Meet Vincent Floress: Assignment Editor at CBS Chicago
Cardinal Nation's Juliana Gunvalsen got a look at real Big City Journalism
March 6, 2023
During Mentor Mode U,N,’s recent trip to Chicago, students in the International Press Delegation (IPD) were given the chance to take a tour of the newsroom for the CBS TV affiliate in Chicago. This station is known as an “O and O” which stands for owned and operated.
The MUN team was in Chicago for the Chicago International Model U.N. conference (CIMUN), and the tour was given by an alumni of the conference, Vincent Floress. After the roughly hour-long tour, I sat down with him to discuss a little more about what he does in his current position.
Cardinal Nation: Can you tell us a little bit about what your job entails?
Floress: So I work as an assignment editor – that’s my title. I’ve been at CBS for eight and a half years. I went to school in Chicago. I went to DePaul, did the five year BA/MA program. My job is a lot of monitoring. As your assignment editor, I assign people to their stories for the day. It’s not just me, it’s collaborative. But it’s my responsibility to come up with the plan for how we’re going to pull off the news of the day. How many news crews were going to need, what facts we needed to get verified, what book story elements were going to need, by that I mean like in a story we might need cell phone video of something and then we might need some surveillance video…A lot of my job is making sure we have those elements. Like I mentioned earlier, monitoring breaking news is a big part.
Making sure that we’re on top of everything that happens in the city because obviously the number one thing you don’t want to do is get beat on a story by competition…It’s a lot of coordinating and making sure that we have everything…
When I first started it was as a desk assistant…I was interning at City Hall for a little white for the mayor’s office as communications/social media. Then I started working at the CBS radio station in Chicago, and then I worked in agency PR briefly for like nine months to a year. I’ve been working at CBS since 2014. When you start as a desk assistant, you’re kind of wearing two hats at the same time. You’re working as a field producer and then you’re going out, you’re doing interviews, you’re talking to people, you’re collecting elements. You’re doing the grunt work of being a reporter without the glory of being on camera. I didn’t mind that – I don’t have the desire to be on camera. It’s a lot of hard work. Personally, I’ve been what I call a house-cat for a couple of years now where it’s like I sit in that spot everyday and I sit there and go through the logistics of the day, all day, while keeping an eye on breaking news, keeping an eye on what the competition is doing. It’s not always just the TV competition, it might be the papers, too, like The Sun-Times, Tribune…to see what they have reported and see do they have something we don’t or do they have a fact that we don’t or a full blown story. Just keeping tabs on it, and oftentimes we read the local papers just so we know about different things. It’s like a story that runs in the Sun Times or the Tribune. It might not be anything for TV, but it could be an element for a TV story at some point.
Cardinal Nation: How has participation in CIMUN as a delegate and a volunteer help you in the newsroom?
Floress: Getting used to freak long hours and like weird hours, that helps a little bit because you’re used to being up. I was on the steering committee [of CIMUN] for five years and I was Chief of Staff for four years. Doing that’s a lot of dealing with people and dealing with logistics. I’m coordinating the travel arrangements for people. I’m making sure positions are filled. I’d be working with the under secretary generals to make sure their departments were good. USGs took the reins, but I was a broader support system for them. It helped me learn that things are complicated. I’m lucky in the sense that I have such an attention to detail, which is why I’m decent at what I do… Another major thing from being in a leadership role, or just volunteering in general, helped me in anticipating disaster because your best laid plans often times, once you try to put them into action, they fall apart immediately. Something you couldn’t even have thought of and you’re like “Oh, I didn’t even think of that” … when I say crises they were like conference crises they weren’t like Earth shattering but like stuff like “oh how are we going to deal with this?” So dealing with stuff like that helped me prepare at work now to anticipate mistakes. You realize that you are good at reading people and understanding their competency very fast. I can tell probably within like 15 to 30 minutes if I can trust somebody with a task…
I was a per diem which is another lovely term they use in news which basically means part-time but they say that so they don’t have to pay you benefits even though I was working five to six days a week anyways.
Cardinal Nation:What is the next step for you in terms of “moving up the ladder”?
Floress: I wish I knew the answer to that one. I’m kind of at a place now where I’m at a pretty good place. I joked about being old. I’m not that old. But like I’m still young in terms of business. A lot of people my age aren’t where I’m at and it’s not because they’re not qualified, or they are not competent. A lot of people aren’t willing to put in the time. I was willing to put in the time and I understand why a lot of people wouldn’t. The pay isn’t great. The hours aren’t great. I’ve got two friends who used to be desk assistants and they both went from being desk assistants to being on camera reporters in smaller markets to getting burned out and they went to law school…My boss is probably in her early 60s and she might be retiring in the next few years. She had asked me not long ago if I was interested in that role. Honestly, I hadn’t ever really thought about it. My job is stressful. Doing my job is a lot like war where there are periods of mind numbing boredom, like hours of nothing. I can’t even tell you the hours I’ve spent just sitting outside of courtrooms or the bullpen (where they have the central courthouse in Chicago) for cases where you’re just sitting for hours waiting for someone to come out. As boring as my job is, it can be like war when all of a sudden something starts happening and it’s terrifying…
It’s not that big of a deal but I actually won an Emmy in 2019… it’s kind of like pay to play a little bit… you have to pay per submission for the stations so you have to pay just to be considered… They’re cool for people, like when I tell my aunt and uncle they were really impressed.