Where are they now: Wes Rapaport

Chloe Fishman, Author

Wes Rapaport directs Chapman News, the only live newscast in Orange County and produced entirely by Chapman students. Photo by Nicole Chenoweth.

Not everyone gets to talk to Redfoo, half of the dynamic duo LMFAO. But then again, not everyone is Wes Rapaport. This is just another day on the job for the recent Paly alumnus and arguably Paly’s most successful journalism graduate. Rapaport recently completed a prestigious internship at National Broadcast Company – Los Angeles. However, it was really during his early life in Palo Alto when his journalism career ignited.

Rapaport, Paly Class of 2011, is a highly decorated student and journalist, winning awards including but not limited to the Very Special Person award from the Palo Alto Parent Teacher Association, the Viking Award — the highest award Paly can grant, an Orange County Press Club Journalism Scholarship, and the Jim Zaillian Memorial Scholarship by the Radio and Television News Association.

Rapaport began his work in broadcast at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School. After watching the school morning announcements, he was intrigued and wanted to get involved. He joined the video production class, and by the time he graduated middle school, he had a basic knowledge of how television works. From there, he got involved with broadcast both in the community and at Paly. Little did Rapaport know of the future success that he would achieve in his career.

After graduating, Rapaport joined the Chapman University Class of 2015 to pursue his passion, majoring in television and broadcast journalism. He quickly became as involved in the Chapman community as he had been at Paly. He currently works for Chapman News, holding a variety of positions over the years including Sports Director, Digital Content Director, and Executive Producer. A few of his many other involvements at Chapman include broadcasting for Chapman Radio and announcing for Chapman Athletics. He has also branched out to work with professional television networks, such as Comcast and KNBC.

The Paly Voice decided to find out more about Rapaport’s broadcast experiences by interviewing the man himself.

The Paly Voice: How were you involved at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center [a public access station serving five cities in the Bay Area]?

Wes Rapaport: I developed my skills and met people who taught me the ins and outs of television production. My relationship with the Media Center has given me the opportunity to not only learn but mentor other students who were in my same shoes. Through the Media Center, I was able to travel to Washington, DC, for the presidential inauguration, spend a morning in the White House and even meet the current president and first lady of the United States.

TPV: What opportunities did you have to work in broadcast in high school?

WR: As a high school student, I joined up with KMVT, another local public access station, as a sideline camera operator for high school sports. I was the PA Announcer for Paly basketball, JV football, and an occasional softball or lacrosse game. I also covered dozens of football and baseball games for INfocus.

Wes Rapaport films a Paly football game in the rain. Photo by Rebecca Sanders.
Wes Rapaport films a Paly football game in the rain. Photo by Rebecca Sanders.

TPV: What work did you do for INfocus?

WR: As executive producer of INfocus, I was responsible for leading the class and daily broadcasts. Working in that capacity gave me the chance to hone my leadership skills, as well as get a real grasp of the production side of television. You may think you know how a studio works, but you never really know until you have to find which one cable is causing the entire operation to fail. Both Mike McNulty and Ellen Austin [INfocus advisors] pushed me to the limits of my capabilities, truly allowing me to visualize the big picture of what we were trying to do with INfocus. Without them, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.

TPV: Why did you decide to pursue television and broadcast journalism at Chapman University?

WR: I have such a strong passion for broadcast journalism, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. So naturally, with the amazing broadcast program and facilities that Chapman has to offer, I feel right at home.

TPV: Can you describe your range of experience in broadcast?

WR: Over the years I have developed my broadcast skills in all elements of production. From anchoring KJLS, INfocus, and Chapman News, to covering the Olympics and professional sports for KNBC, to directing and producing shows at various levels, I feel as though I’ve seen a little bit of everything. The education never stops, though. There’s always more to learn. 

TPV: What has been your most exciting broadcast experience?

WR: My most recent thrilling experience was being able to cover the NHL playoffs for KNBC. Few things compare to being inside a professional sports locker room. I’ll also never forget my encounter with the Obamas through the Media Center. I was also incredibly proud to earn scholarships from the Orange County Press Club, and the Radio & Television News Association. Winning those scholarships, to me, means a certain level of acceptance into the southern California journalism community. I’m grateful for the opportunities like these that have come my way.

Wes Rapaport reports from the Red Carpet of the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Photo by Roma Daravi.

TPV: Do you have a most rewarding or biggest learning broadcast moment?

WR: Last year, I covered the National Ballroom Dancing Championships for Chapman News. I didn’t know the first thing about the sport, but the staff and the competitors helped teach me the basics. At one point, I was interviewing a pair of dancers from southern California. They were 12 years old, I believe. They were nervous to be on camera, and I was nervous to ask them the right questions. We had a great conversation, and their parents and I exchanged information. About two weeks later, I got an email from one of the moms, thanking me for interviewing the kids. Attached were about a dozen pictures she took during our interview. These are the moments that I work for. The fact that someone appreciated my work at the end of the day is enough for me. This also relates to my work at the Media Center. I am all about “paying it forward.” I want others to have great experiences in media, just as I did as a student. For me, the storytelling and experiences come far ahead of the glamour and publicity that can come with the television industry.

TPV: What is your favorite project you’ve produced so far?

WR: I don’t think I could pick one favorite project, but I love getting to interview professional athletes. Working on projects with [Palo Alto] Mayor Sid Espinosa and Mayor Yiaway Yeh was a neat experience.

TPV: What are the differences between being in front of and behind the camera?

WR: Working in front of the camera has it’s perks. People stop to ask what I’m doing all the time. That’s fun sometimes. Working behind the camera is far less glamorous, but I find myself being far more attentive to everything around me. I notice all of the little things when I’m behind the scenes. It allows me to clear my mind and think about logistics. But with both, you have to be smart, and I still have some work to do on that.

TPV: Do you have any advice for current Paly or high school students interested in broadcast?

WR: Get involved. The Media Center is a great place to start. Practice your writing, your camera work, develop your style— your “brand.” Join social media, have an online presence. Meet as many people as you possibly can. Some of my most memorable experiences have come from meeting a person at an event that develops into another project. There’s a saying in TV: go out on a story, come back with three more. Email your favorite news anchor or reporter and ask to take them to coffee. Most importantly, have fun with whatever you’re doing. I work in broadcast,because it’s something I love. I may never make any money in it during my career, but it’s my passion, so that makes it worthwhile.

TPV: Where do you see your broadcast career headed?

WR: After I get my degree, I’ll be looking for a job in a small market TV station. That’s where folks start, work their way up, mastering their skills, make mistakes. Eventually, the goal is to make it to a market near the top of the list — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, [Washington,] DC, etcetera. I plan to work as hard as I can at my job, continue to tell people’s stories, pay it forward, and hopefully someone will recognize that. At some point, I’d love to earn a spot at the anchor desk, but that’s a long ways away at this point.

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