Stepping Out of Comfort Zones: How Kevin Schatell Blazed His Trail In New York City After Graduating from UGA

Why it’s newsworthy: Kevin Schatell is a notable alumni of UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication who currently works as the Plaza Producer for NBC’s “Today” show. He was incredibly involved on campus during his time at UGA and continues to showcase his passion for media.

The holiday season in New York City is back in full swing after the past virtual year as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is going up and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade approaches. Along with all of the holiday festivities comes increased celebrity bookings, new holiday movie releases and, of course, large crowds on NBC’s “Today” show plaza. 

Following his graduation from the University of Georgia in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in entertainment and media studies, Kevin Schatell followed his ambitions all the way to New York City. He now has his dream career working as the plaza producer for the “Today” show.

Schatell has entered his busiest time at work juggling celebrity interviews, music performances and organizing other segments for the show all while also making sure the fans have a unique experience, which he said is the most rewarding part of his job. 

“The very best part is being outside with the people who watch our show, who I feel like I get to have some sort of connection with and make special things happen for and celebrate with them,” said Schatell. “They’re here for their birthdays and milestones and anniversaries and graduations and retirement and everything in between.” 

After nearly four years at NBC, this year Schatell was promoted from associate plaza producer to his current job position, which is now a very different role than what it was before he stepped in. He has blazed his own trail in this particular role as plaza producer rather than just being “stuck in the comfort zone” of his predecessor’s accomplishments, which did not include much segment production.

“I’m proud of myself for raising my hand when I’ve heard of opportunities and say, I’d like to try that. I’d like to try producing this or that and then getting trusted with more and more and bigger things,” Schatell said.

Stepping out of the box and trying something new is synonymous with Schatell. During his time as an undergraduate student at UGA, he was involved in a multitude of extracurriculars including Grady Ambassadors and being a tour leader at the UGA Visitors Center. The time Schatell spent as an ambassador and a tour leader was incredibly rewarding and provided him with invaluable experiences.

“I would literally say it was as much of a dream job as my job now, like I would do both equally happily, like there’s something so unbelievably fulfilling about it,” Schatell said.

Post-graduation, the transition from Athens, Georgia to New York City was a bit challenging for Schatell. Anxiety being the root of it all, he said. 

“When I moved to New York, I was really anxious, and not just like work made me stressed, but like personal anxiety unrelated really to work. But that affected me because I wasn’t being my full true self,” Schatell explained. “I sought help, like any steps I needed to take to prioritize my mental health, I did.”

Despite some struggles, Schatell’s dedication to the “Today” show and the segments he produces are unmatched, explained former production assistant for the show and friend Lauren Locke. “Kevin is first off the number one employee at the ‘Today’ show, don’t let anybody ever tell you anything otherwise because the show is literally not the same without him.”

The passion Schatell possesses for his job and the fans is evident.

“He puts literally his full heart into it,” Locke said.

Writer’s Note: I wrote this story for JOUR3190: Reporting and Media Writing. For this assignment, we were required to interview a prominent person or unsung hero. I reached out to Kevin Schatell for this. We scheduled a Zoom Interview because he lives in New York while I am in Georgia. I did some research on Schatell and prepped around 10 questions for him. The interview lasted around 15 minutes long. I was also able to get in contact with a secondary source right after my interview with the primary source. I formed my story around some of his strongest quotes. Because our interview was conducted over Zoom, my multimedia element (a photo) is not as good of quality as I would have liked. Overall, going through the process of interviewing, researching and writing this story is something I enjoyed very much and gained valuable professional experience from.