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Gautreau Integrates Faith and Journalism at Salt + Light

Well acquainted with the deadline-driven pressures of student print journalism, Michelle Gautreau traded her seat behind the keyboard for a spot in front of the news cameras during a six-week winter break internship at Salt + Light Catholic Media Network in Toronto.

The University of St. Thomas senior history major and founding Editor-in-Chief of the UST student newspaper, The Summa, was prompted to apply for the internship while taking Catholic Impact on the Professions, the Catholic Studies capstone course taught by Sister Paula Jean Miller, FSE. The class requires students to complete 100 internship hours at a job that integrates their faith and profession.

Sister Paula Jean and Father Anthony Giampietro, CSB, immediately recommended Gautreau to contact Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, Chief Executive Officer of Salt + Light Television, and a member of the UST Board of Directors. Fr. Rosica, who was visiting UST and staying with the Basilian Fathers at the time, invited Gautreau to Toronto.

“Michelle’s internship at Salt + Light TV was a perfect match with her background, her professional desires and her desire to integrate her faith into a work experience,” said Sr. Paula Jean. “The net result was that Michelle helped them daily on the job, and Salt + Light opened new professional vistas to Michelle. Best of all, Michelle experienced what Pope John Paul II calls the ‘vocation and mission of the laity’: she was able to link her profession to her faith, rather than surrendering to the split between professional life and personal faith. This is Catholic Studies at its best!”

“Leaving at the end of November, I missed two and one half weeks of the semester and had to reschedule some of my final papers,” Gautreau said. “All of my professors were willing to work with me so I could take advantage of this opportunity.”

Navigating a new city, the cold climate, living with the Felician Sisters and daily reflections on her work at Salt + Light – Gautreau recorded them all in her blog.

“I had no previous experience with broadcast journalism, and I had never really considered a career in broadcast before this internship, she said. “Finding a job in the journalism field is tough. You have to be as developed and diversified as you can be. With this experience, I am more prepared for future job opportunities.”

Beginning with administrative support tasks such as addressing Christmas cards, Gautreau quickly proved herself at Salt + Light and was given more challenging tasks such as writing scripts. Before the end of her internship, she was selected to host Zoom, a five-minute news show that highlights Canadian and international news with a Catholic perspective five times.

“All I heard was "Ok, Standby.....roll camera....and action!" I had to use every fiber in my being not to laugh. It was just such a different intensity than newspaper journalism,” she wrote in her blog about her Zoom screen test. “Hello, and welcome to Zoom! Everything was quiet and still. I couldn't tell how loud I was. I focused on the yellow text of the teleprompter and tried to speak slowly. I found myself thinking way too much. I felt like I was having a whole conversation in my head as I spoke aloud. I found myself getting dizzy by the teleprompter. I tried to look down at my notes. I tried to sound natural. I heard myself say ‘That's it for Zoom. If you're joining us on our digital cable network, please stay tuned for an episode of Catholic Focus.’ I told myself to smile. And then to breathe. And it was over.”

Aside from the professional skills she gained at Salt + Light, Gautreau said studying abroad was an experience in personal growth.

“Learning to live on my own and work in a different city has helped me grow up, feel more confident and more independent,” she said. “I also learned to appreciate home more. I hugged everyone just a little tighter when I came home for Christmas break.

“This experience has helped me grow in my faith by showing me that I can have higher expectations in a professional environment. So many people search for jobs with financial priorities, but I have seen there is more to your career than what you earn in your paycheck. After working at Salt + Light, I have seen a workplace where people live their faith, and that makes all the difference.”

Fr. Rosica expressed his delight with Michelle’s internship at Canada’s national Catholic Television Network.

“From the first day of her internship at Salt + Light until her departure from Toronto, Michelle was a perfect fit,” Fr. Rosica said. “She was a great, first ambassador of the University of St. Thomas and a fine, young witness of the Catholic faith in our midst. She surpassed our expectations and quickly moved onto center stage, hosting several evening national newscasts! Michelle has many friends at Salt and Light and many fans throughout Canada! Send us more interns like her!”