of the imagination,” he said in a phone interview with The Progress. “It’s just good entry level work. It’s part of paying your dues and that’s a big part of this industry.”
So how exactly does a Sardis secondary graduate get on the CNN payroll?
Brooks went to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia after graduation in 2006 with full intentions of pursuing a medical degree. He quickly learned, however, that he didn’t have the natural skill set needed for medicine.
“To be blunt, I wasn’t good at science or math,” he said.
But he was good at writing, had an incredible affinity for politics and current events, and didn’t mind taking risks – the tools of any good journalist.
He transferred over to journalism in his second year.
In his third year, with a low B average, and against the advice of his academic advisers, Brooks applied for an internship at CNN.
“My advisors told me not to bother applying, that I didn’t have the grades to get in,” he said.
But Brooks wasn’t the kind of guy not to take risks. He’d grown up watching CNN, it was the news network to work for.
And while he didn’t have the grades, or a well-rounded resume, he did have the perfect personality.
CNN was the first news network to contact him, but because he was in class, he missed the call. When he dialed the number, without knowing who he was calling, and heard the CNN greeting, his stomach lurched.
“I had a minor panic attack thinking oh God I’m not ready for this and I immediately hung up the phone,” he said.
He raced back to his dorm room and practiced over and over what he would say before redialing the number.
“I knew going in my best selling point was my interview and attitude,” he said. “I got myself as upbeat as possible, and nailed down the details I wanted to sell them on … that I had a great work ethic, a great attitude, I’m outgoing, positive, and have high energy.”
It worked. He got the internship. A dream come true.
And yet, when his boss offered him a job on his last day of the internship, Brooks declined.
“I really grappled with turning this down because that sort of offer seems like a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” he said. “But what it boiled down to was that I was in my third year of university, I had one more year to go for my degree. I can always have that degree, but I may not always have the job.”
For the two years following the offer, he made sure to keep in touch with the CNN head honchos, regularly emailing them, calling them, letting them know where he was at, and asking them to keep him in mind if something opened up.
In December, he got the call. CNN had an opening working with Wolf Blitzer and John King, two of the news network’s top journalists reporting on breaking news, political news and world affairs. For Brooks, it was heaven.
“I could work in this city forever,” he said. “It doesn’t have the mountains or the views that Chilliwack has, but this is the capital city of the most powerful and influential nation on the planet. I am working in an office where we report the decisions and policies that the government of that nation makes sometimes before anyone else.
“There is no place else I could see myself working as long as I am a journalist,” he said.
And given his track record to date, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Brooks one day in equal ranks with Wolf Blitzer and John King.